10/21/13 - Havana Times - Surviving Breast Cancer in Cuba: A Tribute to Courage
Vicente Morin Aguado
Enna Ferrer Carmona
HAVANA TIMES Being diagnosed with breast cancer or told one must have a
radical mastectomy is not a death sentence, Enna Ferrer Carmona, a woman
who faced such a reality 22 years ago, tells me.
She is one of the founders of Alas por la Vida (Wings for Life), a
project launched by mastology professionals working in the Manuel Fajardo
University Hospital in Havana.
I met Enna when, without knowing I was a journalist, she approached me and
began to explain her work to me, while enjoying an art exhibition that
opened October 5 in the Quinta de los Molinos gallery located near the
intersection of Carlos III and Infanta streets in Havana.
As I soon learned, all of the works exhibited were authored by women who
had undergone operations for breast cancer. The exhibition will be open
until November 5.
This is one of the many different collective and individual activities
undertaken as part of the project, whose foundational document explains
that project members perceive that their needs are not or cannot be
satisfied by existing social institutions.
I can only imagine the impact that the first encounter with this so-called
bad friend must have had on my new friend (today 59), having been
diagnosed in the prime of life a condition that still seems to shine in
her face, thanks, to a great extent, to the Wings for Life project.
The project encompasses a great many of Cubas municipalities (in at least
11 of the countrys 15 provinces, counting Isla de la Juventud). There are
roughly one thousand members, mostly women (as is to be expected from the
particular characteristics of the condition).
The chair of the association, Dr. Alexis Cantero, considers that the
membership continues to be too small, for some three thousand women are
diagnosed with breast cancer in the country every year and breast cancer
is one of the three main causes of death in Cuba.
Enna tells me that members are taught about bioethical issues, sexuality
for their new lifestyles and nutrition, while being encouraged to have an
active life and to become engaged in life-affirming activities, both
individually and within groups.
She explains that group meetings are essential, as group therapy helps
individuals cope with stress and the psychological traumas that stem from
the role female breasts play within the socially constructed image of
I have seen the exhibition at the Quinta de los Molinos gallery several
times. It contains paintings, photographs, knitted pieces, small and
varied crafts and other forms of artistic expression, fashioned by women
whose experiences are a testament to the power of optimism. One of the
artists wrote: She lost a wing and gained life.
Its been hard for me to say goodbye. Ive been back several times and
talked with different representatives of the association. Their smiles,
telling me not everything is lost when people are willing to open their
hearts, always encourages me.
I didnt have time to meet Dr. Cantero in person. In the photos at the
gallery, she is always in the background, not bringing any attention to
herself. The affection people feel towards her and her work, however,
becomes more than evident when one speaks to the members of the
association, who have no doubts about her modesty and total commitment to
the Wings for Life project.
Other photographs tell us of the support different artists have given the
project, including the initial boost given the initiative by the prolific
and dynamic painter Zaida del Rio. The project has also enjoyed the
express support of different cultural, culinary, medical and educational
institutions and different newspapers around the country.
Dr. Cantero and the other members have expressed their wish to promote
their help line, one of the main doors open to individuals in search of
aid. The telephone numbers are 836-9936 and 836-9937. The help line
operates Tuesdays and Thursdays from two to four in the afternoon. Project
members also dream with having a promotional spot on Cuban television on a
I want to close my post with the lines written by Ennas husband:
When I help her get dressed, I do not see a scar marking an absent
breast, but a medal to a womans courage, to the merit of overcoming all
adversity and continuing to struggle for life.
Vicente Morín Aguado: email@example.com
Original Source / Fuente Original:
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