Rural women thrown mammogram lifeline
A year ago, 53-year-old Brenda Lee Campbell discovered a lump in one of her breasts, but the Bethel Town resident, who was unemployed at the time, could not afford to pay to have a mammogram done.
Last week, her turmoil came to an end as she was able to have her breasts checked at the Hospiten medical facility in Montego Bay via a mammogram-outreach initiative by philanthropist Jan Lawe of Lawe Insurance Brokers.
“I have done mammograms before, but there was no problem. However, during self-examination last year, I discovered a lump, so I wanted to get it checked, but I didn’t have the money, and the mammogram is very expensive. When I did it the first time, I had health insurance, so that covered it,” said Campbell, who now works as a janitor at an early childhood institution in Bethel Town.
Campbell was one of 25 women, mainly from deep rural districts in western Jamaica sponsored by Jan Lawe, who left Kingston where she resides, at 4 a.m. to get to Montego Bay on time to greet each recipient.
For a woman who is mourning the loss of an aunt to breast cancer, it was a no-brainer for her to support rural women in getting the very important procedure done. It was without hesitation that she also committed to support them in their after care were they to get an undesirable result.
“It is an honour for me to help these women because I am all for helping people who are not able to help themselves ... . It is important for me to keep following up with Brenda to make sure that everything is OK with her and that she will get the help that she needs,” said Lawe.
Already, she has been in dialogue with breast cancer expert Dr Delroy Fray at Cornwall Regional Hospital, who has committed to giving assistance.
“And we are praying that everything will be OK with these women, but if it’s not, we are here to continue to help,” she said.
Lawe’s medical mission was supported by Montego Bay-based charity Sarah’s Children, which helped to identify women in need.
It was a stunning revelation to see the number of women over 40 years old, like Evelyn Webster Campbell, who failed to access mammograms or were only doing it for the first time in their lives because of unaffordability.
Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of premature deaths among Jamaican women.
Webster Campbell, 56, who is a housekeeper at Cornwall Regional, was so elated to get the news that she was selected, she also recommended some of her co-workers.
“I wanted to do it for a long time, but because I didn’t have the money, I did not do it. I was so happy the day. I was leaving work and saw this lady and she asked me about it and I felt that it was so good for me. So right away, I started to tell her about the workers that I think would want to do it,” she said.
Her counterpart, 60-year-old Olga Campbell, said she was only doing her second mammogram in 10 years because of prohibitive costs.
“It wasn’t affordable to do another one,” she told The Gleaner.
Bethel Town native Aloma Peddie said she, too, was doing her first mammogram at age 63. She said that even though he was aware that early detection was important, she simply did not have the money to pay for the procedure, which can run as much as $18,000.
“I could not afford it, and for her doing it, it is a blessing for us. So thumbs up to her (Lawe) and may God bless her,” Peddie said.
One recurring observation from the women was that fears that the procedure was painful were overblown.
“I didn’t expect it would be so easy, because of what I heard about it,” Eddie-May Haughton, said.