Twenty-one-year-old Chantè Warden is a successful model who walked the runway at Caribbean New York Fashion Week. The young lady spoke to Positive Vibes about battling chronic illness and how she is able to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Care and Education at the University of The West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.
Q: What is your mantra for life?
A: Go through what you go through and simply smile.
Q: You are an advocate for the Barbados Association of Endometriosis and P.C.O.S. Why did you decide to become involved in this organization?
A: [When I found out] that I had endometriosis, I felt alone and as though I was not being taken seriously. The first time I was asked by Mrs Julia Mandeville about volunteering and sharing my story I was a bit skeptical. When I was diagnosed, I realized that no one I came into contact with, like friends and family, knew what the condition was. That was when I said to myself, ‘Maybe it is a good idea to go and talk to students and share my story so that if they were experiencing anything like I was, they would know that they are not alone, and they need to seek medical help.’ The organization has become a home to me with a lot of ‘family members’ because we’ve got one another. Yes, all of our stories are different, but we understand and get what the other person is going through.
Q: It is challenging managing two chronic diseases?
A: Growing up, something was always wrong with me medically, but no one ever knew what the issue was. It was only when I became a teenager and ended up at the Accident and Emergency Department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for a hurt shoulder that the doctor took a look at me and said he thought I had a genetic disorder. From that day, many tests were done, medical history was checked and for all of that time, I was unaware of what was going on with my body. That doctor made my life so much easier because he saw something that others did not. The genetic disorder brought things to light that I did not even know about. Finding out at 19 that I had endometriosis was very shocking and but still [a relief] because there was actually a name to this thing that was taking away my teenage years. To give a specific answer to your question, yes, it is challenging but I try to take each day as it comes and I try not to psych myself out about what is going on.
Q: Despite these diseases, you are a model. How did you become involved in modeling?
A: Being a model was always a dream job of mine. At a very young age, my eyes would be glued to the television watching America’s Next Top Model. I looked up to people like Naomi Campbell, Grace Jones, Eva Marcell, Yaya Dacosta, Tyra Banks and the list can go on and on. My opportunity finally came when I entered my school’s modeling show. I did not make it to the finals but one day we had practice in Queen’s Park and a German scout saw me and wanted me to sign up for his agency. He became my agent and he put me in contact with Miss Barbados World 2010 Danielle Bishop. I did Barbados Fashion Week and Caribbean New York Fashion Week. I have also done work with Barbadian photographers and designers.
Q: Do you have a pain regime? If so, can you tell us what you do for pain on a day-to-day basis?
A: I was prescribed a very strong drug, morphine, that has to be taken every six hours but because of the feeling it gives, I only take it when I have had enough and I’m at the stage of screaming or crying. I would rather the pain than the medication. A couple years ago, I depended on medication 24/7. Now, I have found that if I try to preoccupy my mind and not focus on the pain, I can get more done in the day than if I medicate.
Q: What is one thing you would like the public to understand about chronic illness?
A: I would like the public to know that these conditions are real! Nothing is made up about these conditions; they are incurable and under-researched. As a society, we need to stop with the idea that people are overreacting and nothing can really be wrong.
Q: What led to you deciding to study a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Care and Education?
A: I love children and I came to realize that the intellectually disabled children in the society are never given a chance as it is not easy to provide care for these individuals.
Q: If you could be the Prime Minister of Barbados for a day, what would you change?
A: I would put plans in place to better the healthcare system [and] make healthcare in Barbados better. Also, [I would increase] awareness of chronic diseases that the public does not know about. (LG)