While my family gets ready to celebrate in the house of the Lord the last hours of 2014, I take some minutes to share with you. Lying in the grass, barefooted, feeling the cold breeze, looking at a beautiful moon and an impressive cluster of stars, I humbly thank our creator for every cell that has survived in my body. I can hear my breathing, the rapid beating of my heart when I say it aloud. “Thank you, thank you my creator. I’ve accomplished my only goal for this year: to serve you while I live”. Thank you for more time.
Some hours ago, I was speaking with a very special warrior and praying for a day free of pain around the world. We decided not to mention the word that made our bodies sick, we decided to CELEBRATE and give thanks for every minute of life, we decided not to get scared but TRUST that the best and only Great Physician is next to us at all times.
When I started creating constellations of my own, the voices of my daughter and husband calling me broke the silence. My 8 year old son ran to me saying “Hey mom, I found you, you cannot hide. I cannot find a belt. Are you OK?” He reported to the other two “She is ok, she is…you know, having her happy moments”. Inside the house, there is chaos; everybody is in a hurry to get ready. They ask my opinion of what to wear, where to find this or that. I savor the sound of their voices. I give my “final touch” to all of them and we head to church with a feeling of immense gratitude. We are all together at this end of the year!
While driving we observe with delight the great developments that have happened in this island since we arrived in 2002: improved roads island wide, new houses, comfortable cars, massive use of cellphones, to name few. We are happy and proud to be part of this community. Everybody is in a festive spirit; the peculiar Caribbean way of blowing a horn to greet each other makes us smile.
My level of energy is not the same as before at all. Arimidex (tablets prescribed for 5 years to prevent the recurrence of cancer) are causing discomfort in my bones and joints; uncomfortable pain in my feet when I get up from bed, terrible hot flashes, and mood changes are now my daily struggles. The removals of my ovaries plus the tablets have drastically decreased the production of estrogen. I am experiencing surgically and medically induced MENOPAUSE in its extreme forms. I cannot pretend that all day and every day I feel 100% OK. The physical symptoms are real and are a tremendous challenge to my positive attitude. Sharing with other ladies who are going through the same menopausal changes, cancer related or not really gives me a sense of comfort. Sharing with male friends has made me understand once more that any health issue affects the entire family. Facing challenges together with love and even a sense of humor helps a lot.
The primitive urge to release unexplained emotions makes me find excuses to scold my children, to argue more passionately than ever with my husband, defending my points of view in simple things such as how to use spinach or the many changes happening in Cuba. The word “patience” is trying to escape from my body! Statistically, menopause is a time when marriages and relations with children really suffer to the extent of divorces and separations. Without noticing, we can physically and mentally abuse our families. The first step, I believe is recognizing the situation and learning to control the roller coaster of emotions. I deeply appreciate my husband’s words “Calm down Jess, this will also pass”. I tell myself “You may feel you are in the body of an 80 year old lady, but your face and spirit will always remain young. BE HAPPY!” My daughter is also having her own pre-teen battles. My son tries his very best to make us laugh with his hundreds of jokes and funny faces.These moody changes are not going to gain control over us, I trust. “The devil gets into a grumpy person easily”. These sudden changes can make us feel so miserable but is nothing in comparison with what other cancer fighters face.
When we are given treatment after treatment with long lists of invalidating side effects, we may feel sometimes like a rat in a lab. “Do the doctors know what are they prescribing? How can a pill that makes me feel so bad and mess up other organs can be useful at all? Does it make sense if our quality of life is changed? If we are a shadow of our former self, is it worth it?” These are common questions that crossed my mind as with any other cancer patient. “What if I stop the medication and just enjoy the days given?” NO! is my answer. My trust in the knowledge God has given to our researchers, our oncologists that prove the effectiveness of those tablets in spite of their side effects has made me fight the many discomforts with FAITH. I try every day to make peace between my body, mind, and soul so as not to fall in the darkness of depression listed as a side effect in all the treatments I have been taking since 2012. Things will get better. I trust. “There is NO prescription for faith and TRUST” I wrote that at the beginning of my journey. With every cell in my body, I try my very best to thank God for my today. In any case, can we be sure of our tomorrow?
The sight of families celebrating the beginning of a new year makes us smile. No sounds of missiles or bombs. We are not at war. No forced appearance at political rallies. We do not live in a dictatorship. We live in free society; freedom to choose how to use our many blessings, how to focus and channel our energy. We have the power to forgive all the atrocities done by humans throughout history, religious, racial and other types of extremism in all its vile forms. We have the power to forgive something done to us by a church member or friend. Injustices exist and may never end while we are on this earth; thousands of innocents suffer and die every single day around the world. Are we going to respond with more violence or hatred?
I know that the Devil will try in 2015 like in 2014 to divide us even more, to create chaos, confusion. I can smell his presence. Don’t you believe that persons who are not able to pay their mortgage, buy a car or win a contest, the ones who are seeing a loved one in constant pain or have lost somebody, the sick ones in terminal stages of a disease, are all prompted to think that there is no advantage to being a Christian if we still have to bear stress, suffering and pain. I believe that the Devil will use more ways to put us down, to make us sick physically and spiritually but as do many sisters and brothers around the globe and in our Federation, I testify to the OMNIPOTENT PRESENCE, THE GREATNESS OF OUR CREATOR. His love heals our body and spirit, filling our hearts with love and peace that only comes from Him. Our faith in our Creator defeats any obstacle the devil puts in our path. I believe and trust in a better tomorrow. I can move, write, drive, speak, work a bit, share, feel like most of YOU. I AM ALIVE, with still a lot of energy this beginning of a school term, trying to understand how a child can possibly JUMP from shoe size 3.5 to size 5 in just 1 month! I am being blessed tremendously.
In these first days of a new year, a bright, sunny January 2015, let’s pray not to hear of any more shootings or burglaries, domestic violence, drug use and rape. We’d rather hear of awareness, tolerance, respect, togetherness and love for one another.
I celebrate with each one of you the immense fortune of living in this beautiful island, the physical and material blessings that we have individually and as a country but most of all our religious freedom. Let’s not abandon those who need us. Small, free of cost gestures have more value than gold. All of us need a loving touch or uplifting word, all of us are unique and special in different ways. We can defeat the only Enemy we have with LOVE. Let’s keep on working together as our brother’s and sister’s keepers.
Curllis Hanley still needs five more sessions of chemotherapy. Her energy is held by the trust that our Lord is protecting the good cells in her body. Mrs. Pearlina Nisbett is back home. I admire her happy spirit in spite of hundreds of treatments she went through overseas. Shelma Brookes is fighting with determination. Mrs. Carmen Hanley is in a hospital bed keeping her loving spirit and faith intact in spite of the many challenges. Contact her at: 6645430
Ruby Chapman, overcoming all prognoses is seeing the beginning of 2015, facing with dignity and astonishing courage the complicated darkness of advanced cancer. She needs strong medication to relieve her constant pain. A month’s supply is 225 US dollars and your help is urgently needed. Text her or contact her at: 6693750.
Account number for the Nevis Maternal Health Fund at the Bank of Nevis: 219903, Contact Tracy Frazer at 6634843 and specify to whom your donation is going. Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org 6631527. I will be honored to share with you.
LOCAL SURVIVORS MADE THESE VIDEOS POSSIBLE WITH LOVE FOR ALL OF YOU. These can be viewed on Youtube
http://youtu.be/NKiTE8MsSNA“HPV AND CERVICAL CANCER”
http://youtu.be/ZYf-KDwx4M0 “FACING BREAST CANCER”
There are neither English nor Spanish words created to fully express my deepest gratitude to YOU, brothers and sisters. Let’s pray for one another to really have “A HAPPY NEW YEAR” all year long.
Dr. Jessica Bardales-Essien,
A blessed survivor