Battling cancer from generation to generation – I am Natifa Bonadie
Special Feature
October 22, 2010
Battling cancer from generation to generation – I am Natifa Bonadie

Natifa Bonadie has been surrounded by breast cancer all her life. Her mother was diagnosed when Natifa was only nine, both her grandmothers died from the disease, and now two of her aunts are battling the disease, both in critical stages.{{more}}

Surrounded by the disease, 31-year-old Bonadie said even as a child she expected it to happen to her as well.

“I was sixteen or seventeen…I thought I would get it,” she said.

However, the disease showed up just after she turned 27.

“I was diagnosed when I was 27. I found my first lump when I was 26. The first lump, it was benign.The second one is was just after my 27th birthday. I took that one out. I was awaiting the results of that one, and well, my doctor rushed the result, because there was a problem with the lab in Trinidad. So he called me up and said, ‘you want to sit down’. I said ‘give it to me straight’ and he told me well, it’s what it is. At that time, it was stage 2 and I asked him ‘OK what are my options’,” she said.

Bonadie said that upon hearing the diagnosis, she did not get emotional or even cry. “That’s the kinda person I am; the whole crying game that’s not me.”

At the time she was diagnosed, her aunt was battling cancer at a critical stage. She remembers her aunt being angry that yet another woman in the family had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I remember my aunt, she was so angry, she said it’s not even finished with this generation, yet it’s already on to the next one,” she said.

Bonadie said that she reviewed her options and decided to do a double mastectomy to narrow her chances of the cancer coming back. Her mother, who was at that time in Illinois, USA, suggested that she travel there to seek medical treatment.

Bonadie did two to three months of chemotherapy. By then, she explained, the cancer had got worse.

“It was aggressive, though. Within like probably two weeks, it had gone from stage 2 to stage 3 and threatening to be stage 4. It was raging…,” she said. The chemotherapy, she added, has had long lasting effects, which include problems with her teeth and eyes, short term memory loss and slow growth of hair.

It was her mother, Bonadie said, who convinced her to get reconstructive surgery done

on her breasts as she was still young. She, however, states that having fake breasts doesn’t bother her at all.

She explained that the reconstructive process included a series of surgeries where the size was determined and skin was grafted and tattooed to form the aureoles of the breasts. Bonadie, who has a boyfriend, says that it does not bother him at all, adding that it has not changed the relationship or her personality. “It doesn’t take boobs to make me sexy, I’m still hot! I still dress in my sexy clothes. I go out, now and again. I party. There are some things that I don’t wear that I’m just not comfortable in, but I wear pretty much what I want to, where I want to,” she said.

Bonadie, who has a ten-year-old daughter, admitted that she is scared that her child may inherit the disease. She said her daughter is well educated about breast cancer and its effects, having been surrounded by family members who’ve suffered from the disease. Her daughter was five when Bonadie was diagnosed. She added that her daughter has asked her if she will get breast cancer.

“I’m like, honey, don’t think about that right now, just think about playing and being in school and when it happens, if it happens, we’ll figure it out then,” she said.

It has been almost five years since Bonadie has been cancer free, and she hopes to make her five year mark in May next year.

Her main objective now, however, is to spread the word about breast cancer. Although she has not started any specific organization to support her cause, Bonadie said she gets the message out just by speaking about the disease.

“I think more people need to talk about it. I just think that if I can talk about it, because of me, someone can get a mammogram or someone can get an ultrasound and they know it’s okay, and they can catch it early, and I can help save that one life, I think I’ve accomplished something.”

Having been affected greatly by the disease, Bonadie said that it has changed her outlook on life, causing her not to care about the things she thinks are trivial. She added that persons often misunderstand her because of this.

“The way I look at life is: live it to the fullest, ‘cause you don’t know when someone or something is gonna be taken away from you,” she said.

According to the website, breast cancer is the deadliest disease to afflict women worldwide, affecting nearly one in four women who have cancer. The website predicts that in 2010, 1.5 people worldwide will be told that they have breast cancer.

While having a blood relative (grandmothers, mother, sisters, aunts on either side of the family) who has had breast cancer increases a person’s chances of coming down with the disease, an inherited breast cancer gene only accounts for about

10 per cent of all breast cancers.

All women are at risk for breast cancer, and that risk increases with age.

Between 2008 and 2009, 32 persons (including 2 men), with ages ranging from 38 to 77 years, were diagnosed with breast cancer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The average age was 57 years.

Women are, therefore, advised to educate themselves as much as possible about how they can lower their risk; to have regular screening tests such as an annual mammogram and a breast exam during annual check ups; and to do monthly breast self examinations.