Help stop the loss

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness month and we have partnered with GCSS (Groupe de Support contre le Cancer), a non-profit organization based in Haiti that supports the fight against Cancer. Proceeds of the month will be donated to the organization ad a way to support and financially help people who need treatment. I had the pleasure of speaking to Pascale Liautaud Drouin, VP of GSCC on Wednesday October 7th, for Babe Essentials Wellness Wednesdays. If you missed it, you can view it here. Below is a Q & A with Pascale.

Tell us the story behind GSCC and how was it created?

The GSCC was founded in 1999 by a group of ladies and one Man , who had either survived Breast Cancer or been caregivers to a loved one battling Breast Cancer. These women had had the chance The Group started with the goal of providing moral support to Breast Cancer patients and working on bringing awareness about Breast Cancer and the importance of Early Detection. We had members who pledged a yearly amount, which helped us pay for flyers and educational material . We would organize talks in community centers in the Port au Prince area and partnered with local labs and international organizations to help fund mammograms for women. We quickly realized that we would need to enlarge our scope because once we encouraged women to do regular self breast exams and visit their gynecologist, many became faced with a financial dilemma. Those who found out that they needed treatment often did not have the means to do so. We originally made a call to our members and asked for a donation to help, but as the numbers of patients increased this became more difficult. So within 1 years we began organizing fundraisers to be able to help finance 25% of treatment (doctors visits, mastectomies, chemo and medication). We then started to receive calls from other types of cancer patients, we had made a commitment to focus on Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer for our next 2 years, then because of the increase in calls we began helping patients with any cancer. Our awareness programs continue to focus mainly on Feminine Cancers but we have included Prostate cancer. 

How did you get involved? And what is your current position and responsibility?

When my Mother came back from her Breast Cancer treatment in the States , she was she kept asking herself how many women in Haiti must die of Breast Cancer because they simply do noy know they have it or the detect it too late. She went looking for the old League Contre le Cancer that functioned until the mid 1980's and found nothing. So she rounded a few women, myself included and Dr. Harry Borde and we started meeting to see how we could help women who did not have the means realize that having Cancer was not a death sentence. That early detection was the key.

What has been the most challenging part about working for an organization such as GSCC and what has been the solution to that challenge?

I would say there are two major challenges, The first has been dealing with our cultural beliefs. Finding the right way to explain the need for detection and treatment to a polpulation that often links sickness to mystic. I can say that we have definitely seen a change, and many cancer patients come to us earlier for help and follow through with the treatments til the end. The second challenge is the fact that we are a volunteer based organization and it is often difficult to find people to commit to long term or consitant involvement. We have great partners who are always ready to help us when we have our activities, however also we need people who can help us with the adminsitrative aspect which any organiztion needs.

Over the years how did you and your team create an impact in Haiti? How would you say you spread awareness and education to women who live in very difficult conditions?

I believe that the GSCC has opened up the dialogue about Cancer in Haiti. Often in the past people did not talk about "Le Grand Mal", but now not only do the have conversations about Cancer they often volunteer to help others going through the same experience.

We have awareness sessions where we send groups of doctors and medical students to the provinces and partner up with churches, schools , clinics or other organizations and we talk about Cancer, the risks , the ways to help prevent it such as healthy eating, and also teach self breast examinations.We then form local volunteers on how to teach self breast examinations and spread awareness as well. That way when we leave the word continues to be spread. When we do our fund raisers in PAP they are often coupled with radio talks where we talk about the GSCC and the importance of early detection. When we have our annual WALK-A-THON, we always have a group of volunteers giving out flyers and talking to the marchands or bystanders explaing the reason for the Walk.

What have you accomplished since the organization was created? Have you reached your goal yet?

I would say that the biggest accomplishment of the GSCC is that when we first started 20 years ago 9/10 patients who came to us for assistance were already at a very advanced stage of cancer, where as today I would say that 7/10 patients are at an early stage of the disease so the GSCC truly helps them survive. Have we reached our Goals ? No, we want 10/10 of the patients who come to us to be at an early stage so that the survival rate as well increases. We would also like to see Haiti have a complete Cancer diagnostic and treatment Center so that patients do not have to travel to the DR or only take part of the treatment for lack of funds to travel.

Can you share any future plans and projects?

We had dedicated 2020 to be an awareness year where we had planned several monthly sessions on the Radios ,talking about different cancers, their risk factors , Healthy eating and etc. Digicel had offered us a Hotline for Q&A as well as referrals. Unfortunately , COVID-19 but a halt to the campaign but we are planning to start it up again before December. We have had 2 difficult years due to the polictical unrest and Covid , 2 years where our teams could not go out to do any awareness and we unable to do any of our regular fundaraisers. So we are in the process of restructuring and modernizing our ways. We had a virtual Wellnees day in June and are looking at other ideas to get our message out and to raise funds.