By FELICITY DARVILLE
This summer as Anita Rolle was deciding what she wanted to do for her birthday, it hit her. Why celebrate my birthday alone when there are so many other cancer survivors like me with a new lease on life? Just a few months later, “Anita’s Celebration for a Cause” was born. Anita realised there were countless others in The Bahamas who needed support and encouragement as they are either battling or beat cancer and they all needed each other.
Anita, a seven-year breast cancer survivor, found herself wanting to reach out and connect to other survivors and for this reason, she joined a support group this year – the Jennie Dean Caring and Sharing Support Group. There, she met others currently battling breast cancer, survivors like herself and even some who have since died. In retrospect, she realised a positive attitude, support from others and her persistence in early testing made the difference in her fight. She wanted more people to be able to survive as well using these factors that helped save her.
It was in February of 2011 when Anita first felt a lump in her breast. She always asked her general practitioner Dr Cyndi Dorsette how to test herself and how to know if there was any cause for concern. She was told it would be round and hard and would not move. It was a Saturday evening when she first felt that exact kind of lump. It was small, but hard and immovable. On Sunday, the lump was still there and so, on Monday morning, she went straight to her boss and asked to be allowed to go straight to the doctor and have it checked. She went to the Walk-in Clinic where she could have a mammogram done right away if necessary.
“When I went to have it checked, the doctor told me it was nothing,” Anita said. “I knew it was small (it turned out to be half a centimetre) but I felt it. The doctor was saying it may be my hormones due to my menstrual cycle, but I insisted on having a mammogram done right then and there. When the results came back and it was indeed a lump, the doctor was shocked. Maybe for what they were accustomed to seeing and feeling, it didn’t match that. But I am very happy I went with my mind and got further testing.”
After the mammogram, Anita had to have a biopsy done, which returned a positive result, confirming she did have breast cancer. She decided to move quickly on it and flew to the United States to have further testing done at Florida Cancer Care where she came under the care of Oncologist Dr Elizabeth Tan Chiu.
Included in the series of tests was one for the BRCA gene, as the BRCA 1 and 2 mutations are prevalent in The Bahamas. The test turned up negative, which was a relief for Anita, mother of Ashley and Ashton Archer, ages 21 and 20. It was decided Anita would undergo a lumpectomy, which was performed by Dr Nicholas Tranakas of Broward Surgical Associates. Her subsequent chemotherapy treatments were also performed abroad, but she returned to New Providence to continue her radiation treatment.
Anita has not regressed and believes it has to do with her commitment to early detection and “moving quickly” once the cancer was discovered. For this reason, she encourages women to get their annual mammograms and perform self breast testing regularly, adding that “once you feel anything – anything at all – go and get tested”. She is a 20-year employee of the Nassau Guardian in sales and advertising, a talented graphic artist and an alumni of St Anne’s High School and St Benedict’s College.
She reacted quickly to her diagnosis rather than staying in a state of shock or disbelief, and this has allowed her to get on with her personal and professional life. “Some persons would talk about the fear; I wasn’t really afraid,” Anita said. “My whole thing was doing what I had to do to get rid of whatever it was and moving forward to correct the situation. I decided that this was not going to defeat me. I prayed and asked God to cover, keep and protect me. I knew that God had a purpose in my life and this is in no way, form or fashion a death sentence and I will not let it pull me down.”
Sometimes when cancer takes a life, she noted, it is because of financial constraints, not having insurance, or not having enough support to help maintain a positive attitude through the fight. Her parents, Michael and Angela Rolle, family and friends provided a support base that gave her the encouragement she needed through her own battle. “A lot of it is financial at times,” she said, “so I said if I could do something to help someone, it would be a perfect birthday gift to myself.”
Anita turned 43 last month, but the event had to be postponed. She still plans on celebrating her birthday this month with a new event designed to help others in the breast cancer fight, and sees it as providence that the event ended up being held during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Anita’s Celebration for a Cause in conjunction with Perfect Fit Bahamas will host “The Sweat Fete”.
The Sweat Fete breast cancer awareness fitness event will be held on Saturday, October 27 from 7am to 10am at Goodman’s Bay. The event will feature a 45-minute Soca workout followed by a health fair. The Public Hospital Authority will host free health screenings and other sponsors will be providing free samples, and there will be healthy food and drinks. The event will be hosted by Rika C with music by DJ Turbulenc, and local performers Novie, Patrice Murrell and Bodine. Anita is asking for a minimum $5 donation from attendees, but encourages people to come out and give as much as they can, with proceeds being donated to the Jennie Dean Caring and sharing support group.
Perfect Fit, she said, meets Mondays through Thursdays at 6pm and 7pm at Goodman’s Bay. She enjoys exercising with the group, which is sensitive to those battling cancer or those who survived, making it a great fit for her. The group, she added, provides lots of health tips and provides a positive space no matter what level of fitness you may be at.
“Sweat Fete is about celebrating life, celebrating health, and counting every blessing you have been given,” Anita said. “I am celebrating for a cause. My purpose is now to help others and work towards educating persons on what cancer is and the importance of remaining positive. I wanted to share my story for others who may be faced with this.
“Make up you mind you can overcome anything, that you can overcome all things through Christ who strengthens you. We sometimes don’t see the miracles in things because our faith is small. You have to believe you are healed and be positive about what you are going through and understand that God is in control and has the final say. Once you believe and have that inner trust, you can beat the inner beast. It’s only a test and a trial. Look at what Christ went through for us. So what is it to go through a trial in life?
Pass that test and do it with flying colors. In the midst of the test, you continue praise Him. Don’t throw in the towel and keep your head down. The main thing I learned through my experience is to remain positive and don’t give up.”