The Eleuthera Branch of the Cancer Society was the first branch of the Society formed in 1985, the brain-child of Founding Member of the Cancer Society of The Bahamas, Francise Christie, a cancer survivor who had retired to live on Windermere Island. Francise enlisted the help of Corene Sands, a resident of Palmetto Point, to be the first President of the Branch, a post she held for twenty-three (23) years. Mrs. Sands was also a cancer survivor, who had met Francise Christie when she was undergoing treatment, and was eager to get started.
The branch began by selling the Society’s “No Smoking” t-shirts and by holding cook-outs to raise funds. The Branch then organized educational seminars and Eleuthera was the first Family Island to be visited in the National Pap Smear Campaign launched by the Cancer Society in 1990. This was organized with the assistance of the Ministry of Health. A team of doctors, along with members of the Society visited on the weekend and performed Free Smears and breast examinations for women in the government clinics throughout Eleuthera. The evening before these medical screenings were conducted, seminars would be held to educate the women. Over the years the Eleuthera branch grew and it became evident to Francise that it was necessary to have a Central headquarters on the island in order to better coordinate activities. Unfortunately, Francise died, but her dream of building a headquarters was realized. Through the financial generosity of Francise Christie and the Christie Family, a plot of land on the Queen’s Highway in Palmetto Point was donated and in 1994 ground was broken and the Eleuthera headquarters was constructed. In 2004 Kathy Berner, a cancer survivor was elected President and she continued the rich legacy of education and advocacy to advance the cause of cancer awareness on the island. With much energy and enthusiasm, Kathy along with her team of members, completed the construction of our headquarters in Palmetto Point. During Mrs. Berner’s tenure, a mammogram program was started with the generous support of the Ride For Hope Organisation. To date, under the leadership of President Juanita Pinder who was elected in April 2009, some 300 plus women have been the beneficiaries of a free mammogram.
The Cancer Society Eleuthera Branch has adopted a more proactive approach to health and wellness as we are firm believers in the adage “Prevention is Better Than Cure”. We encourage early detection through tests such as mammograms, prostate examinations that are now available in our free yearly clinics and also colonoscopies. Additionally, we have held successful Health & Fitness Challenges to encourage our residents to develop healthy lifestyles through proper diet and exercise. Results have shown that many of our residents are more physically active and getting better readings on their high blood pressure and glucose tests from their doctors. This is a work in progress and we anticipate even better results such as a decrease in the diagnosis of cancer on our island.
We are committed to the awareness, education, prevention, research, advocacy, care, and cure of cancer. We are purposed to serve cancer patients, survivors and their families, and persons at-risk across The Bahamas.
Our branch has served as the pilot island for the Family Island Mammogram Program that has provided much needed mammograms to approximately three hundred (300) women on the island who do not have medical insurance. Statistics reveal that Bahamian women have an abnormally high risk of breast cancer versus any other country in the world (34% of Bahamian women under the age of 44 years of age compared to 12% of US women). We consider the implementation of this mammogram program a huge accomplishment and we are saving lives.
Annually we, along with our Nassau branch, hold free medical clinics across the island including Harbour Island, and conduct breast examinations and pap smears for women and prostate examinations for men. These examinations are offered free of charge and it enables persons to be tested who are not able to afford travel to Nassau to have these tests done.
Our Annual Health & Fitness Challenges are in an infancy stage, however, we are already seeing tremendous results in persons that have taken part. Our aim for these challenges is to encourage healthy lifestyle changes of proper diet and exercise. Making Eleuthera healthy and cancer free is our main objective!
Involvement in partnerships with the Department of Public Health, The Diabetics Association, One Eleuthera and The Levy Nature Preserve to advance the cause of wellness on our island; Participation in a Round Table Discussion facilitated by the Susan G. Komen Foundation/Breast Cancer Initiative to find solutions to the problems facing women diagnosed with breast cancer.
Currently we are staffed by one part time Administrator and we lean heavily on volunteers to assist us with our programs and activities.
Our organization is headed by a Board of Directors that includes President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary and Board Advisor. Our membership is made up of persons in the community that also serve as volunteers.