Sade Weekes seeks partnerships to help bring cancer relief

Sade Weekes. -
Sade Weekes. -


Breast cancer survivor Sade Weekes has been busy, even during her treatment.

She has completed her bachelor's degree in performing arts with specialisation in music, and has registered her music school, Sade Songbird.

But most recently, together with a small group of like-minded people, she incorporated a non-profit organisation (NPO), the All Cancers Group TT (ACGTT), through which she hopes to become partner with a range of medical professionals.

Once these professionals commit to offering support, ACGTT will establish a database to match patients with partners and services leading to a greater number of positive outcomes for a greater number of patients.

Weekes told Newsday this was a vision that was birthed during the final stages of her chemo treatments.

“Once I had recovered fully physically, and gotten back on my feet, I was able to jump right in.”

On the back end, she will commit to undertaking aggressive fundraisers like the barbecue planned for June 29, and seek out potential investors.

She is aware that this will neither be easy nor straightforward, but she remains inspired and undaunted. Her vision is that once the group gains traction, the pool of stakeholders will expand.

Among the entities she has targeted is the Ministry of Health, as well as private labs and clinics. The expected input is not limited to financial contributions, but also time, subsidised scans and biopsies, counselling and therapy, as well as assistance in creating more and better support groups.

Weekes was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020. Now in the final phase of her treatment, she must monitor herself carefully and consistently because she is "hormone-receptor positive" – having survived breast cancer, her tissue has certain hormone receptors which affect her hormone levels and places her at increased risk for ovarian cancer.

She visits the oncology clinic monthly for injections and to collect her prescribed pills. She is in year four of the ten-year treatment of this oral phase.

She said she meets other survivors during these monthly visits, and has encountered a number of people who have been recently diagnosed with various kinds of cancer. She is always mindful of how challenging her journey was, how difficult it was to figure out next steps, the financial burdens and bureaucratic labyrinth; and she feels compelled to do all that she can to help others navigate the whirlwind that is cancer treatment in Trinidad and Tobago.

“So many are waiting to get tested and staging, caught up in the backlog at the hospitals, many from as far back as covid19.”

Sade Weekes, together with a small group of people, incorporated a non-profit organisation (NPO), the All Cancers Group TT (ACGTT) in her mission to help others navigate the whirlwind that is cancer treatment in TT. -

Weekes said a number of patients have had to seek out private facilities to get their biopsies done, and hearing these stories has motivated her to go beyond encouraging others by just sharing her story, and propelled her to conceptualise a model which allows her to network, use her experience and find ways to provide support to patients facing various forms of cancer.

“Delays in testing and staging could potentially result in fatal outcomes. This is supported by research which confirms the importance of early detection in the fight to improve the survival rates of cancer patients.”

Weekes’ focus is on increasing awareness about the various types of cancer, while ensuring that patients and their families are better informed about processes in order to minimise inconvenience and maximise precious time – time which could prove to be the difference between life and death.

She said while the ACGTT is but a few months old, the relationships she has forged with oncology professionals makes it possible for her to leverage these networks on behalf of those in need.

In fact, in spite of adverse reports about the public health care system, Weekes is proud to acknowledge that even now, in the embryonic stages of this project, she has received pledges of support and has already received advice on how she should proceed with some of the ventures she is contemplating.

In addition, her petition to the Ministry of Health was acknowledged in a short time, with what she describes as “encouraging” feedback.

She continues to be optimistic about how well things are progressing, albeit slowly.

“I want to cast my net far and wide, and not just limit the drive to the few medical professionals I have dealt with at the St James oncology unit.”

Some of the initiatives under active consideration include health fairs, school tours and hybrid brunch/supper events with live musical performances.

“The teaming of meals, ambience and good music will hopefully attract the attention of corporate donors and citizens who are better positioned to support financially.”

Weekes said the involvement of music is a somewhat organic progression, given the value that has been derived from music therapy for cancer patients. And although it is not very widespread in Trinidad and Tobago, it can benefit patients.

“So much of the cancer battle is in the mind and is emotional, so any option that helps to manage stress would be welcome.”

She said the introduction of music therapy for cancer treatment is well established in many treatment facilities, and in foreign hospitals it is a standard part of the treatment.

“It serves to uplift their spirits and promotes healing. This is definitely something that we will be looking at adopting and implementing as well.”

The formalisation of support groups also has the potential to benefit both patients and their families.

“Ideally, this is a service that should be available and accessible, and not left to the discretion of random survivors who volunteer when it’s convenient to them, as exists now.”

These arrangements add value, but with the increasing numbers, “There is now need to have something done in an official capacity.”

But the absence of official statistics on the numbers of people diagnosed, the types of cancer, detection and survival rates is problematic, as none of this information is readily available.

This is a responsibility Weekes said ACGTT is prepared to assume, but the notion of ACGTT becoming stagnant is one area of concern for her.

“I want to be as mobile as possible, and I want to keep it going. I don’t want us to be one of those NPOs where we start out providing services and after two or three years there’s nothing.

“The aim is to keep going, to get bigger and better, so that we can really change the outlook in the cancer community.

“This is my heart. I’m literally, just seeing on a daily basis, young people who are being diagnosed with cancer, and it is disheartening. Some of them are my friends... Having survived, and still surviving, I just feel that there is a need to do more.”

Breast cancer survivor Sade Weekes is hoping to partner with a range of medical professionals and establish a database to match cancer patients with partners and services leading to a greater number of positive outcomes for a greater number of patients. -

She said the public needs to be educated on what they can do preventatively; to understand how lifestyle choices can affect quality of life; where they can go for screening; when screening is required; how cancer affects your body; and the value of good nutrition and exercise.

“All of these are things I had to learn the hard way. I have made those changes now, but if people have the information before and are encouraged to make these changes, we could quite literally lower the incidence of cancer in this country. And for those already diagnosed or who have hereditary predisposition, ACGTT hopes to be available to provide the necessary support and guidance.”

Weekes envisages that the support will be made available to caregivers as well, because she recalls how critical it was to have her mother at her side, as well as the toll it took on them both. She said consistent support can make the difference between survival and death.

She is anxious to connect with established organisations like the Cancer Society to partner for the education campaign. Weekes recognises how much ignorance and misunderstanding there is about cancer, including the assumption that as a survivor, her life has returned to "normal" – that she lives as she did before her diagnosis.

“Most survivors endure multiple health challenges for the rest of their lives. Many are on rigid regimens to prevent relapses. Without the discipline to remain in treatment, the result can be fatal, since sometimes the cancer returns more aggressively.”

Surgery, chemo and radiation adversely affect the body.

“In my case, I was diagnosed with diabetes afterwards, so I am still dealing with health challenges,” and self-testing has become a valuable tool in the arsenal to fight against cancer.

Additionally, her present cocktail of meds has pushed her into menopause at 32, complete with insomnia and night sweats. Nevertheless, she remains focused on making a difference.

To support the fundraising barbecue on June 29 or for information on ACGTT, e-mail or follow The All Cancers Group TT on Facebook, on IG, or Wefightallcancers on Linktree.


"Sade Weekes seeks partnerships to help bring cancer relief"

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