Declaring that the need to expand the Cancer Caring Centre was “more urgent now than ever in our history,” the Cancer Society of The Bahamas today officially launched a $3 million fund-raising campaign to build 16 new rooms and create the first hospice care facility in the nation.
The announcement came during a press conference this morning at the centre off Collins Avenue.
“The Cancer Caring Centre, the most ambitious project ever undertaken by The Cancer Society in its nearly 40-year history, serves as the heartbeat of the community of those who have been diagnosed with the disease or are caring for loved ones undergoing treatment,” explained Dr. Williamson Chea, Cancer Society Vice President.
“For patients from the Family Islands, this centre where we are gathering today can mean the difference between life and death, providing a place for patients to stay when they come to Nassau for chemotherapy, radiation or other follow-up testing and treatment. Without this home away from home, many would be unable to undergo treatment that could save their lives.” Failing to seek treatment because of a lack of a place to stay, said Dr. Chea, dictates an outcome no one wants to face.
“They would literally remain at home until the disease took its course,” he said.
Yet, even for those who choose treatment, finding space in the Centre presents a challenge.
More than 800 patients have passed through its doors since it opened in 2006, according to Lovern Wildgoose, President of The Cancer Society. There is always a waiting list.
“When you are suffering from cancer and you know that every day counts, the last words you want to hear are waiting list,” said Wildgoose.
The expansion includes space for hospice care, allowing patients whose cancer is terminal to experience the greatest comfort in a setting more personal than the sterile atmosphere of a hospital. Rooms have patios and are furnished in a homey fashion. A caregiver, usually a family member, stays with their loved one, little is denied in the way of pain management, explained Susan Roberts, founder of The Cancer Society and president several times.
“Hospice,” said Roberts, “is end-of-life experience that enables the patient to live out their last days in the greatest comfort possible, surrounded by those who mean the most to them. In hospice, small pleasures that can be granted will be – it could be something as simple as a massage or watching a favourite old black and white movie, asking for more time with a pastor or satisfying the craving for a slice of chocolate cake with rum raisin ice cream. Calories no longer matter. Bed time and waking time no longer matter. Hospice is a way of accepting and moving toward the end with as little pain and as much pleasure as possible, transitioning in heart and soul and spirit.”
The Cancer Caring Centre, which is three stories high, is set among the mature trees and offers a sense of tranquility. It is located near hospitals, laboratories, medical professionals and facilities in what is generally considered the heart of New Providence’s medical community. Each of the 10 rooms is filled with ambient and natural light, equipped with a small patio for fresh air and furnished to make patients and their families feel at home. Those staying at the Centre help out making meals in a communal kitchen. They share stories and lend support to one another. Volunteers who staff the Centre along with administrative and medical professionals are never far away. There are talks and exercise classes.
“We know that this Cancer Caring Centre has been the heartbeat providing comfort, care and resources for those who need it when they need it most,” said Dr. Chea. “We simply need to ensure that we have sufficient space for those who need this home away from home even as increased screening and improved education result in more persons being diagnosed earlier, meaning their chances for survival are greater and the role of this Centre continues to grow. Cancer is the number two killer in The Bahamas but it is also a disease that can have a very good outcome. The Cancer Caring Centre plays a part in hundreds of those stories and we hope this building fund campaign will touch a chord with many who understand its importance and appreciate how difficult it is to tell people, sorry, no space in the inn, you must wait.”
Plans for the 16-room expansion call for a structure adjoining the present building that also houses the Bahamas Breast Cancer Foundation Initiative and meeting and counseling rooms where talks, workshops and counseling sessions for patients, family and caregivers are held on a regular basis.
Cancer Society representatives said they will continue to reveal ambitious fund-raising efforts, and have already launched a new look, re-launched their website, produced factual support material and are engaged in promotional initiatives including personal contacts and grant applications.
“We are immensely grateful to all those who understand and fund our ongoing work,” said Wildgoose. “We are especially thankful to the Ride for Hope and to all those who support events like the Luncheon on the Lawn, the Stride for Life, Love Lights a Tree and the Cancer Society Ball.”
A national telethon that is expected to kick off the largest contribution pipeline is set for Sunday, May 31 from 1-5 pm with telephone banks, entertainment and a slew of activities at Atlantis, the first sponsor. Retired Atlantis Senior Vice President, Administration, J. Barrie Farrington, is expected to release more information next week about telethon details.