Derick Bernard, 18, is entirely focused on his career as a breast implant surgeon.
After researching the subject, he learned about the experience of traumatized breast cancer survivors and raised over $100,000 in much-needed support for them.
The sixth-grader at Hillel Academy in St. Andrew is now a breast cancer survivor ambassador and wants other young men to join the cause, support and fundraise for women battling the disease.
He describes the campaign as “about giving back to the community.”
“Anyone can be a light in their little corner. Breast cancer is the main cancer in women and sometimes these women have to undergo surgeries and may lose their breasts. So with that knowledge, I sought sponsorship,” he said, while presenting 15 survivors with articles of support at the Jamaica Cancer Society in St. Andrew’s on June 27.
Items included breast prostheses and bras worn by cancer survivors.
Diagnosis of the condition may result in a unilateral mastectomy, where one breast is surgically removed, or a double mastectomy where the two are separated.
This can lead to depression and despair as the new change in the physical appearance of the body is sometimes devastating for a woman.
The costs of recovery are enormous, and many women cannot afford reconstructive surgery or prosthesis, a breast prosthesis that helps improve their appearance.
Young Derick said he wanted to have a ‘long-term relationship’ with the Jamaica Cancer Society, ‘where we can help others in need [and] help women rebuild a part of themselves.
He assured survivors that “they are not alone, and there are people who will help you; there are people who will listen to you.
The student further stated that with the support of donors, even when he settles into his profession, it is a mission he wants to continue.
The Department of Health and Welfare says breast self-examination is essential for women and men to undertake monthly. They can follow the procedure on the ministry’s website – www.moh.gov.jm.
Breast cancer survivor Hygena Reid said the prosthesis and bras will help her “a lot, and I really appreciate that, because I didn’t expect it.” Another survivor, Eulalie Callum, noted that the objects will bring happiness into her life.
“Because the prosthesis sometimes makes a woman feel complete after she has lost a part of herself. I am very grateful to Derick for making the decision to help. There are a lot of women in Jamaica who really need this help,” she said during the brief handover ceremony.
The Jamaica Cancer Society’s acting executive director, Michael Leslie, noted that when an 18-year-old can “step up and think about our ladies, it has to be historic.”
“It warms my heart that 15 women can [now] walk proudly with confidence,” he told the audience.
The Ministry of Health recommends other simple steps to detect cancer, which can make a difference.
These include standing in front of a mirror and looking at the skin of the breast and trying to identify indicators such as dimples, flaking, redness or any discoloration; examining the form of the beasts, first with both hands pressed behind the head, then placed on the hips, the left arm should be raised and the left hand placed firmly behind the head; using three or four fingers of the right hand to explore the left breast in a circular motion, starting from the outer parts of the breast and moving towards the nipple.
However, screening is considered the best way to identify cancer at its earliest stage, often before symptoms appear.
“Although screenings are an essential aspect of comprehensive healthcare, many people delay or avoid getting screened for cancer for two main reasons: cost, as a major factor, and fear of hearing the worst. “, notes the ministry.
Breast cancer patients registered with the National Health Fund (NHF) can have their cancer receptor studies performed at a reduced cost at the Pathology Laboratory at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).
The diagnostic test is subsidized by $4,800 each. The procedure is essential for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.
The Jamaica Cancer Society is a non-profit, non-governmental organization, which was established in 1955 with a mandate to contain cancer in all its forms.
Through its mission “to eliminate cancer as a major health problem in Jamaica”, it provides the public with a range of screening tests for breast, cervical, uterine and prostate, at heavily subsidized user fees.
Services also include stationary and mobile screenings, while public health education programs provide free lung and colon cancer information to businesses, churches, schools and community organizations.
His “Relay for Life” program is used at the community level and at large gatherings to raise funds for the work he does to support survivors and increase cancer awareness.
The Society also has the “Reach to Recovery” initiative, which includes breast cancer survivors who volunteer much-needed support for others, is widely supported by the private sector.
The Jamaica Cancer Society is located at 16 Lady Musgrave Road in St. Andrew, with outlets in St. Elizabeth and St. Ann.
They can be reached at (876) 927-4265, (876) 927-3317, or by email at [email protected]
Other aspects of his work can be viewed at www.jcs.live.