Lauren Piper, a mother of two, shared her story of surviving cancer twice with guests at the Breast Cancer Awareness Reception organised by Penny Maloney of the Health Promotion’s Unit.
The intimate event held at the Montserrat National Trust in Salem, brought together women and men, health practitioners and community leaders to talk about breast health and how to improve services to women. Maloney said the need to support breast cancer causes became personal after losing her best friend to the disease in 2014.
A video demonstrating how to conduct a self breast exam was viewed and well received by the audience.
In attendance were members of the Pink Ribbon Charity Montserrat, Inc. which manages a fund to assist women in obtaining mammograms. Since the fund began, more than 300 women have been able to receive funds to travel to Antigua for mammograms. Montserrat currently does not have a mammogram machine and efforts are being made my the charity to acquire one.
Access the Mammogram Fund
Bernadine Collins-Chambers, Public Relations Officer for the charity said women are encouraged to contact them to apply for funding. While the process is more involved due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is still possible for women to be able to travel to Antigua for the exams at the Belmont Clinic. If the woman is fully vaccinated, a doctor must refer the patient for the mammogram. The appointment must be made with the Belmont Clinic and an application completed for accessing the fund. If unvaccinated, the Chief Medical Officer must approve the doctor’s referral and contact made with the CMO in Antigua for approval to travel as a medical emergency. Approval must be received before the patient is permitted to travel, once they have a negative PCR test.
Piper shared that at the age of 16 she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma which is cancer of the lymph nodes. After receiving chemotherapy and radiation she was cured of the disease. However, doctors had warned that her exposure could lead to a future diagnosis. In 2014, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in her left breast. This was the same side in which the lymphoma had been found as a teen.
The survivor, who currently works in the Audit Department of the Government of Montserrat said she was committed to fighting the disease and moved to Canada for treatment. Part of her regimen in between radiation and chemotherapy was to inject herself with immune boosters. This was a challenge at first as she was deathly afraid of needles, Piper told the gathering. However, with prayer and after receiving guidance on how to inject herself she was able to do so for 21 days.
Piper said no one should discount the need for a good support system. She credits her brother and another friend for pulling her through her weekly treatments as they would pick her up and sit with her all day in the hospital.
She is cancer free, however, Lauren’s life is now what she calls a new normal.