South Florida Hospital News
Saturday December 16, 2017
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October 2017 - Volume 14 - Issue 4

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Nurse, Now “Cancer Lady,” Saves Lives in Haitian Community with Support from Susan G. Komen South Florida

Marie Seide knows what it’s like to lose someone to breast cancer. And she knows what it’s like to survive breast cancer.

She and her mother, Marie Louise Cenatus, were told the devastating news that they had the disease just months apart. Sadly, her mother had waited too long to seek care. By the time it was discovered, Cenatus had stage 4 bone marrow cancer and died less than a year after her diagnosis at age 67. Seide, a nurse by training, has been cancer free since 2007.
 
The difference between the women’s understanding about breast cancer and how to seek care meant the difference between life and death. Saving lives by closing the knowledge gap—especially in her own Haitian community—has been Seide’s life mission since her mother passed away in 2006.
 
To help those who are uninsured, underserved and under-privileged, Seide founded the Marie Louise Cancer Foundation in Boynton Beach in her mother’s memory. But it hasn’t been easy to change the norms of a cultural belief system that relies more heavily on ministers and neighbors than medical professionals.
 
“Haitian women typically only go to a doctor when they are very sick,” said Seide. “They believe in home treatments, Voodoo and recommendations from their pastors.”
 
For funding to support breast cancer education, Seide turned to Susan G. Komen South Florida. “We needed to start with culture,” said Seide. “Komen helped us reach out to churches, assist women in filling out the proper paperwork for mammograms and ensure they had the proper follow-up.” Seide even picked up women to take to their appointments, sometimes arguing with family members and pastors who believed that a miracle was possible.
 
Seide’s perseverance paid off. Today she is known as “the cancer lady” in the Haitian community and beyond as word of her ability to save lives has spread.
 
She gives the example of a man who listened to her on a radio show. He kept Marie’s contact information “just in case.” Months later, his wife joined him from Haiti and soon discovered a mass in her breast. Her husband knew just who to call. With funding from Komen, his wife was able to get a mammogram, screening and treatment and now is a survivor.
 
“Without Komen’s support, there is no way, no way, women would be alive today,” said Seide.
Komen South Florida’s new executive director, Kate Watt, is deeply encouraged by the impact Seide has made. “Grassroots organizations that are trusted by the people of their communities are critical partnerships to help Komen reach its goal to cut the breast cancer mortality rate in half by 2026.”
 
No matter the prognosis, Seide is a strong believer in the mind, body, spirit connection in the fight against cancer. “You have to think, ‘I’m going to stay alive for me, my family, my community.’”
 
Seide stops to think for a moment and adds, “You will be down, but you must get up. We can bend, but we can’t let cancer break us.”

For more information about the Marie Louise Cancer Foundation, visit www.mlcancerfoundation.org, call (561) 752-2122 or email info@mlcancerfoundation.org.

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