Harbour Island, Eleuthera — “THE PATHWAY TO WELLNESS: Reversing the trends.”  The One Eleuthera Foundation (OEF), in keeping with its mandate to REVERSE the trends and promote health and wellness on Eleuthera, held a Cancer Symposium on Harbour Island on September 27th. This, for Eleutherans, was a dynamic launch to Breast Cancer Awareness month which is recognized nationally and internationally during the entire month of October. Partnering with the One Eleuthera Foundation for this grand venture were the Cancer Society of Eleuthera (CSE), The Bahamas Breast Cancer Initiative Foundation (BBCIF), and local residents of Harbour Island.

The idea for such an event was conceived by two local Brilanders, namely, Eileen ‘Lizzie’ Mackey and ZoAnne Percentie. After attending the OEF’s 2nd Annual Health and Wellness Symposium, held this past summer (August 1st through 3rd), these two ambitious ladies, wanted to see the same wealth of information about cancer brought to the people of Harbour Island. Ms. Mackey and Mrs. Percentie were relentless in their approach to the OEF to assist with the staging of this event. It was through their diligence in seeking local Harbour Island donors that made the cancer symposium on Harbour Island a reality.

Addressing the 100 plus attendees at the Harbour Island Methodist church were Melissa Major of Bahamas Breast Cancer Initiative Foundation (BBCIF), Magan Trottier, Genetics Councillor, and Dr. DuVaughn Curling, Medical Oncologist & Hematologist. Each one presented on different aspects of cancer.

Ms Trottier and Mrs Major both work together at the BBCIF.  Melissa Major shared her prior personal experience with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of cancer. She gave tips on how she is staying healthy through changed eating habits and exercise and sited that “juicing is the way to go”.

Ms Trottier, a native of Canada, spoke of her work for the past two years as Genetics Councillor for BBCIF. Through the Foundation, genetic testing is available at little or no cost to which screens individuals for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, commonly found in Bahamian women.

Dr. Duvaughn Curling expounded a bit on statistics in The Bahamas. “Settings such as this symposium are an excellent way to do active research in our own communities. Such forums are a perfect way to see the fruits of our labour and can be used to create the changes that are needed in terms of cancer care. It can also help with the modification of our screening guidelines to something that is completely different from those in the U.S. and Europe”, Curling said. He went on to say, “The simple realization that Bahamian women are developing breast cancer at a much earlier age indicates that we need to dig a little deeper to determine reasons for this.” Dr. Curling congratulated the One Eleuthera Foundation and the Cancer Society of Eleuthera for a job well done and expressed his excitement and surprise at the large crowd present saying.

According to Juanita Pinder, President of the local Cancer Society branch, members and volunteers of the Cancer Society Eleuthera were extremely pleased to partner with the OEF and Harbour Island residents to host the Cancer Symposium. She stated, “Any organization that wants to make a positive impact in the community in which it serves must collaborate with like minded individuals and join forces to do so. This event was the largest of such events and I believe it truly made an impact on those that were in attendance.”

Also addressing the crowd was Vice President and CEO of the One Eleuthera Foundation, Shaun Ingraham. “Building on our commitment to Reversing the Trends in Health Care, this event was a major leap towards that goal. What made it even more significant is that it was conceived by the local people of Harbour Island and joined by CSE, BBCIF and OEF. This type of partnerships can only produce positive results”, said Mr Ingraham.

OEF Community Outreach Coordinator (sponsored by Susan G. Komen) and  event coordinator, Maisie Pinder, was pleased with the success of the event. Expressing her excitement and gratitude she said, “I am just delighted to be a part of the team feeding this hunger for knowledge on our island. I will continue to do whatever I can to help bring awareness to the cancer issues that exist. Change starts with each of us doing a small thing.”

The captivated Harbour Island audience, no doubt, gleaned a great deal of life-changing knowledge from the various speakers each with a unique angle on breast and prostate cancer facts. This was indicated with the rich dialogue which took place during the question and answer segment immediately following each presentation.  

Amongst the attendees were persons from Palmetto Point, Governor’s Harbour, Hatchet Bay and Lower Bogue. Also attending were second home-owners and a newly married couple from Sweden. This was particularly coincidental because the Swedish couple stumbled across a flier advertising the event earlier in the day and forfeited dinner plans to attend. What was even more interesting is that the Swedish woman is a Breast Cancer researcher and found the Bahamian breast cancer statistics startling.

Also in the audience were Mr. And Mrs. Paul Farquharson, former Commissioner of Police. Mr. Farquharson commended the men who were present, but stated that he would like to see more men attending such events and getting educated on these critical topics. In an interview after the symposium, he further stated that he himself became more sensitized to the prostate cancer issue when Former Prime Minister, Sir Lynden Pindling, now deceased, announced his own plight with prostate cancer and has since been an advocate for prostate cancer. He admonishes men to get the necessary screenings.

Through educational ventures such as this, the One Eleuthera Foundation and its partners continue to chart the course to a healthier Eleuthera; strengthening and connecting one community at a time.