Why Jamaica and WHY NOT Charlotte? I am glad you asked!
I am talking about the trip that Terri and I leave on in less than a week. We are providing 200 mammograms to women in Jamaica, we are also providing ultra sounds for the women, out of those 200, that need them, and we have these women on a fast track to get biopsies.
So why take our $10,000 to Jamaica to provide these services and not provide them in Charlotte? Good question and I have heard it enough times that I figured I should blog it.
In the states, money or no money, insurance or no insurance, there are ways of getting through breast cancer regardless of your financial situation. We have treatments available to everyone, regardless of our financial situation. We can get mammograms, regardless of our financial situation. Jamaica is different. In Jamaican you present with a lump, that lump is biopsied, and if you have breast cancer – it doesn’t matter what kind of cancer – you get a mastectomy. Chemotherapy and radiation are only available to certain women there, and I don’t think that door is open wide for many. So if you think of it like this – early detection is absolutely vital there to save lives. If someone is diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in Jamaica, they have a big problem that a mastectomy isn’t going to fix. As we talk all about early detection here in states, it’s true. But if we miss that and say it’s in some nodes or even a spot elsewhere, we have a pretty good chance of pushing this disease back with chemo and radiation. Not everyone responds here to those treatments, but most do. Especially on round one of breast cancer.
This is why this trip to serve these 200 women is so important. It is just about awareness, although we will be talking about them knowing their breasts and self exams, but it really is about catching some of these women with early stage invasive cancer or insitu cancer. This isn’t the start of their life in mammography – a lot of them won’t be able to get another mammogram after the one we provide is given. I know there is a lot of confusion here is the states about mammography – and most agree we need more effective screening. Mammograms miss a portion of breast cancer and we need better screening! I am hoping this blood test coming out of UNCC has great effectiveness, I also know the American Cancer Society is funding a researcher for a blood smear that has a lot of promise. We need these tests because they will be more accurate than a mammogram and free of radiation!
With that being said, did you know that if a woman in Jamaica that has the means to receive chemotherapy and radiation in Jamaica gets diagnosed with breast cancer, in order to figure out her treatment regimen her tumor must be sent to the US to be dissected? They don’t even have the means in Jamaica to tell whether the tumor is ER/PR positive or negative, HER2 positive or negative…and this is heartbreaking for me. The things we take for granted here in the US is disheartening. Our society is becoming upside down on expecting who to pay what and that is also troublesome. BUT, it’s not Jamaica – the most beautiful place in the world….and that’s where Terri and I get to spend 9 days next week serving these women, paying for mammograms and ultrasounds, and enjoying successful and safe trip.
I pour my heart and soul into the breast cancer community in Charlotte. If you know me – you know this is true. Last year with my breast reconstruction issue from the plane ride to Jamaica God took my situation and turned it into something amazing. Our trip last year was not as relaxing as it could have been, it was certainly not “cancer free” like we needed it to be, and a lot of time was taken up being checked each day, checking in with Dr Appel, and watching my dark purple breast drain more and more into a marbled pink color until I got back to the states. BUT, with all of that being said…..God took my little brain and heart that week and made me ask some hard questions of the staff in the resort where we stay (Couples Tower Isle). “What happens here when a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer?” “How do women get treatment here if they have it?” “What types of treatment do they get?” and “How do women here get mammograms?”….the answers broke my heart and now, finally, we are going back to do something about this. Just for a small town in which we stay, where my heart lives, some of my friends live, and the town in which we can actually make a big difference.