Cancer is one of the top five leading cause of death in Belize. Many have lost their battle with cancer such as Rosita Baltazar and Sharon Baird. With every passing year, more people are diagnosed with the debilitating disease. Last year, Tara Morgan went to the doctor for a routine check-up when the doctor noticed something unusual, after another procedure was completed, it was confirmed that she had cancer. The diagnosis is the start of an uphill journey filled with some days of hope and some of devastation.
Tara Morgan – Cancer Survivor: “My whole world crumbled when I was told that I have cancer and it is important to urgently get a biopsy done to get staging to see how we can move forward in trying to get some help, in trying to help me fight and battle with this disease. My husband was the first person I told because he was at home. After I got the results and I took them back I guess he was a little bit more eager than I was so he waited on me to get home. I just had to cry and to tell him that it was breast cancer and it seems that it was pretty far gone. It was shattering to him because we have a whole year that we were planning with events for our family that we had to all just put on the back burner because now we were facing something that I felt was my death sentence. Usually, mommy is the one who takes care of everybody when they are sick and now it was in reverse. Everybody had to basically take care of me, there were some points were just walking to go to the bathroom was very difficult because cancer had spread to both my lungs and to my spine so there were points where I could barely get out of bed. For me it is very accessible, I hear a lot of people about going to Merida but I do my chemo sessions right at the Dangriga Cancer Center so for me it was very easy. It beats having to travel all the time because I do chemo every two weeks so it gives me that not only being affordable but also being at home so after I finish my chemo sessions I can take that journey to come back to Belize City and I am home.”
The good news about cancer is that there are preventative measures and until there is a cure, Senior Administrator at the Belize Cancer Society, Heather Reneau, encourages everyone to make more consciously healthy lifestyle choices.
Heather Reneau – Senior Administrator of the Belize Cancer Society: “Unfortunately I would say that we have seen an increase in numbers, a dramatic increase in adults as well as pediatrics which is very alarming for us. There is a higher number of children being affected by cancers now so since the organization started in 1999 up until now 2019 we have supported thousands and thousands of patients. We have supported patients not only with access to treatment but accessing screening services, accessing surgery for mastectomies, accessing radiation out of the country and also our children which we are very proud to have had the support of Social Security that we were able to support all their payments in Mexico. The Ministry of Health negotiated that agreement and we are lobbying right now very hard to get it revamped. We know that the CEO, the Minster, everybody is pushing to get this back together. We are lobbying to make sure that we have the funds to continue to support these kids, to help adults in whatever way because cancer is catastrophic, it is devastating and it takes millions and millions of dollars to control it. We ultimately put all our efforts into education, into advocacy, into awareness to try to prevent it before it happens so if communities understand that if we change our lifestyle, if we adopt a simple thirty minutes exercise for the day, drinking a lot of water, trying to eat fruits and vegetables that we have instead of all these canned stuff, all the chemicals we are putting into our bodies, being more conscious about what we put into our body because we know we have to breathe the air, some of the air is already polluted so we need to be conscious about what we can control. If we do that as individuals, as a community, as parents, teachers, lobbyist, everybody I am pretty sure we will be making a dent in cancer in Belize.”
As a society, Reneau explains that the initiatives taken are plenty and they are done to assist cancer patients and to build awareness. Those initiatives range from physical activities to a photo exhibition of cancer survivors. An upcoming event is the Cancer Walk, slated for Saturday, May 25.
Heather Reneau – Senior Administrator of the Belize Cancer Society: “We started with a very small walk, we used to only have white T-shirts with pink writing. It was always to promote adopting healthy lifestyle practices, doing a little bit of exercise and drinking your water. To show people that as a community we wanted them to know that cancer was here and somebody will be there to educate you, to help you along through that journey so all those years ago the Cancer Society has grown to the point that it is now. Now we are the patient’s advocates, we are their lobbyist and we are the ones they come to for support. Even though we are an NGO we try to operate at the same capacity that the other organizations operate at to ensure that when a patient walks through that door and they need answers or they need access to service that we are able to steer them in the right direction. We are hoping that we could have raised $100,000 but we know we are a bit off so we are asking persons to kindly donate. If you did not purchase a shirt you can just come to the cancer society and give a donation and if there is any generous donor out their kindly write one nice check for our kids. We really need funds for our children to ensure that they continue receiving the level of care that they do in Mexico so we invite you. Find out about the cancer society, see how you can become a partner or a supporter of the work we do.”
The walk will be held under the theme “I am and I will.”