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theSun | THURSDAY FEBRUARY 5 2009 œ 13

INTERVIEWS VIEWS

gloom. That is why I am a socialist,” she says the procedure is performed, the cancer will
without batting an eyelid. spread to other parts of the body.
Breast cancer education is imperative and On the sudden surge of breast cancer
in a country with a multi-faceted fabric of worldwide, Yip said, women may be living
cultures and social mores, the resource centre long enough to reach the age at which they
at UMMC aims to educate women on breast are more susceptible to the disease.
health, self-examination and early detection “Personal choices women make in life, like
and treatment. marrying late, having fewer children, that too
Yip has seen cases in late stages as there are relatively later in life, and breast feeding only
those who prefer to seek alternative therapies for a few months, leaves them vulnerable to
before seeing a doctor – and she has also seen breast cancer,” Yip added.
patients with burn marks on their breasts, Decades ago, not many wanted to even
caused by lighted joss-sticks administered by talk about it. Breast cancer strikes the most
faith healers. profound of a woman’s asset – where the
“Patients seek the help of bomohs, motherly and the erotic are embedded.
mediums or consume herbal concoctions The symposium at San Antonio not only
and even wear magnetic bracelets hoping opened a floodgate for oncologists to congre-
the tumours will shrink. The latest craze is gate and exchange ideas but also elects a new
mangosteen juice,” she added. way forward – highlighting breast cancer
“Some patients are afraid of doctors but science – where scientists issue information
not nurses,” chips in Umi Kalthsum. “Patients on the latest research and drugs in the pipe-
on follow-up sometimes disappear and the line, that may beat breast cancer mortalities.
resource centre which keeps a registry tries With new drugs and new pathways to stop
to locate them.” its metastasis (spread), hope for the “new
Umi Kalthsum says some patients are even woman” is not far from being a tangible
afraid of biopsy needles, thinking that, when reality.

Brave Belinda battles


the blight
by Joseph Masilamany bouquet of flowers, but a letter which he “cajoled”
her to sign. The letter read, as she was a liability
“HERO” is usually tagged to characters in films, to the company, she would be “rewarded” with a
sports celebrities and even winners of TV reality return ticket home, if she resigned voluntarily.
shows – or to those who win an accolade after “I signed the letter,” she told theSun, without
political or social lobbying. Real heroism is far a tinge of bitterness against anyone or at life
tougher to identify but it is all around us, though itself. Back home she continued treatment at
it only gets token space in the news. the UMMC and is now under palliative care – the
Each time I called stage-four breast cancer cancer having spread to her lungs.
patient, Belinda Bateman, 40, for an interview Belinda discontinued the cycles of chemo-
appointment, the ringtone in her handset comes therapy midway, preferring the quality of life to
alive with the upbeat song Four minutes to save the ravages of the treatment itself. “My daughter
the world by Madonna and Justin Timberlake. gets traumatised to see me in the condition and I
Belinda’s ringtone, somewhat resonates with want to spend more time with her,” she said.
what Ralph Waldo Emerson (American essayist, Lapsing into sentimentality or being sopped
philosopher-poet) once said of courage: “A hero in the “why me?” cesspool where time rusts and
is no braver than an ordinary man, but is braver life stagnates is not the way for the questing
five minutes longer.” Belinda.
When faced with adversity – folk who cling As tumour cells course through her blood-
to “optimism” or whose “resilience” hangs high stream, the pain-beleaguered Belinda, manages
as the party balloon or when their “placidity” to ease the distress with a strong concoction of
renders magic flavour to life are those who stand liquid morphine – specially prepared for her.
as signposts with an immutable effect on people The zest to stay melded in the mainstream has
around them. also pushed her to prepare the family lunch one
Belinda was in the Philippines when she found day. She accomplished the chore, while retreating
herself in a malevolent whirl. While being treated to her room in regular intervals, to breathe wisps
for injuries suffered in a fall, the swelling on her of oxygen from her portable kit.
left breast, initially thought to be trauma caused “We will all die one day. For some it comes
by the fall, proved otherwise. earlier, for others it takes a longer time. We just
Suspicious doctors performed a biopsy and have to make the best of the time we have,” said
found a seven centimetre long tumour. It was Belinda, who has also spoken at breast cancer
malignant and at stage three. forums.
Shock does not come easily to Belinda, who Belinda also looks forward to her weekly visits
has lived life like the metaphoric bird which had to the hospice where she brings cheer to others
had its “feathers plucked out one by one”. The and is often asked the “secret” behind her placid
mastectomy on her left breast was surgery No composure.
23! Sometimes succour comes to the distressed
Since birth, Belinda had undergone 22 surgeries from the most unusual place or from the most
to help her cope with a rare debilitating condition unexpected person – and in Belinda many see
known as congenital multiplex arthro-gryposis. quintals of the heroic.
Life dealt another blow when the single mum’s Her life-script issues a strong lesson for each
only daughter, Rennay, 5, was diagnosed with one of us. That life is a school with no syllabus,
the same condition. where question papers are not set and there are
While recuperat- no model answers to rely on.
ing from her Oh how hallowed is this tutorial from Belinda
mastectomy, – to be “braver five minutes longer” … and to
Belinda’s em- lend just “four minutes to save the world”.
ployer walked
in, not with a

Belinda (centre) shares a light moment with her mother Marie and niece Keeshia.