In the Best of Eleuthera series I want to take a look at the Cancer Society Wellness Centre in Palmetto Point.
The philosophy of the Centre is very much based on the concept of support for people both suffering from cancer and those who have survived it , a huge focus on early detection through screening and cancer prevention – through improved fitness and health.
The Cancer Society of Eleuthera was the second branch formed in the Bahamas in 1985 – the first was in Nassau in 1976. But the building that we all know in Palmetto Point was not built until 1994. Money was raised locally to fund construction of the building and the land it stands on was donated by Mrs Francise Christie from Windemere Island – herself a cancer survivor. It meant that the Cancer Society had a physical presence here on the island and provided a centre where the public could meet for all sorts of occasions.
From it’s inception the Society has had a very strong role in educating people about various forms of cancer, raising general awareness about the disease, promoting vigorously early detection and offering support in any way possible to those with cancer as well as survivors and all their families.
Juanita Pinder is the current President and has worked tirelessly since 2009 when she first took on the role.
Kathy Berner from Double Bay was the previous serving president – for a five year term.
The first President was Correne Sands – who of course the hall is named after – and she served for over 20 years.
Juanita Pinder’s Vice President is Jackie Gibson and the Treasurer is Susan Culmer.
These 3 ladies along with a great team of volunteers motivate and drive the island’s support for this vitally important cause. There is one part time office assistant as well but they are desperately in need of more administrative support.
Recently the Society hosted the second annual Hope Ball – a wonderful occasion which celebrates with survivors and supporters and provides a great night out for everybody. A rare chance on the island to pull out all the stops and really dress up for a special occasion…..
The Ball also recognizes and salutes it’s partners and supporters – Mr and Mrs Albert Archer of Island Insurance , The Eleutheran newspaper, Doctor Elizabeth Darville of 4th Terrace Diagnostic Centre in Nassau, Global Outreach Ministeries.
The incidence of breast cancer is very high in the Bahamas and also it strikes women who are much younger than normal. The average age of women who die from breast cancer in the Bahamas is 42. In the US the average age is 62.
The Cancer Society of Eleuthera has partnered since 2009 with FIMS – Family Island Mammogram Screening – and since then over 600 women have been screened. They are flown to Nassau – have their mammogram and are then flown back. Obviously this is an expensive procedure and ideally the island would have it’s own dedicated permanently sited mammogram machine.
This is one of the current goals of the Cancer Society and there are negotiations at the moment to have just that – a machine has been donated by the US Embassy but there are details to be worked out with the Ministry of Health with regard to operating the machine and maintaining it. Partnering with the Cancer Society in these negotiations are the Rotary Club of the Bahamas and the One Eleuthera Foundation.
The One Eleuthera Foundation has partnered with the Bahamas Breast Cancer Initiative to test women to determine whether they have have the BRCA 1 or BRCA2 gene – a high determining factor in whether women – and men – develop breast cancer. They are offered genetic counseling along with the test and last year 125 women were screened in Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells.
Other goals include developing both a gym and a health food deli at the site in Palmetto Point – promoting a healthy diet and better fitness for all – making the site truly a Wellness Centre.
The site already hosts the organic Eleuthera Community Farm which is doing a wonderful job growing organic healthy food ……