Cancer event hosts personal battle with the disease
It takes nine months, dozens of sponsors and a lot of hard work to plan the annual breast cancer fundraiser Melange: Life After Cancer.
Now imagine doing that while youre fighting your own battle with the disease.
Event organiser Renče Carter learned her cancer had come back after finding a lump in her neck one day in April. The cancer, which had started in her breasts ten years ago, has now spread to her hip and lymph nodes.
I recognised I wasnt ready to do pink right then, but I had to put it in perspective and remember the whole reason behind the event.
Ms Carter said she initially kept the diagnosis to herself, but then braved up and gradually told people. She also handed over the organising reins to Gina Anderson, while she underwent two months of treatment at Lahey Clinic in Boston.
Now she is back in the swing of things and looking forward to hosting the event, in honour of charity Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre. She was yesterday presented with a CableVision Community Service Award for her fundraising work.
Between 125 and 200 people are expected at the event, held at Goslings Wine Cellar on Dundonald Street, Hamilton, tomorrow from 7pm to 10pm. Food will be provided by Wilks Catering and entertainment will be led by singers John Duncan and Sheelah Smith and violinist Christopher Darrell.
Ms Carter said: At the end of the day you donate what you can [a minimum of $25]. We have cocktails, entertainment and people who speak on their personal triumphs.
The message I want people to get is to not be afraid that you have breast cancer and to be able to embrace someone that does have it.
Breast cancer survivors Ronda Lewis and Jennifer Fullerton will give their stories of what its like to live beyond the diagnosis. Ms Carter said they will not candy-coat it but rather speak honestly about their experiences.
Kevin Hughes, a breast cancer expert from Massachusetts General Hospital, will be speaking; as well as Marilyn Dickinson, a physiotherapist who helps women after their breast cancer surgeries. Hott 107.5 host Nikita Robinson will be the master of ceremonies for the event.
There will also be a silent auction where people can bid on work by local artists, a two-night stay at Fairmont Hamilton Princess and golf packages at Port Royal and Newstead.
The event typically raises between $10,000 and $12,000 for the cancer charity, which is dear to Ms Carters heart.
The 51-year-old said at one point in her treatment she needed a mammogram test, but was out of work and didnt have health insurance.
Rather than turning her away, Bermuda Cancer and Health helped waive the fees for the necessary procedure. They didnt even know I was the one putting on the fundraiser to benefit the charity, she said.
[The services are] there for you and others and people may not think that because being prideful you do not ask.
Ms Carter, a long-time hairdresser, was first diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 42 years old. She told The Royal Gazette: I was scared crapless. I just had my life swirl before me, like I was in a vortex.
All I kept thinking of was my daughter, who was 12 years old then. Her father was estranged from her life and I thought who is going to be there for my daughter? I didnt want to abandon her and leave her alone. I wanted someone with her through life.
She had a mastectomy and said it was devastating losing her breasts. After a series of chemotherapy treatments she also lost her hair, but said she was OK with it because I had a beautiful shaped head.
The experience was also trying on her former marriage and friendships but her daughter was a pillar of strength.
At one point I was so feeble all I could do was just lay up in a ball on my daughters lap and she was 12 years old while she stroked me trying to help me feel better.
She said she was not prepared for the cancer to resurface a second time around, but said she has been more accepting.
Ms Carter hopes that people come out to the Melange event in honour of her and the scores of other women battling breast cancer on the Island.
I hope they come and leave with more knowledge. You want to know that people havent desensitised themselves to it and they want to help.
Its not the plague, its not a death sentence. Its a disease. People just need support and need to be reminded that someone is there.
Major sponsors for tomorrow nights event include Endurance Specialty Insurance Ltd, Belco, Kane Bermuda and BGA Wholesale Distributors. Dozens of other businesses have also lent their support for the event.
Useful website: www.chc.bm.