Can­cer can de­stroy an en­tire fam­ily

Jamaica Gleaner - - FEATURE - Na­dine Wil­son-Har­ris Staff Reporter

He came home from church and he said, ‘Mommy, the pain com­ing back. I can’t man­age the pain any­more’, and the Sun­day morn­ing, I took him to UHWI (Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal of the West In­dies) and they did an ul­tra­sound and they did a CT scan and it showed that there was a mass

AS IF los­ing her hus­band to liver can­cer wasn’t heart­break­ing enough, Chris­tine Camp­bell’s emo­tions and fi­nances took an­other bat­ter­ing when her 15-year old-son was di­ag­nosed and died from colon can­cer a few months af­ter­wards.

The mother, who wept as she spoke to The Sun­day Gleaner, said her hus­band of 23 years died in Jan­uary 2015, just a few months af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed. In June of that year, her worse fears be­came a re­al­ity when her youngest child and only son was di­ag­nosed with can­cer. Both mother and son fought valiantly, spend­ing more than a $1 mil­lion in the process, but he died in Novem­ber.

“You don’t know when it is com­ing,” she said of the dis­ease, which has rav­ished and con­tin­ues to rav­ish, so many lives.

The fact that her son’s body was at­tacked in his teen years speaks to the re­al­ity that can­cer is no re­specter of age, and it is strik­ing its vic­tims from as early as a few months out of the womb.

Pae­di­atric on­col­o­gist Dr Michelle Reece-Mills said her youngest pa­tient is three months old, and ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics ob­tained from the Min­istry of Health, 56 chil­dren died from can­cer in 2014 alone.

Camp­bell said her son’s can­cer was ag­gres­sive, and by the time it was de­tected, it was al­ready at stage three. She re­called that he started hav­ing pain in his side, but she was told that it was an in­fec­tion when she took him to a pri­vate doc­tor.

“He came home from church and he said, ‘Mommy, the pain com­ing back. I can’t man­age the pain any­more’, and the Sun­day morn­ing, I took him to UHWI (Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal of the West In­dies) and they did an ul­tra­sound and they did a CT scan and it showed that there was a mass,” she said.

“By the Monday, the pain was even greater, and they had to rush him to the the­atre and took out the mass, and when they took it out, they said it was stage three colon can­cer.”

But two months af­ter be­ing re­leased, the can­cer came back, and this time, she was told it was at stage four. The doc­tors told her three months be­fore he died that they could do noth­ing more for him, and for that pe­riod she lived at the hos­pi­tal, main­tain­ing a vigil at her son’s bed­side.

“I lived there for three months. I did not come home and sleep at all. I stayed at the hos­pi­tal,” said Camp­bell, an early child­hood ed­u­ca­tor who has three other chil­dren.

Af­ter a while, she was un­able to work, but for­tu­nately for her, some of the doc­tors and the nurses at the hos­pi­tal pooled their re­sources and helped her to pur­chase med­i­ca­tion at times. Her pas­tor and her church brethren also as­sisted, and a psy­chol­o­gist was on hand at the hos­pi­tal, which helped her to cope with her grief.

She also formed a bond with other moth­ers of can­cer pa­tients and they en­cour­aged each other as she tried to en­cour­age her ail­ing son and his sis­ters, who were still mourn­ing the pass­ing of their fa­ther while grap­pling with their brother’s sick­ness.

For those with no fam­ily sup­port, the chal­lenges of car­ing for a child with can­cer are even more daunt­ing. Bri­ana Mesi­dor was just two years old when doc­tors de­tected that she had can­cer of the eye. Her mother, Mar­lene Charles, is from Haiti and ad­mits that she feels alone As if los­ing her hus­band to liver can­cer wasn’t heart­break­ing enough, Chris­tine Camp­bell’s emo­tions and fi­nances took an­other bat­ter­ing when her 15-year old-son was di­ag­nosed and died from colon can­cer a few months af­ter. at times as she tries to deal with her daugh­ter’s de­te­ri­o­rat­ing health.

“It is very hard for me be­cause when I come here, I don’t have no­body, I don’t have any fam­ily in Ja­maica,” she said.

Bri­ana lost the sight in her left eye as a result of the can­cer, but as if that wasn’t bad enough, the can­cer spread to her left leg, and

it was am­pu­tated five years later.

De­spite sev­eral rounds of chemo­ther­apy, the can­cer is back, this time in her lungs, and the doc­tors have ad­vised Charles that her daugh­ter, who is now nine years old, will have to have two surg­eries in the near future.

“She is a strong girl; she is strong more than me. She is very, very in­tel­li­gent and she is not sad,” said the mother of four, who lived at the hos­pi­tal for nine months with her daugh­ter at one point.

Verna Lewin had to live at the hos­pi­tal, too, when her 12-year-old daugh­ter was di­ag­nosed with leukaemia four years ago. Leukaemia is can­cer of the blood cells.

“All dur­ing the hol­i­days, I couldn’t even come home to get lit­tle New Year’s din­ner or lit­tle Christ­mas din­ner, so they would send stuff for me, and I would share with oth­ers be­cause I have other friends who were there, so when I get stuff, I would share. Call it that prac­ti­cally, we who were at the hos­pi­tal, all of us were like fam­ily,” said the mother of six.

Her daugh­ter, Ke­nar­dia, was out of school for two years as she got treat­ment for the dis­ease, which is now in re­mis­sion. Lewin said her daugh­ter did sev­eral tests be­fore she was di­ag­nosed af­ter she started ex­pe­ri­enc­ing per­sis­tent fever, joint pain, and dif­fi­culty pass­ing stool. She be­lieves early di­ag­no­sis is cru­cial to fight­ing can­cer and is happy that her daugh­ter is now back in school.

“I wouldn’t want any­body to go through this ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said.

All dur­ing the hol­i­days, I couldn’t even come home to get lit­tle New Year’s din­ner or lit­tle Christ­mas din­ner, so they would send stuff for me, and I would share with oth­ers be­cause I have other friends who were there, so when I get stuff I would share. Call it that prac­ti­cally, we who were at the hos­pi­tal, all of us were like fam­ily

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Nine-year-old Bri­ana Mesi­dor is blind in the left eye and had her left leg am­pu­tated be­cause of can­cer. She now has can­cer in her lungs.

CON­TRIB­UTED

Twelve-year-old can­cer sur­vivor Ke­nar­dia is now back at school af­ter bat­tling leukaemia for four years.

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