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Rachael Andrade, tireless breast health campaigner, dies at 51

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Rachael Andrade, a tireless advocate for breast cancer awareness and health education, lost a battle with cancer on Tuesday.

The 51-year-old was born in Paisley Scotland.

She arrived here in 1991 to work in the maternity ward at King Edward, where she worked for a decade.

Mrs Andrade became education officer at Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre in 2001. She worked there for seven years before becoming a school nurse with the Health Department.

She was second vice president of the Bermuda Nurses’ Association at the time of her death.

Tara Soares, executive director at Bermuda Cancer and Health, said Mrs Andrade’s death was a great loss for Bermuda.

“Joyful, dynamic, effervescent, colleague, friend,” said Mrs Soares. “Those are some of the words we have used today to describe her.

“Rachael gave selflessly of her time promoting health education to all under her banner of education officer for Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre.

Ann Norton and Patricia Rowse, who had the pleasure and honour of working alongside Mrs Andrade, remember one of her favourite sayings as being ‘I was thinking….’

They said she was always thinking of ways to make the world a better place.

“She will be remembered for her faith and dedication to her profession, her exuberance, compassion, effervescence, understanding, caring and being a faithful friend.

“She will be dearly missed by her friends, colleagues and loved-ones.”

With Bermuda Cancer and Health, she was instrumental in starting awareness campaigns such as Girls’ Night In, an event that brought women together to have fun and raise money for breast cancer.

She also came up with the charity’s Slip Slap Slop campaign promoting the use of sunscreen to cut down on the risk of skin cancer.

Good friend Lauren Furbert said she first met Mrs Andrade at Bermuda Cancer and Health when she herself had developed breast cancer.

“When I was going through my journey with breast cancer, she was extremely supportive,” said Ms Furbert. “I will be eternally grateful to Rachael. It was 15 years ago and my children were extremely young. She was our main support.”

Ms Furbert said Mrs Andrade took over the running of Breast Cancer Awareness month in Bermuda not long after it was first organised.

The pair later became colleagues at the Health Department, and often planned breast cancer awareness events together.

Ms Furbert said her friend was probably telling jokes until her last breath.

“She was very funny and the life of the party and always upbeat and making everyone else laugh,” said Ms Furbert.

Another former colleague, Pauline Girling said: “Rachael and I worked together at Bermuda Cancer and Health for five years.

“Rachael helped create and mould the position of education officer, a position that fitted her skills, knowledge and persona perfectly.

Her voice became the symbol of advice and guidance on the radio. Her smile, together with the extraordinary human connection she was able to make through the television screen, guided and helped so many people.

“Through her work Rachael touched the lives of thousands of people in Bermuda those with the highest levels of accomplishments as well as those who had no resources of any kind but whose issues were desperate and whose needs were great.

“She was never too busy; she was never too overworked at least, that was the impression she gave to those who called her for advice and counsel both professional and personal.”

She said Mrs Andrade epitomised real compassion.

A spokeswoman for the Bermuda Broadcasting Company said Mrs Andrade’s humour made her a popular guest on Keevil (The Captain) Burgess’ Power 95 radio show.

“The Captain and Rachel would have so much fun in all that she was talking about, you would have thought it was a radio comedy show,” she said. “But it was so very informative whereby people understood exactly what she was delivering.

“The listener phone call-ins were frequent throughout the 30-minute interview. (We are) so sorry she is no longer with us. Rachael Andrade was a beautiful person to know. We send our sympathy to her family.”

Mrs Andrade did her general midwifery at Perth College of Nursing and Midwifery in Scotland, and earned a bachelor of nursing from the University of New Brunswick in Canada.

She started working as a community health nurse with the Department of Health in 2008.

She worked in the clinic some of the week and also part-time at various schools, primarily at the Berkeley Institute where she was school nurse.

Principal Michelle Simmons said the school was deeply saddened.

“She spread love wherever she went,” she said. “Around October 2008, she made her entrance into the Berkeley family by way of the Student Health Centre.

“Almost overnight she became the person to whom students would happily go when they had a health concern, or in fact when they just needed someone to comfort them or to listen to their concerns.

“The frequency of their visits to the Health Centre had nothing to do with the special treats she gave; it was all about the warm, loving reception students received.”

Mrs Simmons said Mrs Andrade offered her services and support to staff and parents as well.

One of her fondest memories was of Mrs Andrade giving a stress-management workshop to staff in November 2011.

“By the end of the workshop everyone was rolling around with laughter at her stand-up comedy act, laced with her thick Scottish accent,” she said. “There was not an ounce of stress left in the room.

“Our dearly loved nurse Rachael had only been our school nurse for the past four years, but it felt like she had been on staff for many more years. We knew how blessed we were to have her.

“The entire Berkeley family loved nurse Rachael and we will always remember her love, care and kindness. May she rest in God’s eternal peace.”

Mrs Andrade attended the Church of the Nazarene and taught Sunday School there. She also worked with youth programmes such as Young Life.

She met her husband David at a barbecue and they were married in 1996.

“Rachael took ill in March of this year, and a trip to the Emergency Room led to many tests and eventual diagnosis,” said Mr Andrade. “Her worst fears were realised when it was determined that she had cancer.

“She fought right up until the time of her passing and remained positive and brave throughout. She passed on her 51st birthday.

“She was loved and will be sadly missed by the many family members, colleagues and friends she made along the way.

“Given the beautiful spirit that she was, she would have wanted us to celebrate her life rather than mourn her passing.”

On Friday the St George's, Somerset and Warwick Child Health Clinics (usually held from 2pm to 4pm) will be closed to allow staff to attend the funeral.

The Hamilton Health Centre on Victoria Street will remain open during that time with limited services including immunisations and infant weighing.

Mrs Andrade also leaves her father James Henderson, two sisters and numerous other relatives and friends in Bermuda and Scotland.

Her funeral will be held tomorrow at St John’s Church in Pembroke at 2.30pm. Colours may be worn.

Rachael Andrade, former education officer at Bermuda Cancer and Health
Rachael Andrade, far left, at Devonshire Preschool. She was there teaching about the need for sun screen to protect against skin cancer.
Rachael Andrade, former education officer at Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre, teaches children about the importance of sunscreen.

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Published December 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm (Updated December 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm)

Rachael Andrade, tireless breast health campaigner, dies at 51

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