Actress Susan Hannays-Abraham said her event on November 5 to raise funds to offset the costs of her cancer treatment has been a long time in planning, as she initially intended to pay for it out of her savings. However, these have dwindled significantly after the cancer returned, and her friends have banded together to host the fundraiser. She said “I get some help abroad with medications and whatnot but I still have to pay airfare, traveling expenses, food, housing, etc., which is expensive, and conversion rates fluctuate.”
The disease has affected her ability to work because she’s not consistently in the country. She said, however, with the help of playwrights Teresa Awai and Rhoma Spencer, she’s been able to keep her foot in the door, and hopes to be in the upcoming production Carnival Medea.
Hannays-Abraham said while she enjoys stage work, film is easier, but more time-consuming. “I love film, it gives you a lot of leeway to do over again to capture something really spot on, and little subtle things can go across your head and it shows up on your face. With stage, it’s the immediate relationship you have with the audience and once you have them, it can be a powerful feeling.”
Hannays-Abraham is hoping that her last round of chemotherapy, which lasted eight months, will send her cancer back into remission so she can remain in Trinidad and work, as she misses the stage.
She’s grateful that she does not experience the nausea or hair loss that commonly affect persons doing chemotherapy. With the new treatment, she’s experienced a few eye problems, along with dry mouth and dry skin, palpitations and shortness of breath. The main side effect has been “chemo brain” which affects her memory. She said while there’s currently no cure for what she has, the treatment is a revolving door. “You take your chemo, do your followup, you go into remission, it comes back, you take your chemo, you go into remission, it comes back and that’s basically it. I keep telling people cancer’s not a big c, you know when people used to whisper, she has the Big C, it’s not a capital c anymore, it’s lowercase, so take your medication and eat healthily.”
She also advocates for people to go back to growing their own food and meat, as she said the pesticides being used can contribute to increased cancer rates. She’s also convinced that having to switch between two cholesterol medicines depending on their availability contributed to her cancer diagnosis, as it is one of the possible side-effects of some modern medicines, as well as the fact that she used to smoke a lot.
Hannays-Abraham said she’s been getting a lot of support from her family, especially her husband. “I don’t know what I could possibly say about him. You know he’s worried, but he doesn’t let you see him worry, and I’ve had to sit down with him and say it’s not that bad and just walk him through what it is. Every once in a while, he’ll hear something about the chemotherapy being poisonous or the lack of medicines in T&T and he’ll start to worry again, and I have to reassure him again.”
“My friends have been very supportive and there’s nothing healthier than a good laugh, a sense of humour. They’ve gone to a lot of trouble to put on the fundraiser, and when you realize people are doing these things for you and you find out what they think of you, it’s very heartwarming, because usually you find out this when you’re dead.”
She said she has kept a low profile because she doesn’t want any negativity around her, and Trinbagonians are particularly guilty of this. She related a story where someone saw a woman who’d had a mastectomy for breast cancer and their first words were “you know how long I haven’t seen you, you still living?” which she described as particularly insensitive. “I’m better off than a lot of people out there with cancer, and to those people, I’d like to say, keep positive and don’t let people stress you for no reason. I want people to say something nice.”
Hannays-Abraham said she’s looking forward to the fundraiser and said even if people can’t come, they can buy a ticket and give it to someone who would be interested in a back-in-times party, who would come and enjoy themselves. “Buy a ticket, come and lime, it’s going to be a wonderful event and when you see me, give me a hug. Be nice and support not only me, but others with cancer.”
The fundraiser will be held on November 5 from 5pm to 10 pm at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Columbus Circle, Westmoorings. The $250 ticket price will be inclusive of complimentary drinks and food, live performances, and back in times music from a popular DJ.
Tickets are curently on sale and can be purchased from Lisa Villanueva at Print on Demand, 79 Tragarete Road, Woodbrook, by calling 622-5627 and 682-0596 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.