Natalie Buckle, chief operations officer, JETS Ltd

Getting a Pap smear done annually after the age of 21 is one of those things that you just do as part of being a woman. For me, it’s like any other rite of passage that we learn as women throughout the various stages of our life in taking good care of our reproductive system and health. God loves us, and though we are fearfully and wonderfully made, we do have a responsibility to do our part to take care of our bodies through maintenance and early detection of things which could go awry. I encourage all women to take care of themselves and to have the discussion with their daughters to see how to have one done as a step to extend mortality rates.

Eva Lewis, CitiBank Country Officer

I am a fundamental believer in preventative health care and early detection particularly when there are diagnostic tests available to either rule out, or detect early signs of cancer. I think having an annual Pap smear is simply the responsible thing to do. As a woman, wife and mother, early detection for both myself and my three grown daughters is not a nice thing to do, or have to do, it’s a must have… a must do.  Now my own daughters understand the importance of having an annual Pap smear; it is a routine for them and hopefully one day will be for their own girls. Our health is basic to our happiness. We should do everything possible to protect ourselves and our loved and cherished daughters.

Lorraine Fung, caterer

As women and mothers our family and community depend on us, so keeping healthy is a priority. It is important to get informed about all the risk factors that may lead to a cervical cancer diagnosis in order to make informed choices as to what to do to prevent this disease. It has been proven that getting regular Pap smears and HPV testing are two ways to prevent cervical cancer. As a result, I make sure to schedule my routine testing as well as encourage the women in my industry to do so. I have one daughter and I also share with her the benefits of engaging in healthy lifestyle choices. I support the programmes at the Jamaica Cancer Society and encourage the public to do so as well. Preventing cancer is everyone’s business as this disease has taken the lives of far too many of our women.

Dahlia Harris, playwright, artistic director, actress, broadcaster communications practitioner & marketing specialist

Whenever I speak at graduations, I like to remind the parents and guardians of how important it is to protect the things that we value. We put a grille around our house, we put an alarm on our cars, we insure our valuables. The most important thing is life. What protective measures have we put in place to secure it? It is almost impossible to believe that cervical cancer is the leading gynaecological cancer in Jamaica and the second cause of cancer-related deaths among Jamaican women. Impossible to believe because it is preventable! A Pap smear, that’s it! A couple of minutes can save years of your life. When the Jamaica Cancer Society shared some statistics with me on Smile Jamaica in 2018 I was shocked to learn that approximately 200 women in Jamaica die each year from cervical cancer. In my mind I could see mothers, sisters, friends, wives…no longer with us, no longer able to enjoy the gift of life. Just picture it, 200 women…then imagine the thousands more who are affected annually by the loss of a loved one from cervical cancer. Difficult to even think about right? That’s why this month’s theme, Her Story. Keeping Her in the Picture, is so relevant.

I was truly moved to make a difference and was more than happy to team up with the JCS in raising awareness. I thought about the reasons women don’t get Pap smears done. A lot of it has to do with misinformation, stories about discomfort and pain. I figured if we changed the narrative and made the idea of a Pap smear something fun, something that a community of women could support each other through and not make it so daunting, more women would get it done. #PapSmearLyme was a huge success. Yes, the entertainment was good, but most importantly we sat together and shared jokes and stories, cleared up any doubts…and were able to save lives.

#PapSmearLyme also made me more aware that some women don’t access the Pap smears because of cost. We offered 50 free tests and approximately 130 women turned up. Now they know that the JCS offers this service at a very low cost and the women get their results back in a reasonable time. JCS also offers emotional counselling at no charge for families faced with this disease.

I believe we can reduce the number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer by 25 per cent each year for the next three years. This is the time to do it. Get it done. I am excited to meet more amazing women at this year’s #PapSmearLyme. The picture isn’t complete without you in it. Time to secure your life!

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