In mid-October, WINGS’ cervical cancer screening mobile unit ventured to the small village of Cuncún. Nestled among seemingly endless fields of sugar cane, the village’s residents make their livings by planting and harvesting on the plantation.
Rosa, a 34-year-old mother of four, was one of the approximately 20 women who attended the clinic to get a cervical cancer screening. She shared her reflections on why WINGS’ arrival to her community was so important to her.
“Here, it is difficult to go get to the health center. There are no buses that pass through our village, and if you aren’t lucky enough to hitchhike a ride on a truck leaving town, there is about an hour long walk to get to the bus stop,” explained Rosa.
“Besides the clinic coming right to our community, it was great that the screenings were done by two female nurses. In the health center, it is always a male doctor who does the test.” Rosa said that having a male perform the exam has delayed her from getting screened in the past, and she believes that is also the case among some of her friends and family members.
Rosa went on to explain that she is most excited about WINGS coming to her community because it is an important step in educating people about cervical cancer. “On my way here, I asked some of my neighbors if they were going to come to get screened. They asked me why I was going since they said only women who aren’t faithful to their husbands need to take these sorts of tests. It was very embarrassing, but I tried to explain that it wasn’t true. With the information that WINGS gave us today about the risk factors and causes of cervical cancer, I think the word will spread, and the next time WINGS comes to Cuncún, more women will be lined up here like I was.”
Teresa, 27, is from the small town of San Pedro Las Huertas. Recently, WINGS held a cervical cancer detection and prevention session in the community´s health center. This includes a talk about the causes, risks and methods of prevention of cervical cancer, as well as detection at a subsidized price using the VIA/Cryo method which provides in the moment results.
For Teresa, WINGS’ educational talk was “eye opening.” Before, she says that she had not heard exactly cervical cancer was caused. She now understands the relationship between the human papilloma virus (HPV) and the disease. She also learned that one of the risk factors is heredity, which really caught her attention.
Teresa´s sister María, 33, was diagnosed with cervical cancer two years ago. Teresa saw how she suffered, and not only from physical pain. María also faced the difficulty of consulting doctors who were not familiar with the disease. She visited various doctors who continued to tell her that she had a vaginal infection and only prescribed her antibiotic pills and creams. Finally, she found a doctor who realized the true cause of her problem and got the appropriate medical treatment. Her sister is now healthy, but her family is struggling with the debt brought on by paying for the operation, which cost around US$1300.
Because of how her sister suffered, Teresa has been scared to get tested. Her mother has been encouraging her to take this step for her own well being, but Teresa admits, if WINGS had not come to her community the day of the clinic, she probably would have continued to agonize over whether or not to get tested. Luckily, she was tested the day of the WINGS clinic and had no abnormalities.
Teresa had a message for the donors who make WINGS’ work possible. She says, “May God bless them and their families for the contributions they make. In my community, we are experiencing economic problems which would make these services too expensive without their help
Silvia, 27, originally found out about WINGS from a neighbor. She returned to a WINGS mobile family planning clinic to renew her hormonal birth control implant, Jadelle. This small device, which is about the size of a matchstick, is placed under the skin of the upper arm and has a life span of about 4 years.
Silvia previously used hormonal injections to prevent pregnancy, but she is happy that, because of the implant, she doesn´t have to make the trip to the nearest health center every month. She saves money on bus fare and there is no risk that she will forget to go.
Silvia and her husband have two boys and they are quite satisfied with that number of children. It is a simple matter of mathematics. “With fewer children, you are able to give each one more. More clothes, more food, more time.” Her husband paints houses and since the budget is already tight, she knows that his salary won´t be sufficient to support more than four people.
Family planning empowers Silvia. She explains, “This is an opportunity that allows us to expand our possibilities. As women, this is an opportunity we have to take care of ourselves.”