Dr. Asante Le Blanc
Chairman – The Trinidad and Tobago Cancer Society (TTCS)
COVID-19, the pandemic, scary times, and scarier times ahead from all perspectives. We at the Trinidad and Tobago Cancer Society, like all of the nation and all of the world, were stunned, stunned into action. What kind of action? At first, it was the initial knee jerk reaction of “fight or flight”, but that quickly was remedied by our “deep breathing”, after all, we are the nation’s voice against cancer, a disease that is indeed a slow pandemic, a disease that ravages people’s lives every day, everywhere, a lifestyle disease.
How were our members feeling? Was this just even more overwhelming to each of them? They truly are our heroes and why we do what we do. So we reached out to a few of them and one thing was very common and very clear from our cancer survivors and patients, “ I can beat this, this is just another stumbling block in my journey, I have learned from my journey or battle with cancer how to deal with severe adversity… I am strong enough and I will ask for help when I am not”. This was amazing, moving, and tear-jerking, but it still left us asking, what can we truly do for our members? How can we help?
COVID-19 has changed how we interact, no more hugs, no more handshakes, even your smiles may be hidden behind masks… but your emotion can shine through your eyes, through your voice… yes, our organization has had to change how we interact but yet strengthened our drive and motivation in this fight against cancer. The COVID-19 pandemic has further revolutionized how we interact via social media platforms. It has made us even more human, dare I say. We understand that for most, if not all, social media has become that friend that comforts, that friend that shares a laugh or a cry.
Has it and is it challenging? Yes, we are an organization that is based on fundraising and donations, but money is not the only issue. We are an organization that has been based on education and screening, on fighting for the rights of all those who fought, are fighting and will fight cancer in their lives. We are constantly changing, it is a super dynamic process but can I tell you it has been rewarding because it has been heart-warming to see creative initiatives on supporting and being there for our members.
Our heroes have risen to the challenge, understood how they can protect themselves against infection by COVID-19 but most importantly this challenge in their lives has not deterred them from their fight, their camaraderie. I spoke to one of our bravest survivors a few days ago, and we laughed together, because as I was reminding her how to keep isolated and how to keep the house sterile and so forth, she said to me “I am not alone and I know it but I miss my sister”. We had to laugh because we would have cried. After all, no one knows more than a cancer survivor or patient, how cherished is that hug, that touch from a loved one. Another one of our members/ survivors said that at times the anxiety may set in but thanks to her fight against cancer she had been strengthened and used the same techniques such as meditation and deep breathing, praying, and just “being”. In her words, “Spending time outside my home with the birds and watching the trees and mountains have all been so critical to my peace. When the anxiety arrives, I realize that only I can settle it down and so I try to practice what I learned. Practice gratitude, say my prayers, and take it one day at a time”.
Be it reading, praying in a group virtually, listening to music, watching movies… our survivors have yet again displayed nothing but strength, hope, and determination to live during this pandemic. They are our teachers, they are our heroes. They have yet again reminded us of that song, “ONE DAY AT A TIME, SWEET JESUS, LORD HELP ME TODAY, SHOW ME THE WAY, ONE DAY AT A TIME…”
COVID-19 has changed us as an organization and it has impacted on our members, yes, this is true, but it has strengthened our resolve to fight cancer, to educate, to promote screening and prevention, by any means necessary. This has been a true lesson in life, but after fighting or walking the journey with a loved one who has fought, or is fighting this disease, cancer, this has demonstrated yet again how strong we as humans can be…. We will not give up and we are here for all our members and we welcome new members to join us in our fight.
To learn more about the TTCS our screening services, education initiatives and our counselling services please contact; Clinic 226-1221 or Projects 665-4428. Also visit our website at cancertt.com for information on how you can donate and support us.