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Feb 4, 2015

World Cancer Day, Meet the Survivors

Around the globe activities were held today to bring attention to the issue of cancer. “Cancer Control-Not Beyond Us” is the theme that resonated throughout the activities that encourage its prevention, detection, as well as its treatment. In Belize, we captured the stories of survivors; their struggles at survival as well as the challenges with stigmatization. Andrea Polanco has the following report.

 

Lilia Maria Young, Cancer Survivor

“I was diagnosed in October 2005. I had cervical cancer, stage one into two.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“When you heard you had cancer, take us through what that was like for you?”

 

Lilia Maria Young

Lilia Maria Young

“Well, I thought I was gonna die.”

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

But forty eight year old Lilia Young was determined not to be in the ten percent of deaths attributed to cancers in Belize. This year, as World Cancer Day is being observed, she is celebrating her own milestone.

 

Lilia Maria Young

“I had my family support and friends, so that made me a little more comfortable.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, it’s almost ten years ago?”

 

Lilia Maria Young

“Uh huh. It has nine years in remission. Nine years.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“How did you make it through? What do you think helped?”

 

Lilia Maria Young

“Through my treatment and everything, I made it through by having faith in God. My family was very supportive and friends.”

 

Laura Longsworth

Laura Longsworth says that the Belize Cancer Society has taken an active step to have many more survivors’ stories like Lilia Young’s.

 

Laura Longsworth, President, Belize Cancer Society

“There is no doubt that we have a long way to go and we have been knocking on doors. With our partners, we have launched a national cervical plan and by the end of this month we should have a strong plan that will help us to end cervical cancer because there is no reason why our women are dying from cancer.”

 

And to adequately address other cancers Longsworth says that a comprehensive program would be most effective.

 

Laura Longsworth

“That is exactly what World Cancer Day is all about; to remind all of us that a comprehensive national cancer plans is critically important. It needs for us to have things in place. We need to have the package in place for detection, screening. We need to look at the resources we have and organize ourselves a little bit better in terms of cancer care.”

 

While certain cancers are more prevalent among Belizeans, the stigma still persists.

 

Laura Longsworth

“For men especially, prostate cancer rates are high. For women, cervical cancer which is completely curable, preventable and treatable is the leading cancer for women and breast cancer is right behind. In other parts of the world, breast cancer is leading and perhaps it could be that but our statistics are not as reliable as they should be.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Ms. Longsworth, across the world we have seen that misconception, lack of information has led to the inability to effectively address cancer. Where are we, that is, Belize, on this?”

 

Laura Longsworth

“Excellent question. The whole issue of stigmatization, it is better. At one time we would hide and wouldn’t want anyone know and we think that we will die. Cancer is not a death sentence. It is a matter of living the best quality life you can even if you are not successful in beating cancer. For instance, women with breast cancer may have to get a mastectomy- to take off the breast. Some women will not do it because it affects their image and their sexuality. And even with chemo therapy, although there are people who talk about herbal treatments etc, chemo and radiation are the gold post in terms of treatment.”

 

One strong lady, who hasn’t let the stigma distract her, is breast cancer survivor, fifty five year old Sharon Baird. This mother and educator hasn’t allowed stage three breast cancer to stop her from living. She shares her advice for other women.

 

Sharon Baird, Cancer Survivor

“I was diagnosed in 2012. It was a rocky time but I prayed a lot and I believe if you have a relationship with God, then you are equipped to take care of anything. So, I did chemo. I did my surgery- that was a mastectomy. I did five weeks of radiation in Guatemala and then I came back to work.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“How important is that when women are going through these things, that when you have the information that you speak out; for instance, when they are diagnosed with cancer or they suspect they may have cancer, they are scared to say it because perhaps there is still a stigma that is attached to it. How important is that women speak out?”

 

Sharon Baird

“It is very important because sometimes when you share, you learn also. Sometimes something might be bugging somebody and when you are sharing, it may hit a button. I think that we need to move away from not sharing; because especially here in Belize, women share gossip but they wouldn’t share this kind of information. So we need to share what we are going through so that others can become aware. It is like a sensitization process.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Andrea Polanco.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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