Shelly-Ann Brown-Bailey remembers the day in 2012 when, while taking a shower, she felt something in her breast that “just didn’t feel right”.
The St. Ann resident told Government news agency JIS that the following day she went straight to a nearby health centre for evaluation.
A few days later and after many tests, Mrs. Brown-Bailey got the diagnosis of breast cancer.
The 10-year survivor is crediting early detection and having a strong support system as the key ingredients in enabling her to win the fight against the dreaded disease.
“The day after I found the lump, I went straight to the health centre and was told that the lump was the size of a five-dollar coin. By the time I did the mammogram and brought back the report to the doctor, which was like a couple days later, it was the size of a tennis ball. I said that just to show you how fast the cancer grows,” she noted.
Mrs. Brown-Bailey, who was among breast cancer survivors telling their stories at a special forum held recently at the Shiloh Apostolic Church in Stewart Town, St. Mary, said that her journey was not an easy one.
“It was a hard time, but I told myself it is not the end of the world, so I went ahead and did what I was told. I am a person of faith, so I placed my entire trust in the Almighty God. Having that support group plus the early detection was very important… . It went a very long way in assisting with my recovery,” she noted.
She is urging persons not to hesitate to seek medica advice if they feel that something is wrong.
“Being diagnosed doesn’t mean you are going to die… so don’t be afraid to go to the doctor. It makes sense to get your mammogram done now because the early detection is important,” she pointed out.
“Cancer is not a death sentence and everything will be fine once you’re willing to fight. So don’t be afraid to go to the doctor if you think something is off with your body. It’s not cancer that kills people… . It’s the stress that comes with it,” Ms. Brown-Bailey added.
Another survivor, Tricia Smith, said she was willing to share her breast cancer experience to raise awareness and save lives.
“Every time I get the opportunity to tell somebody about my journey, it makes me feel good because I could very well be saving a life. God has given me a voice to speak up and assist others. I also don’t ever want anyone to think it is a burden,” she noted.
She is urging persons, once they receive a diagnosis of cancer, to immediately go into survival mode.
“After seeing your doctor and being told of your diagnosis, that is when your survival instinct should kick in. It should make you stronger, and remember, you are not alone. So please, take your mammograms because cancer has no age limit,” Ms. Smith said.
For her part, Janice Johnson-Campbell, who has been cancer-free for six years, said that having a great support system, including her medical team, was crucial in what she said was a most difficult journey.
“I couldn’t have done it without support. During my time, I was connected to people who were an integral part of my journey and they helped me along the way. My doctor was also a very special person, and we made it through,” she noted.
“I also prayed non-stop, putting my trust in God, and asking him for life. I was also aware that others might be going through a more difficult time than I was, so I just kept praying,” she adds.
Senior Medical Officer at the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital, Dr. Tanya Hamilton, in noting that breast cancer remains the leading cancer among women in Jamaica, stresses that there’s no substitute for early detection.
“We want to be able to detect cancer in an early stage before it’s too late, because that way we can fight it to the full extent. You can’t do this alone, and so we doctors and healthcare workers are here for you. So, please, get your mammograms done every year,” she implores.
Sandals Foundation has donated a total of 100 mammogram kits valued at $500,000 to the Jamaica Cancer Society (JCS).
This will allow 100 women in St. Ann and St. Mary, who would not be able to afford the $5,000 procedure to know their status.