It is reputed to be the heaviest, hardest, strongest wood in the world. The Lignum Vitae can resist the elements and is almost completely immune to insect attacks (The Wood Database, 2014). Derived from the Latin, Lignum Vitae’s meaning, tree of life, is quite apt – considering the wood is also used for medicinal purposes. It is no surprise then that this tree is the national tree of The Bahamas. This also sheds light on why IDB’s Country Office Bahamas (CBH) chose to plant the Lignum Vitae to celebrate the IDB Pink Campaign which is held annually to raise awareness about breast cancer.
Gathered together wearing beautiful shades of pink, there was both a feeling of solemnity and hope amongst the CBH team as we stood in the back yard of the office before planting the Lignum Vitae. We took time to remember loved ones who lost the fight against cancer as well as the ones who are still in the fight. Sadly, there is a high prevalence of BRCA1 mutations among Bahamian breast cancer patients which indicates that the risks are higher for contracting cancer. In fact, with BRCA1 mutations found in 23% of unselected cases of breast cancer patients, the Bahamas has the highest reported mutation prevalence of countries studied to date (Donenberg et al, 2010) and ranks number five (5) amongst the top 20 countries for breast cancer diagnoses (World Cancer Research Fund International, 2014).
Photo by Natalie Bethel
Eventually the team was joined by members of the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development whom were made aware of the event and were also wearing pink in commemoration. An emotional applause was given when a lady announced that she is a 20-year breast cancer survivor. All in all it was a beautiful day as we released pink balloons into the atmosphere. This was symbolic of freedom. Freedom in the sense that we will not allow cancer to stop us from living, the fight will continue. The balloon release was also symbolic of hope. As we watched the balloons drifting gleefully away in the clear, blue, Bahamian skies, we felt hopeful that one day the cancer scourge, too, will go away.
The event was culminated in the planting of the tree of life. Each person present took a turn to shovel soil on top of the Lignum Vitae. The planted tree, with its extraordinary blend of durability and strength, stood staunchly.
Where there is life, there is hope.