PRESS RELEASE BY DR. JESSICA BARDALES-ESSIEN
My pen was resting as my exhausted body was trying to recover from my last Chemotherapy session but based on my emotions and the number of calls I have received I recognize that there is the need for me tocontinue writing and sharing my journey.
As doctors, we read and read voluminous books to understand a disease, to understand our patients but I proved to myself one more time that each patient is “A UNIQUE BOOK”. We can read that drug “X” doesn’t give side effects but it’s not always like that. Everybody is different. We need to listen carefully to our patient’s complaints. Let us give them time to tell us their feelings, explain to them in details what they will be going through after surgeries or treatments. Not just the physical changes, but also the psychological aspect. As patients, we feel so vulnerable; what is unknown makes us scared, difficult medical names make us worry, especially if it’s happening to our children or if we are personally dealing with CANCER. We force ourselves to be extra strong not to add more burden to our family (if we are blessed to have a caring one). But how do we really feel inside?
A lot of us make a decision not to talk about our problems. I DEFINITELY understand and respect it. It’s not easy to accept a fact that we are never prepared enough for: “Is this disease really happening to me?” “Why me?” It doesn’t matter what the problem is. If it is HIV, it’s a huge discrimination. Your friends may not come close to you, hold your hand or ever kiss you again. If its cervical cancer, they will assume you had several sexual partners, if you have a child with Down syndrome, a lot of stories will go around. We feel pressured by our society. Some of us hide ourselves and our children from the public. Why do we condemn? Did anybody ask for it? Sometimes a certain disease can be related to a particular life style, but most of the times IT’S NOT SELF INFLICTED.
Many cancer patients do not want others to feel sorry for them and to single them out for special treatment. We already get frustrated realizing (at least after operations or under Chemo or Radiotherapy) that we have limitations, real ones but we still try to do the best we can. After breast surgeries, some of us feel ashamed to undress and look at ourselves in the mirror because we may think: “I AM NOT A COMPLETE WOMAN ANYMORE”. Some of us are ashamed to face the public especially if we do not have hair, because for some of us our hair is our main beauty. But, who said so? Is it because it doesn’t look good for the society? Or, is it because they will look at us pitifully? God bless those bald head warriors around the world, they have the strength that can only come from the Great Physician. Some persons will wonder: “How come she looks so good and I was told that she has cancer?” It’s true, we can look extremely well, even with extra pounds but, what is going on inside? I heard this comment the other day, “How come we are raising money for somebody who looks so good?” Do you think dear friends that a patient with advanced cancer, a REAL FIGHTER, willlook like a skeleton? Even if the cancer is going to other organs, you do not look that bad until your body gets tired of the fighting and decides to give up.
How do husbands react? Men, I believe that you need to be extra strong TO LOVE THE PERSON, THE ESSENCE IN THE PERSON, not a piece of flesh that was causing harm. Going through the stormy path of cancer is not easy at all. From the moment you are diagnosed, during the entire process and even after completing the treatments, there are long lasting side effects, invisible scars that may never go away. Cancer fighters around the world (including myself), are trying the best we can to deal with millions of new experiences, challenges, feelings. Dear God, only you know our future, we are alive another day because of your grace! What seems to be a nightmare, a never ending awful experience can be turned into a message for others.
Quite recently, I asked my children how they felt when their friends at school saw me without my hat, scarf or wig. Their answer was: “Do not worry, our friends and their parents saw you in a newspaper. One asked if you will die and we told them a big NO! God is taking care of you because we pray with our hearts. We told him you just need to remind everybody to do their check- ups so that tiny lumps can be found before they grow into big ones. It’s ok with us AS LONG AS YOU NEVER DIE”.
I asked the sturdy oak of my life (My dearest husband) If he minds me sharing my feelings publicly. With his usual way of looking at me, with those caring, loving eyes (since we started dating back in medical school), he said, he always respected my decisions and nothing changed about that. That’s one of the reasons that I fell in love with him.
I do not mind opening my heart HOPING FOR SOMEBODY TO LISTEN AND DO “A LOVING TOUCH” to their body and allow a doctor to do “A GENTLE EXAM” to whatever part of their body needs to be examined. I pray for God to spare my life and you will hear more about: “Loving touch, gentle exam”. There is a lot to do!
Today, 28th of March 11:55p.m, while all the other members of my household are sleeping, I cannot, because I am celebrating too many things. Thanks to GOD, THE ONLY GREAT PHYSICIAN, I AM ALIVE. I celebrated another birthday nine days ago. I will never look the same, I do not have my left breast but I am happy it’s gone because it was causing me harm. My children just finished another semester at school. I was able to help a bit in preparing them for their Easter exams. They know that I get tired easily, so they help each other more. Things are not the same, but I AM WITH THEM!
My dear mother who was here helping me went back to Peru urgently. Because of my extremely sensitive hands, my husband did almost all the chores at home with the help of the children. They learned to do the entire laundry, good exercise for them. Honestly, it made me sad to understand and accept my limitations (temporarily I hope). The once “superfast mother” able to do laundry, cook, clean and study with the children in one morning, now needs to accept what others can do for her. Their love made me realize that I AM THE RICHEST MOTHER, WIFE AND FRIEND IN THE WORLD.
Four hours ago, my mother came back and this time with “my hero”, my old father, the person who always inspired me. On his previous visit I complained of tiredness after a long day at work and he simply said: “You are the one who choose that profession, I warned you. You have a car, I had a horse, Nevis is a flat territory, I needed to use a horse or walk days in the mountains to see my patients, I needed to cross rivers to work so you would not be scared to cross oceans one day, don’t complain.” I answered, “Yes, Dad”. I adore my father.
He gave his eighty years of life to his INDIAN people, bringing health to the poorest, the Virgin Tribes, the forgotten. Sometimes we did not see him for weeks, he may not have spoken very much to us, but his examples did.
Mommy in spite of her shyness was the bread provider for those days, working three jobs, teaching and sewing. We never had luxuries, but honest life, LIFE EXAMPLE that is better than gold.
This morning, I had my 6th Chemotherapy, now done in our Nevis. I am happy to see more patients from the ENTIRE FEDERATION benefitting from it. God bless Dr. Hobdy and her entire team. Special thanks to Nurse Clarke, she is a Christian and her songs lift up my spirit each time I get my Chemotherapy. I got phone calls and messages from a lot of people, special ones from my “classmates”, also from Ruby Chapman, Sharon Mills and other cancer patients. Chemotherapy side effects are not easy, for some it’s better than for others, the effect is accumulative.
At this point I feel extremely weak doing simple chores. The last set of treatment was an awful experience. Two days after the administration I woke up being a person I couldn’t recognize. It affected my hands and feet to a point that I couldn’t walk at all, it gave me excruciating pain in my muscles and bones, difficult to control with pain killers. It felt like being in long labor. It lasted for three long weeks. I am only human. I got really scared to be left like that. I cried when I couldn’t comb my daughter’s hair to send her to school. I couldn’t hold anything, I couldn’t go downstairs for days, cook, clean or wash dishes, my hands were extra sensitive to touching anything, sensitive to noise or smells (worse than pregnancy). My huge faith in God wavered, my desires to continue taking care of my family and friends (A special friend, the right hand of my life was hospitalized after breast surgery, I just needed to see her), so I forced my body to feel better. God gave me back my sensations. The amazing Indian community in Nevis surprised me with their kindness to my family, the medical students, my church family and friends around the globe.
I AM ALIVE, just twelve hours after another Chemotherapy session, praying with all my heart to have less or no side effects this time. My daughter keeps saying that she is a proud Nevisian, a blessed one to have us as a family. Dr. Patrick Martin was so right when he said that I am the blessed one to have them (My 2 little people, husband) and ALL OF YOU. The words which come to me every second of my life are: “THANK YOU, THANK YOU LORD, for another day, for all your blessings, for the HUGE love I feel”.
On the 8th of February 2013, The “Nevis Maternal Health Fund” with the help of other NGO’s and the Ministry of Health organized an unforgettably, beautiful event for the opening ceremony of the Chemotherapy center for cancer patients. Nurse Roxanne Brookes, even if you never want to be mentioned, I just need to say a fact: “Nevis is blessed to have you. Your love and care for your country is beyond description”. To “Meeting dynamics” the tent you erected, that melted my heart, it’s beautiful colors reminded me not only of the different types of cancer but the colors of the rainbow signifying HOPE.
I wish to extend to each member of the Nevis Maternal Health Fund past and present, my deep love, respect and gratitude. For ten years, silently we have been giving our hearts to our community. Thanks to the Ministry of Health in the person of The Honorable Mark Brantley for his warm welcome to our organization, for his encouraging words to myself and family. Thanks to Nicole Slack-Liburd for her help from overseas. Thanks to the other NGO’s, Churches and private persons for their unconditional support. Big special thanks to “Pink Lily” God bless each member. Thanks dear Tracy Parris for your always positive energy, you are a lovely caring mother, wife, daughter and sister. When we are doing something positive, we are just brothers and sisters, working “together”. That is the blessing of Love.
Gillian Smith from “Bananas” is a loving soul. She is helping the projects of the “Nevis Maternal Health Fund” and “J and J medical services” for a long time. “Bananas” is the place where the artist: Annabel Church is exposing beautiful pictures of Nevis. The art exposition will end the 20th of April.
Nevis Adventure Tours and Craftsman Construction (Popular Reggie) is organizing “Nevis round the island relay” for Monday 6th May. Both decided to donate some of the funds to our many projects. God Bless our wonderful community. Nevisians by birth and Nevisians at heart for standing up Together. Our tomorrow is brighter when it is filled with love.
Dear Brothers and sisters, because of your love, because of your $5, $10 and $500 dollar contributions and your prayers, we were able to pay Ruby’s standings bills in Cuba and two Chemotherapy sessions in Nevis. We raised and paid $15,019.00 EC dollars. In spite of her advanced cancer, she is recovering well HERE, because she is at home WITH US! Everybody who knows her knows that SHE HAS HOPE! She needs two more sessions and later, will have to travel to Cuba for the Surgeon/ Oncologist to see her progress. Isn’t it amazing what we are able to do? Our love and our care give hope when everything seems so dark. There is always a rainbow at the end of the storm.
If you can give a helping hand to Ruby, Sharon Mills, Wilma Herbert and other cancer patients please do so. Any little help in difficult times is enormous. You can do it directly to them or through “The Nevis Maternal Health Fund” account below. Help our projects to continue improving women health in different aspects, raising awareness, detecting, treating cancer or other diseases in early stages, helping to improve our health facilities. It’s a lot to be done!
Today is the 17th of April. I wrote this article many days ago, but I am extremely happy today. I woke up and God gave me the blessing of life and a view of a beautiful rainbow. Did anyone see it? Today as every single day of my life I am thankful and blessed for being able to “do” something, even if it’s only to whistle. This afternoon I hope to be strong to take part in a rally against “Child Abuse and Gender Based Violence”.
Saturday the 20th Pink Lily is celebrating its 5th year of service to Nevis. The rehearsals are so uplifting. Whether its Cancer patients, or no cancer patients, just children CELEBRATING LIFE. Thank you Dear lord!
Thank you, Thanks to you all.
A gentle reminder to all anonymous givers, “those who give abundantly will also receive abundantly”.
Pray for all of us, we need it. Please, make a monetary contribution to
THE NEVIS MATERNAL HEALTH FUND at the BANK of Nevis Account Number: 219903.
Checks can be made payable to:
The Nevis Maternal Health Fund and mailed to P.O Box 786 Charlestown, Nevis or hand delivered to
Tracy Frazer at Nevis Tourism Authority contact number 663:4846
email: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit “Nevis Maternal Health Fund” on Facebook.
Tracy Parris of Pink Lily at A-1 office technology, contact number: 664:3306
God bless you
Dr. Jessica Bardales-Essien