Bajan politician using own cancer to inspire

Barbados Minister of Education, Santia Bradshaw.
Photo by George Alleyne

A prominent person came down with a health disorder that has been plaguing Barbados for a long time, and while assuring followers that she will beat it, this leader is using it to inspire others.

Many Barbadians were Sunday night jolted by the news that one of the politicians they had elected in the historic general elections sweep, Santia Bradshaw, was stricken with breast cancer.

The shock to Barbadians must have been measurably reduced when Bradshaw herself assured supporters that because the dreaded disease had been diagnosed in its early stage it can be beaten with proper medical treatment.

“The good news is that it is treatable because they have found it early,” she said adding, “cancer does not mean that there is a death sentence.”

The fact that this popular politician has brought her medical situation to the public may serve as a boost for efforts at convincing others to come forward for early testing.

Addressing the support-base that gave her a 3,803 to 1,099 victory over her closest opponent in the St. Michael South East electoral district in the May 24 elections that saw the Barbados Labour Party win all 30 parliamentary seats to oust the government. Bradshaw, the minister of education, pointed that many other Barbadians have survived breast cancer because of early detection and treatment.

Bradshaw’s stated confidence based on the early detection of her affliction is supported by statistics on the island which shows that despite the relative high mortality of breast cancer, there is an even larger recovery figure.

Total cancer cases in 2014 were 426, with 98 being breast cancer, and in 2015 there 430 cases entirely, with breast cancer accounting for 140.

Dr. Shirley Jhagroo, coordinator of the Breast Screening Programme of the Breast Cancer Society has said, “breast cancer is the most common cause of death from cancer amongst women in Barbados, taking the lives of about 50 women per year, which is about one per week.”

The head of this non-governmental organisation that has been raising funds to test for, and treat persons diagnosed with this illness said however, “statistics in Barbados is showing that the deaths from that disease, when compared with all the other cancers in Barbados, have remained between nine and 11 per cent from 2005 to 2011.”

According to Dr. Jhagroo, “early detection seems to be the answer as breast cancer detected as ‘Stage Zero’ to ‘Stage One’ has a five-year survival of almost 100 percent, and a normal life after that, compared with a ‘Stage Four’ diagnosis, which gives less than 20 percent [chance] of survival.”

“I’m happy to report that most of the positive cases diagnosed to date are between Stages Zero to Two, resulting in life after breast cancer.”

Against this backdrop Bradshaw said, “I now have a vehicle through which I could spread a message to those both men and women … who may be going through something similar and may not be sure whether they should say anything.”

“I want to give you the assurance, we took on the whole Democratic Labour Party and won by a landslide, and Santia Bradshaw ain’t letting cancer get the better of her.”

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