Facing the reality of illness

I attended the benefit Laff-It-Off held in support of Antoine Brudduh Daddy Williams over the weekend.  You all now I think Laff-It-Off is one of the best shows on earth and in heaven and this year’s offering did not disappoint. 

Antoine, in his introductory remarks, chose to continue doing what he has done for a lifetime.  He chose to uplift and demystify using his personal testament.  Antoine dared to talk about cancer in a public place – not just cancer – his cancer.  He beseeched men especially to go and get their tests done and pay attention to warning signs in their bodies. 

After the show, as we all trickled out of the the hall, what I think is a very profound thing happened.  People were talking to each other about their various illnesses. I heard whiffs of a woman saying she was going for a diagnostic ultrasound on Tuesday.  There was a personal friend, whom I’d heard on the pipeline was ill but after the show, he opened up about his experience with illness as well.

Although there is much we still have to do to turn this society into a more caring and compassionate one that we can all thrive in, it was good to see what is such a sad and challenging occurrence touch people’s lives positively. Talking about something brings it from the realm of the surreal into reality.  It takes a massive amount of courage to even get to that point. 

Once a conversation begins with family and friends though, this is where we can garner strength, support and in many cases understanding.  All these things are necessary to fight whatever medical battle we find ourselves facing.  I know that Cancer Support Services of Barbados are probably completely inundated and underfunded but we are grateful for all the good work they do. 

What I think may be useful, though, are some sessions for the wider public in what to say and how to deal with people who inform that they have cancer.  It takes a lot of courage for the person ‘coming out’ to do so but then there is also a firestorm of emotions for the receiver of the information to deal with as well.

Often family members, friends or colleagues want to say the right things but often many simply do not know what the right thing is.  Come to think of it, this project of sensitizing people to manage their reactions to other’s news of illness or adversity is work that not only Cancer Support Services should have a vested interest in. 

Recently in the press, I noted that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was reporting more cases of individuals using their Psychiatric Services.  This is really no surprise as Barbadians continue to find ways to cope with the recession and their changing life circumstances.  Perhaps people with mental illnesses in Barbados have a doubly hard time with revealing the details of their conditions to family, friends and colleagues because of the perennial stigmas attached to mental illness generally and in Barbados specifically. 

People with cancer stand to get more sympathy when they reveal their status.  The changes in their bodies are visible, they attend hospital and do other things we associate with illness.  Individuals with mental illnesses, on the other hand, especially those which do not cause visible body changes, always fight the uphill battle of persuading people that something is actually wrong. 

They have to face the onslaught of comments about them just needing to ‘perk up’.  They have to deal with being made to feel weak.  Perhaps advocates of mental health and wellness can join Cancer Support Services in sharing the costs and related efforts to create sensitization activities. 

Two other discussions are also, I think, good national foci for investment.  They relate to diet and exercise and how they impact on physical and mental illness. We have established that our lifestyles in Barbados have changed.  Yet, several people do not know what the readjusted food portions they should eat are. I am not sure that the average Barbadian can match a particular food group to the types of foods in the group. 

We continue to invest all our time and energy on the management of illnesses and not the preventative measures.  There are more people investing in gym and movement and this is wholesome but several more Barbadians still lead sedentary lifestyles.  We need surveys to understand the causes of this.

Many people cannot get involved in movement due to prohibitive costs; others have work schedules which do not allow activity.  Still others spend so much time waiting on buses or other ‘run of the mill’ chores that their available time is squandered.  Perhaps if we can find some solutions to these problems we can really cut into the numbers of Barbadians coming down with various illnesses.

The other national discussion that can help with improved level of wellness is how stress and poor emotional management trigger illness.  There are too many dysfunctional families in Barbados, too many dysfunctional schools, too many dysfunctional workplaces.  We need to change the way we talk to each other – the way we construct and deconstruct relationships.  We need to create a new ethos of work management and employment.

There is much to be done and Antoine Williams, even as he looks for healing for his own body, has offered further national service in starting this discussion. I hope we can keep it going.

(Marsha Hinds Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies. Email: mhindslayne@gmail.com)

10 Responses to Facing the reality of illness

  1. allison archer May 5, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Barbadians delights in talking being very limited in action, its time to stop this hypocrisy.
    Mr. Williams for ten years was advocating for early detection and so forth yet still look where he is, I mean stage 4 cancer, there had to be many warning signs ignored by him, acknowledging the cancer at times conceals itself but stage 4,
    people need to practice what they are teaching others

    • Nick May 5, 2017 at 1:01 pm

      Alison Archer you seem to be really ignorant, because somebody is advocating for early detection does not always mean that it cannot happen to them. SMH some of wunna people so stupid.

    • harry turnover May 6, 2017 at 6:46 am

      Hope YOU notice YOUR EARLY WARNING SIGNS ….how do you know that brudda daddy didn’t detect those early warning signs but in the end after 10 years of staving it off it eventually took over and reached Stage 4.

  2. Kathie Daniel May 5, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    OH the judgmental attitude, Allison Archer. Are you a medical professional? I sure hope not, cos this post suggests you have zero empathy towards other people.
    FACT: some cancers are very hard to detect early on.
    FACT: not every medical professional can catch the early signs
    FACT: only the patient and his doctor know what is going on
    Instead of taking this holier than thou approach, imagine how you would feel in Antoine’s shoes, or if he were your brother or husband or best friend.
    Cancer is a truly hideous disease but not as hideous as a mean spirited person.

  3. NOLAN HALL May 5, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    Many cases of colorectal cancer have no symptoms or warning signs until the cancer has advanced.

  4. Connie May 5, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    Not all cancers are detected early …and this one in particular is very difficult to detect.. usually when signs and symptoms appear it is at a late stage and there is very little that can be done…. 38 days before my friend died of this cancer she had her first sign ‘itchy skin, seem so unrelated?.. but it had already spread to her liver without any warning… this is not the time to make uncaring remarks.

  5. Nanci May 6, 2017 at 8:24 am

    People have to realize, for instance if a person have pancreatic cancer, you will never know until it’s way too late. There were instances where people felt weak, or a bad cold that lingered, and finally went to the doctor, only to hear they only got 4 to six months to live. I knew a postman who went to the doctor because he had dizzy spells. The doctor told him he had six days to live, he died within those days. Some cancers hide in your body. It’s very sad.

  6. Nanci May 6, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Allison how you know the guy didn’t know about his illness. Sometimes you have body changes, you go to the doctor, and the doctor tell you, nothing is wrong. Then you go for a follow up and realize the cancer is growing rapidly. Some cancers can spread quickly, so you never know. Different cancers got different behaviors. Some doctors tell you everything, some doctors hold back information. That why people with good insurance from their job travel to Canada, or US to get doctors that train in these kinds of aggressive cancers. So pray for the guy.

  7. H.C May 6, 2017 at 9:38 am

    @ Allison Archer….I was diagnosed with heart disease in the year 2002, it was treated and was continued to be treated under doctors care, I changed my whole life style too help slow the progression…..but you know what I had to have open heart surgery in 2014….I ignored nothing, So you see it took me some twelve years before I reached the stage of open heart surgery, so how in this world do you know that the gentlemen did not pay attention to his body.
    A friend of mine found out he had cancer of the gum by just a simple dentist visit…which he did every two years .

  8. allison archer May 12, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    H.C just look at the facts, do you understand since one promote early detection the only way the discovery of cancer is at stage 4,
    I’m not bashing anyone but the truth is the truth, just read this article slowly and analyze


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