WHEN the United States economy took a battering in 2007 that triggered a global economic crisis, Yvonne Dunkley, a Jamaican native residing in that country, saw her career as a real estate agent nosedive.
In less than a year she went from living the "American dream" to being an unemployed mother with loads of responsibilities that her finances were unable to maintain.
"I had two daughters in university, two in high school and my home was foreclosing. I jumped in autopilot trying to look after children, bills, and going to school for nursing. It was toward the ending of my first year in college," recalled Dunkley.
This placed her under tremendous stress but the big axe fell when she was told by doctors on April 7, 2010, that she had Stage 3 breast cancer and had a short time left to live. "Physically I was numbed, emotionally a wreck and spiritually challenged," she said as she described her state at the time to the Jamaica Observer.
In an attempt to lengthen her life, Yvonne made the decision to go undergo six rounds of chemotherapy. This resulted in her head getting bald, her nails turning black, bruises in her mouth, and most of all, it made her more susceptible to diseases. She also had to endure 35 sessions of radiation which resulted in parts of her skin getting burnt.
After the trauma of the treatment passed, Yvonne still had to come to terms with the several abilities that she lost as a result of breast cancer.
"Breast cancer came in my life to rob me of my femininity. I lost my ovaries, my fallopian tube, my breast, my cervix, etc," she stated.
"A year after treatment, I found myself taking pills for everything. I saw myself as a walking pharmacy. With all the pills I was taking, my body was no longer mine and I was forced to accept the person I now was - disabled, suffering loss of memory, tingling feet and hands 24 hours a day, and nerve pain up until this day," she went on.
Unable to bear the mental strain in addition to the physical pain, Yvonne decided to focus on what positive could come out of her situation. During this time she penned her book, Smiling through Breast Cancer, in order to share her story. She then decided to return to Jamaica for 10 weeks to sensitise her home country about breast cancer and this led her to start the charity Feed the Fight-Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation.
Henceforth, Yvonne pledged her life to use the charity as a means of educating the populace in Jamaica and to offer support to persons diagnosed or affected by breast cancer.
"I was given five to 10 years to live, four is already gone and I promise the Lord that whatever time He gives me, I will use it to give Him praise and sensitise my sisters about breast cancer," she told the Sunday Observer.
Now a handicapped retiree with no income, Yvonne invested the little that she had into starting the foundation.
"This charity is depleting my finance .... my greatest challenge is money. I found myself sensitising corporations, government offices, clubs, churches and schools and I have to buy gas and lunch. If I could even get just some gas money it would help a lot.
"Right now the money from our few fund-raising events is done but this charity is a true blessing for me and the people in Jamaica," she stated.
The charity's work in Sam Sharpe Square, Montego Bay, St James, among other things, allows women to register to have their mammograms done at half-price at the MoBay Hope Medical Centre.
"I wanted to live and the only way I can is to get up and move by encouraging, sensitising and initiating mammogram screening,"
October is celebrated as Breast Cancer Awareness month and health authorities have often encouraged mainly women, but men too, to get screened for the disease that remains one of the leading causes of death among Jamaican women.
Yvonne is encouraging all to "feed the fight".
"If you are female then you are at risk of getting this cancer. Do you have female relatives? Then they are at risk of getting this cancer, so let us be proactive about our health 365 days per year," she said.