Sobering reality of cancer highlighted at Ovarian Cancer Awareness event
Cancer survivors joined relatives and friends to hear the sobering realities of ovarian cancer and the impact of cancer in Bermuda.
Organised under the theme ‘Break the Silence', the new advocacy group for Ovarian Cancer Awareness hosted a luncheon yesterday at Fairmont Hamilton Princess.
The event culminated a month-long series during September, which is during Ovarian Cancer Month.
Executive director of Bermuda Cancer and Centre, Tara Soares, told a packed audience the deadly disease is one of the most difficult forms of cancer to detect.
In her keynote address on ‘Mind, Body and Spirit Plus Emotion' she noted that the disease is commonly referred to as the ‘Silent Killer' because it's difficult to detect.
Noting that the body is “our greatest gift that makes being human possible”, she said early detection and listening to the signs our bodies tell us is key when “something's not right”.
“When our bodies feel the worst there can be an emotion of such desperation.
“I can only imagine what the body must endure when fighting cancer. Cancer happens to the body,” said Ms Soares.
Cancer is diagnosed in one out of every three people she said, citing chemicals, viruses, smoking, alcohol, pesticides, the sun and radiation were listed as the top causes.
And in most cases she noted that “almost all cancer clinically appears in the body years, if not decades, after the cause of the cancer”.
“Skin cancer, which is often diagnosed when we are in our 50s, may have been caused by the sunburn we received when we were 14-years-old.
“This life is not a rehearsal and we do not get a do-over in this body. And so, we must try to do the very best we can for our bodies.
“We should balance our diets, eat fresh vegetables and fruits, moderate our alcohol and sugar intake, and be cautious about our exposure to the sun. And don't smoke.”
Outlining the history of cancer treatment Ms Soares noted that in the 1970s “we did not have a way to detect breast cancer early”.
Back then she said it was “often only diagnosed after a lump could be felt in the breast”.
Before mammography was introduced in the early 1980s she said “the only treatment was a mastectomy and the five-year breast cancer survival rate was around 75 percent”.
The five-year survival rate for women who had annual mammogram in Bermuda was 90 percent between 1999 to 2006.
“This improved survival rate is attributable to the early cancer detection screening programme and improved cancer treatment.
“I use this as an example of what I know we will be able to achieve for the detection of ovarian cancer,” said Ms Soares.
“Today, unfortunately, we do not have a test or screening programme that will help us diagnose ovarian cancer early — that is why we often hear ovarian cancer referred to as the ‘silent killer'.
“By the time it is detected the cancer is often at a late stage.
“Going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment is an emotional roller-coaster.
“Often during the initial diagnosis and treatment our mind is very busy making decisions, working to keep our emotional side strong, researching and making plans.
“The emotional part of ourselves may be subdued, ignored or bottled up — often unconsciously.
“So my advice, not only for those who are going through a cancer diagnosis, but in everyday life is to give your emotional self a voice — cry, scream, be vulnerable, love deeply, forgive and try not to let feelings of shame, guilt or fear stop you from finding joy every day in your life.
“Perhaps the spiritual self is the most ignored of all. But I believe the spiritual self is our guide.
“If we allow our spiritual self to lead us, she will love us unconditionally and can help to guide us one day at a time.
“When the voice of our intellect starts to make us feel guilt, shame or fear — let your spiritual self be the louder voice.”
She encouraged the audience to “nourish your body every day — whether you take a walk in the park, or have a few minutes of quiet relaxation, a long soak in the tub or a day at the spa”.
“Your body deserves it. When our intellect begins to think of all that can go wrong — put her in the corner, ask her to be quiet and give yourself the experience of letting the joy in.”
In closing Ms Soares encouraged the audience to let their “spiritual-self” take the lead in their life journey.
“As humans we experience a powerful gravitational pull in the direction of hope. We will find a way to fight and beat the terrible disease of cancer.”
She also pledged the centre's “full commitment and resources” to help the new advocacy group raise awareness and “fight this deadly disease”.
Ovarian Cancer Awareness Months ends today and leads into the official launch of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month tomorrow.
The official launch gets underway at noon tomorrow with an opening ceremony at Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre (BHC).
Events on tap include a fundraising ‘Wear it Pink Denim Day’ on Friday and the ‘Just Between Us Fashion Show and Tea’ on Sunday at Christ Church in Warwick.
On October 11, Keith’s Kitchen will host the annual Friday Fish Fry at Christ Church.
The annual Breast Cancer Fundraising Gala takes place on October 12 at Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club, just ahead of the biggest event of the year.
The Breast Cancer Fun Walk takes place on Wednesday, October 16 this year, starting at Barr’s Bay Park at 6pm, the same venue for the health fair which gets underway at 5pm.
The month-long series of events ends with a Breast Health Talk by Dr Kevin Hughes on Hereditary Breast Cancer in Bermuda on October 24 at 6pm at Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.
Other features include the Faces of Breast Cancer display at City Hall, a photographic display of the many faces of breast cancer in Bermuda.
Throughout the month there will be free mammogram screenings at BHC for women in their 40s or over.
And North Village Community Club players will don pink jerseys to raise funds for every goal scored by the team in October, courtesy of Freisenbruch-Meyer Group.
BHCs goal this year is to raise $250,000 during 2013 Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
All funds raised will support the charity’s initiatives, including the BHC Equal Access Fund, Education and Awareness Programmes and the BHC Health Scholarship.
For more information visit www.chc.bm.