NOT very often when one is seriously ill do they get the support from family, but one breast cancer survivor can count her blessings as she has a tight knit family, a very large one at that, to play the role of advocate, ally, partner, and supporter to help ensure that she receives optimal treatment and family support.
This past weekend Jem Bevan and breast cancer survivor Janna Louis-Fernand and family members carried their advocacy on the high seas during the ARC Flotilla in spite of a low turnout of boats in the 14th edition of the undertaking. The colour pink was evident from the Castries Habour to the IGY Rodney Bay Marina championing the campaign to increase breast cancer awareness around the world.
This reporter spoke to Jem Bevan, a family member/ cousin to Janna Louis-Fernand, a cancer survivor. Jem shared that she worked as the General Manager of Caribbean Yacht Services, a local company in Saint Lucia that predominantly did yacht repairs or “anything you can think of from fibreglass, welding and more”.
“My husband, George Bevan, started the business,” she said. “He brought me onboard. I am a scuba instructor myself and I was running boats for the last 10 years of my life; we came together and here we are today, it is our passion.”
“The individuals onboard Jannabout, including the youngest participant who is three years old, decked in pink t-Shirts and pink caps are my family; I have a very close knit and a very huge family.”
According to Jem, “About six years ago we decided to build a boat; we built a plywood boat, painted it pink and at that time pink was a very significant color for us because my cousin, Dean’s wife, Janna Louis- Fernand was diagnosed with breast cancer and she is a survivor; today we thank the Most High.”
Jem added, “While Janna was going through her treatment (chemotherapy) in the USA, we assiduously built a pink boat to just encapsulate everything she was going through and when she came back we did our first ARC Flotilla with a homemade boat. We made the front page of the newspaper; for us it was more than we anticipated. It warmed all of our hearts.”
In terms of the ARC Flotilla she noted that they had missed a couple of years, but said when it was finally decided by the organizers that this year’s ARC Flotilla was on, she and her team decided to go at it again.
“We came together and said we must do it, because Janna celebrated five years in remission and that was significant for us and we wanted to celebrate that, celebrate her and celebrate life for each and every one of us on the boat, because every day you live, not every day you die.”
“We wrap this off in a week,” she said. “We printed t-shirts, begged people to do this and do that, and painted the boat. We all came together at the crack of dawn and we decorated our boat, and at 11.00 a.m. we went out there full throttle to celebrate the life of Janna and the life of us because tomorrow is not ours and we are truly grateful for that.”
A lot of the time people go out there to do the ARC Flotilla, yes it is to commence the start of the ARC race from Las Palmas in Grande Canaria to Saint Lucia, 2700 nautical miles, but also it can be used to celebrate other things, and as a family we use this opportunity and this platform to celebrate life.”
When asked whether she and her family members would participate in the ARC Flotilla in 2020, Jem responded: “Definitely. We’re hoping to build something new, and when we come together great minds that think alike really do awesome things. Every year we get together, it’s a time to reflect, be grateful for life and just enjoy sailing and being out on the water as a family.”