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Living a cancer-free life

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

Living a cancer-free life

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“I have two beautiful girls that I love, and I know it’s not going to happen to me.”
Hearing the first part of this statement, one would automatically assume she is talking about her two beautiful daughters. Though she does not negate [her daughters’] good looks, the girls she’s referring to are her breasts.
If by sheer strength of will a person could ensure never coming down with breast cancer, then Julie Dash is on track. With her positive attitude and steely determination, along with a regular exercise and health regimen, Julie is making sure that the threat of breast cancer that she lives with never becomes a reality.
Research shows that regular exercise reduces the chances of developing many diseases, among them heart disease and breast cancer.
The threat that Julie has lived with is real because other members of her family, including her mother, waged their own battles with the disease.
“I have to do mammograms and ultrasounds every year just to be on the safe side,” Julie added.
Doing two types of checks to stave off breast cancer would be enough to scare anyone, but Julie doesn’t harbour any fears about it.
“I try to be extremely positive about this situation,” she said, “and I definitely think your attitude has a lot to do with it.”
Keeping a positive attitude about cancer hasn’t been easy for Julie, who has seen close relatives ravaged by its effects.
“My mother has had breast cancer, my grandmother had pancreatic cancer, and my godmother, who was also a relative and very close to me, had breast cancer,” Julie revealed.
Watching her mother battle this dreaded disease five years ago at the age of 65 wasn’t easy for Julie to witness. But she took strength even from her mother’s attitude to the illness.
“You know when she told me about the diagnosis, I wasn’t ready to hear, let alone deal with it,” Julie recalled. “But she was determined, and because of her I was determined. I had made my mind up at that point that this is going to be okay and we will get through it.”
Julie said her mother, who lives in Antigua, opted for treatment there, though she was trying to get her to come to Barbados. But thankfully, her mother’s strength of spirit, coupled with a mastectomy and treatment, worked, and five years later she is cancer-free.
“My mother didn’t only have the strength of mind and determination, but she also swears by super-antioxidants, which she consumes regularly,” Julie added.
It is because of the close genetic link that both Julie and her two sisters are monitored so closely by their health-care providers.
By knowing the disease first-hand from her mother, Julie herself has become an advocate, encouraging women to get their mammograms, know their family history and go for their yearly screenings.
“I have two sisters, and we all make sure that we get our yearly checks,” she says.
“My daughters, when they get older, it will be mandatory that they get checked as well.”
Along with having the checks, Julie is doing her part in taking care of her overall health to do as much as she can to stay free of breast cancer.
“I go to the gym five days a week and I work out,” she says. “My blood pressure tends to be high, so I make sure I exercise because of that as well.”
“I’m doing what I can do in terms of taking care of my body and looking after my health,” Julie added. “I don’t want these cancers. I’ve got two expensive children who don’t want to leave home, so I’ve got a lot to live for.”