All my physical organs can go but my love and faith in you, my Lord, can never be touched!
It has been almost a year since the last time I wrote to you. My electronic diary with all of my life time memories: family pictures, love letters, children’s poems, memories of friends who are not among us anymore, articles ready to be shared, just disappeared as my old computer suddenly crashed. Material things are not eternal just as our physical body isn’t. I lost those precious memories but they will remain in my heart as long as I am alive.
I managed to come out of bed with less pain than yesterday. Walking very slowly I come to my favorite place in the house, a place where I can enjoy the beginning of a new day. It’s almost 5 a.m. my family is fast asleep. It’s been 3 days since I underwent a Hysterectomy and Oophorectomy (removal of womb and ovaries) at our Alexandra Hospital. Days before my surgery someone commented: “Something is wrong with your God, too many things are happening to you in less than 2 years. Are you still thankful and praying?”
With a very open heart I can tell you I never asked God “Why me?” I ask him “What for?”
Some friends tell me: “Do not share, the devil is living among us, some people’s bad energy is also powerful, they do not want the best for you or anybody”
I truly believe in the power of my Savior, in his love. I also believe in the goodness of people. If I share it is because I hope someone, somewhere, will relate to my simple, humble articles. I write to remind you to get familiar with your breasts. Those minutes taken to examine my breasts in October 2012 saved my life. Touch them, please! Do a monthly self-exam. Most of the time it will be YOU who will notice unusual changes before any health provider. Do your pap smear wherever you feel comfortable. You have so many options.
I write with the hope that YOU will read it and remind the females in your family, your friends, to be alert to the signs and symptoms of Cancer, with the hope that you detect it at its beginnings. I pray with all my heart for YOU not to go through endless, expensive, complex treatments for the rest of your life. For some of us, the dark tunnel has and ended and we can go back to a complete, normal life. Some lose the battle, for others every day is a huge challenge.
In June 2013, after some tests I was CANCER FREE – what a blessed moment! I survived the most difficult months of my life. The removal of my left breast because of an invasive type breast cancer, extraction of lymphatic nodes of my left arm because the cancer was starting to spread in my body, 8 chemotherapies, an uncountable number of injections to build up my immune system, ultrasounds, CT scans, numerous blood tests to the point that there was not a vein left in the only arm that could be used. Then the veins in my feet came into good use! My little body became exhausted to the extreme. I felt really tired after doing the simplest chores. NOT everybody has the same side effects, do not be scared. I am so happy to hear that some fighters have minimal ones.
Waiting to hear the results of the biopsy and the prognosis wasn’t easy. This journey is NOT EASY AT ALL. What helped me to survive? – FAITH IN A BETTER TOMORROW. From the beginning of this journey and every day, all I ask my Lord is for MORE QUALITY TIME to share with my family, with the world. Can a human, a doctor know how long are we going to live? Being cancer patients or not, we do not hold the future.
Before my diagnosis I would force my body to accomplish as much as possible in a day. If I didn’t, I would worry. Now, if I cannot do much but just whistle or move a finger I praise God. I have learned how to live ONE DAY AT A TIME.
During my treatments, with a scarf, a hat or just a bald head I went to almost all my children’s school activities: Black History Month, Schools in Concert, spelling competitions, Dental Quiz. I was there to calm their nerves before each performance; I was there during moments of strength and moments of challenge, during triumphs or defeats, helping to deal with their emotions. I hardly recognize my babies in these persons able to defend their points of view on any topic. They ask questions about Hitler and the Jewish Holocaust, racism, Ukraine and Russia. In spite of all the hatred, war, mistrust, injustice, we assure them that LOVE can heal, change and transform a family, a country.
In August 2013, while reading with the children I discovered a lump in my right breast- the only one I have. I panicked. Only 2 months after finishing the chemotherapies? Waiting for those results was worse than the first time. Praise the Lord it was just scar tissue left from a biopsy. I felt strong enough and went back to my office in September 2013. What a blessing to be in our community again! Thank you so much for your love and prayers. We enjoyed the “Loving Touch, Gentle Exam Campaign” island-wide in October and November. Our government officials, community nurses, doctors, medical students, caring ladies in our society, all made it possible. But the most important role was played by YOU. You opened your village, your heart to us.
Bleeding excessively during each period was a side effect I faced during chemotherapy. It worsened as time progressed, maybe increased by a medication prescribed to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer. A biopsy done showed premalignant changes in my womb. Some doctors advised me to wait until I recovered a bit more, some agreed with my decision. I was asked “Aren’t you scared of removing all your female organs?” Those organs DO NOT define me as a mother, woman, and wife. If they are producing harm, out they go! Should I wait for more changes to happen? It was not easy to accept a new challenge; even small surgeries involve risks and side effects. Being a surgeon, I know it only too well. God is the pilot.
Apart from the chronic fatigue the chemotherapies left, I am dealing with early menopause because of the absence of my ovaries, slow healing of the wound, terrible hot flashes, so many strange feelings, BUT I AM HERE, ALIVE because of His mercy, finishing this article 3 weeks after my surgery. Each time my body goes down, my faith grows. In spite of such drastic changes in my appearance, my husband and I share an even better friendship, respect and love for each other. He makes me feel alive! I now accept some physical limitations but still live each day to the fullest. This is a NEW version of me. A better me I hope. I am committed to savor my abundant daily blessings like sharing a new school year with my children and sharing with all of you. What does the future hold for me? I do not know. I just know that I will live every day with HOPE, FAITH AND LOVE.
My life is not that important to fill out too many pages, my battle IS NOT the worst of all. I am a simple survivor, one of the many breathing the same air, looking at the same sky in our beloved Nevis. I feel an incredible respect seeing our CANCER WARRIORS walking in our streets, some proudly announcing “I AM A 20 YEAR SURVIVOR!”, some putting on their courageous faces and attitudes so as to be able to work and provide for their families in spite of their condition. Others are overseas, receiving treatment with advanced technology, winning or losing this physical battle. Some are too weak and at home, others on a hospital bed in their final days.
We lost several sisters in the past 6 months to this dreadful disease in our small community, others are fiercely fighting. Cancer can take all our organs slowly and can be excruciatingly painful. But nothing can take our souls. LET’S PRAY for one another.
Shelma Brookes is one of the many nurses who took care of me while I was at Alexandra Hospital. She may look different than years ago, but IT IS STILL HER, with her memories, resilient character and gentle personality, making patients smile in spite of her own challenges. My deep respect. She is a source of inspiration
Ruby Chapman is a real WARRIOR. She is determination personified. Her faith and incredible positive energy coupled with the love and help of our community have brought her this far in spite of the doctor’s prognosis. She fights daily with dignity and acceptance the most unimaginable dark holes of advanced Cancer. It’s difficult to understand how she manages to still have that unique uplifting spirit. It’s a great honor to call her my sister.
In difficult times, brothers and sisters, WE NEED EACH OTHER. For different reasons, we do not want others to know much about the reality of our condition. Everybody has their own lives and burdens and we do not want to disturb it, but if you manage to know and you can, please, help. We do not need to be professionals or to belong to an organization to do it. The help of any one of us, small or big is so much appreciated. Driving patients to their appointments, picking them up after treatments, shopping, helping with children, cleaning the house, a loving touch or a much needed prayer will make us feel that we are not ALONE, YOU ARE THERE.
There are uncountable expensive bills to pay. If you know of any cancer patient or any person in need and are in the blessed position to extend your helping hand, Please contact them today!
Ruby’s number is: 869-6693750. She URGENTLY needs our assistance. Her personal bank account: Bank of Nevis Acct. #: 150266
To help Shelma contact her at: 869-6605050
Account number for the NMHF at the Bank of Nevis: 219903 Contact Tracy Frazer and specify to whom is your donation going towards.
LOCAL SURVIVORS MADE THESE VIDEOS POSSIBLE WITH LOVE FOR ALL OF YOU. PLEASE, SHARE THEM WITH THE PERSONS YOU LOVE. WE MAY BE SAVING A LIFE. GOD IS BIGGER THAN ANY DISEASE. GOD IS BIGGER THAN CANCER!
http://youtu.be/NKiTE8MsSNA “HPV AND CERVICAL CANCER”
http://youtu.be/ZYf-KDwx4M0 “FACING BREAST CANCER”
See you at the much awaited walkathon “knock out cancer; know the signs the 18th of October.
Dr. Jessica Bardales-Essien