January 16, 2017
The tears flowed on Saturday as 24-year-old Zitalia Fox told the story of learning two years ago she had breast cancer and needed a double mastectomy to save her life.
"I was devastated," said Fox, who was among nearly 200 breast cancer survivors who mounted the stage in a celebratory atmosphere, wearing pink and waving pink roses, at the end of the seventh annual Susan G. Komen Bahamas Race for the Cure.
"It was heartbreaking," she later told The Nassau Guardian. "At first I didn't want to believe it, but I grew to accept it, and I decided to keep on fighting."
Fox's mother and aunt are also breast cancer survivors.
The young woman was diagnosed at stage three. She said she felt a lump underneath her left breast and went to get it checked.
"The doctor didn't even want to perform a mammogram because I was so young," she said. "I felt like that was discrimination because you have people at a young age who have cancer. I actually had to pull the nurse in the room and let her feel the lump. She was shocked."
When the doctor recommended a double mastectomy, Fox said, she cried.
"I was probably OK with one, but to take off the next one...," she said.
The annual race, put on by Sunshine Insurance, is the largest gathering of survivors and supporters of the cause in The Bahamas.
Well over 1,000 people participated in the event which started at Montagu, moved along Shirley Street then eventually over the old Paradise Island Bridge, headed down toward Ocean Club and ended near the foot of the bridge for a grand celebration of life and hope.
Again this year, there was a strong presence of young Bahamian women among the survivors.
Rika Cargill, who was diagnosed in 2012 and whose cancer reoccurred one year ago, is 36.
She was 32 when she learned she had stage three breast cancer.
Cargill said she was prepared for the news. Both her mother and grandmother died from breast cancer.
She took the genetic test that confirmed she was at risk.
"I was just ready to start the proces of surviving, of beating this and showing other people whatever life throws at you, be strong," said Cargill, adding that she lives to encourage others to fight.
Researchers have confirmed after a years-long study that there is something unique about the genetic makeup of Bahamian women that predisposes them to breast cancer at an early age.
But older women are also at risk.
Sheila Rolle-Clarke, a one-year breast cancer survivor, said it was important for her to participate in Saturday's event.
"The first time I got the report, it was shocking," said Rolle-Clarke, 65, a mother of two.
"I thought, 'this is it' and I went into seclusion and just didn't want to be bothered, but positive-speaking people, friends, they have helped me and encouraged me."
She discovered she had breast cancer days after she retired from the Ministry of Education.
Rolle-Clarke says she is inspired to keep fighting.
The race's patron and honorary chair is Willie Moss, a cancer survivor.
"Awareness is the word," Moss told The Nassau Guardian.
"One of the things that we have to deal with in The Bahamas is the cultural taboos that people feel when they hear the word cancer, especially when they hear breast cancer, and a lot of women still feel as if they are not complete if they don't have a breast.
"Life is so much more important than having a breast."
Moss is a 23-year cancer survivor.
"I don't even miss the breast," she said. "I am so happy that I took that decision to get rid of it and when people say, 'I hear you were sick', I say, 'no, I wasn't sick. I had a sick breast but I cut that off'.
"I am still here because I took that decision and I did not allow the insecurities that assail us as women when that part of our body is not there."
Moss said the Komen event empowers women.
"It's phenomenal," she said. "Words can't express the amount of empowerment I feel that goes with this kind of event where women are not afraid to come out and to share their stories."
Sir Franklyn Wilson, who heads Sunshine Insurance, spoke of the feeling of hope and love that surrounds the Komen race and celebration, and he noted it is one of very few events in the country that truly unites Bahamians beyond political and other lines.
Sir Franklyn said he is heartened by the increasing acceptance of Race Weekend, which includes Marathon Bahamas, in the global context.
This month's Delta inflight magazine lists the events among 'what's happening in the world'.
"More and more this thing is developing of 'come for the race and stay for the party'," said Sir Franklyn as he sat watching hundreds of people mingle and enjoy the post-race activities.
"It's just awesome."
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News date : 01/16/2017 Category : Nassau Guardian Stories