Breast Cancer Survivor Using Memoir to Help Build Oncology Centre in St Vincent

In 2007, not long after fulfilling her dream of living in Paris, France, Karla Baptiste was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer at the age of 34. She had just received her MBA and, like most new graduates, she was on top of the world and thinking ‘The best is yet to come!’

“I could not have been more optimistic. I never would have thought I would be battling breast cancer the following year!” she said. The cancer diagnosis was a shocker, to say the least, but she took solace in knowing that if her life were to end soon she had no regrets. She had followed her dream and lived it up in Paris like it was her last chance.

Another dream of Baptiste’s was to become an author. When she was first diagnosed with breast cancer, she began reading breast cancer memoirs which only took the reader through treatment. Baptiste was always left wondering ‘what happened next?’. That inspired her to publish her own story. She started writing her memoir, Dig in Your Heels: The Glamorous (and Not So) Glamorous Life of a Young Breast Cancer Survivor, a couple of years after being diagnosed.
She was hoping to tell her story from diagnosis to reaching the coveted five-year cancer-free anniversary. Fortunately, she was among the 72 percent of women who survive beyond five years after a stage three breast cancer diagnosis.

However, in July 2014, as Baptiste was preparing to publish her memoir, she discovered that her cancer had returned to her spine, making it stage four. More determined than ever to share her message of hope, Baptiste turned to crowdfunding to raise money to publish her memoir. Her goal was $10,000 but she raised over $13,000 in two months.

During the months of February and March, Baptiste has been using her book and her crowdfunding to help raise money to establish an oncology centre in her father’s birthplace, St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Baptiste had always intended to use her memoir to give back. Typically, ten percent of the proceeds from the sale of Dig in Your Heels goes to breast cancer research and outreach. However, on learning that cancer patients in her father’s homeland often forgo treatment and die because there isn’t a treatment centre on the island, she decided to give in a bigger way. The closest place to receive treatment for Vincentians is Trinidad, making the cost and inconvenience of travel a hindrance to receiving care. Last month, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Medical Association launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for the new oncology centre. Their goal is $250,000.

“When I heard about the goal, I wished that I had sold more books so that I could fund the entire center myself. But after I thought about it, I realized that I could give 100 percent of my net proceeds now. Maybe my commitment to be all in would inspire others to give big too,” said Baptiste. “I know what it’s like to go through a cancer battle and it’s important to receive care close to your loved ones and not have to worry about added expenses. Having cancer is burden enough.”

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