Project Medishare | GUEST POST: Breast Cancer Awareness, Hopital Bernard Mevs
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GUEST POST: Breast Cancer Awareness, Hopital Bernard Mevs

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Guest post: —Nadia Todres October 1, 2015 Port-au-Prince, Haiti

“As we enter the month of October we are acutely aware that women who get breast
cancer and other cancers here in Haiti, statistically have a much lower chance of
recovery, due to the lack of resources, care and very often due to the lack of
knowledge about cancer, the screening for cancer and the many means we have of
detecting the disease at it’s earliest stage.

Today I had an opportunity to meet with and photograph several women who have
been diagnosed with cancer, and are currently receiving treatment and chemotherapy
at Hopital Bernard Mevs. One elderly woman in particular just had surgery to remove
her right breast in early September after being diagnosed in 2011. Because there is a
great lack of knowledge about the disease here in Haiti women here often think that
having a breast removed will result in their death. However with the work and care of
the staff of Hopital Bernard Mevs women are learning they have choices and those
choices involve treatment and surgery that will save their lives.

Bernard Mevs hospital and Project Medishare are doing some incredible work here to
not only care for women who have cancer, but to educate them about the disease. To
aid them in that respect I offered to photograph some women in the hopes that their
stories could be shared and in doing so, create an AWARENESS about the disease so
that young women here in Haiti will seek help sooner, rather than later.

My visit to Hopital Bernard Mevs was a particularly personal one, as my own mother
was just last year receiving chemotherapy in New York where she lives. As I walked
into Bernard Mevs Hospital and was shown the room where the women are receiving
treatment, I couldn’t help but think immediately of the chemotherapy room at St.
Lukes hospital in New York city where my mother was fortunate enough to receive her
treatment. The all-familiar chairs were there, as were the chemo drips. However the
curtains that separated the families were not there. It was basic, with only the very
essential items.

With so much aid coming into Haiti, I couldn’t help but wonder why I had not ever
read about a plea for financial help for women with cancer. I listened as Grace shared
her ideas for painting a mural and for creating a ‘wellness’ area that would be a place
that families could spend time, while their loved ones were receiving treatment. And I
remembered the times in New York with my mother —all the various ‘activities’ that
were offered to the patients, the art-therapy, the animal therapy. What luxuries they
seemed like, as I stood in this bare-walled room, as 4 women received treatment and
about a dozen others waited patiently.

But I could see it all—the complete transformation of this space in to a colorful room
that was filled with these lovely nurses I met, who were caring for the patients. In
talking with the patients you could sense that the care they had received at the
hospital was full of love. And in the end it is that which matters most. I remember
vividly one nurse who cared for my mother, who made the hours pass like minutes,
who left me feeling, every time I saw her, accurately aware of the effect we can have
on another person, simply by extending our compassion, our empathy, our love and
deep kindness. As my mother’s favorite poet, Naomi Shihab Nye says in her poem
entitled Kindness:

‘Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say it is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you every where like a shadow or a friend.’

And so to photograph these women here in Haiti, along with their daughters, who had
accompanied them — and remembering my days, as I accompanied my mother in New
York, I couldn’t help but feel I had arrived at this place for a very special reason, and
none of it was an accident. Like the mystical country that is Haiti, someone is watching
over me and someone most certainly is watching over these beautiful women. We just
need many others to join with us, so that we don’t leave others behind on our journey to
wellness here in Haiti, for women with cancer.”

Touissant Martine Rafaelle & her mother Saintil Alourdes

Touissant Martine Rafaelle & her mother Saintil Alourdes