Today is the first day of my life… from normal to not normal, to my “New Normal”…..after cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy
Today I am back at work fulltime and I feel like beating the victory drums… like my African ancestors… and as was passed down to my grandmother Anastasia “Staisie” Farray-Humphrey, who loved and delighted in her Shango celebrations.
I have vivid memories of these celebrations, even dating to when I was 3-years-old.
Today, I am overflowing with passion and gratitude for being here at work and being part of this cacophony of life with all its colours, ups and downs, trials and tribulations, joy and happiness.
I feel like a baby now being able to walk on my own.
Next month, June will make two years since I was diagnosed with capital Colon Cancer. While the passage from then to now was not an easy one, I must say that I came through with flying colours, with the kind and generous support of family and friends.
If I can say so myself, I handled it like a trooper and, yes, I do believe that one’s general attitude in life goes a long way in how one deals with adversity. I have great role models in this area who are now deceased: my uncle Francis Humphrey, my friends Alfie Roberts, Owen Rowe and Lady Caressa (Shirley Phillip). They handled illness with dignity.
For the most part I have been a positive and public person. I love life and have a passion for connections and “love to dance” with my feet high, high. So I was not surprised that I dealt with my illness publicly, so when the difficult news came I did not fall apart, instead, I had to be the strength for some family members and friends.
During the first few days in the hospital, when the doctor who had done my colonoscopy informed me that the mass in my stomach was colon cancer, I told him that I understand that Colon Cancer could be one of the “best cancers to have” ….since the prognosis of other cancers, including pancreatic and liver cancer is quite gloomy.
The next milestone and bright light was waking up from the surgery and seeing that a “bag” was not attached on my outside to supplement my bowels. I breathed a sigh of relief. In my case since my tumor was cancerous, but did not spread, and given that I suppose the stage and likelihood of it returning, I had to undergo chemotherapy to lower/minimize the risk of return.
I was scheduled for 12 treatments (FolFox) spread over six months — to start in September 2014. However, with the negative side effects (low immune system, anemia, high blood sugar, etc.), the treatments took longer than originally scheduled.
The first six treatments were hard. I would go to the hospital on Thursdays for the treatment, then I would get very sick the days following. When I was feeling better, I had to go for the next one, which I called getting my head knocked down again. And since it was cold out, after each infusion at the hospital, I could feel my fingers and toes freezing, tingling…
By the time the second six treatments were administered, the cumulative effects of the first six coupled with the additional six brought me to my knees – to the point where I felt like I needed a wheel chair. By that time I started to pass out at home; things were dropping from my hands without my knowing; I had difficulty walking up and down the stairs; my feet felt like wood when I lay in bed. I was losing my appetite and weight. I had lots of mouth sores, sores under my armpits and in places where “even the sun does not shine.” Don’t talk about hair; while it did not fall out in clumps it thinned tremendously.
One silver lining, I was not nauseous. But I endured and took some preventative measures. The worst side effect was experienced one day when I was out for an appointment. While entering the building during the winter my eyes closed—involuntarily–on me. This was frightening, to be blinded.
By the time my Oncologist removed the cocktail (one of three) that was causing the numbness it was too late. The damage was already done. I understand that it could take years for the nerves to heal themselves… if they do totally.
Life was quite difficult to say the least. I spent almost all the time in bed listening to the radio, doing a daily diary, receiving calls of support from my “village of callers.”
There’s an African saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” In my case the “village” was raising the spirits of this person, Anne Janice Farray. I felt like a child needing help and my dear mother Margaret Farray James was there dutifully nursing her child back to life. I am thankful for that.
The giant side effect of the chemo treatment, with which I am living today, is neuropathy… numbness in my hands and feet. Things got so bad that one night after my hubbie had given me a foot massage, I asked him to put on my socks. He told me that they were already on my feet (lol). Imagine that, absolutely no feeling. The hands are much better, but the feet–or as my stepfather calls them– “baby foot” still remains, although somewhat better.
So at times you could see me strutting my stuff… or just hobbling. But thank God, most of the time they are not painful. And yes, I sometimes get frustrated with them. And if ever I hear music and even if my feet are problematic.
YES YOU WILL SEE ME DANCE, DANCE, DANCE… Dancing is music to my soul and my joie de vivre.
As I said earlier, I am over-joyed, and thankful for the continuing outreach from my dear family, including my hubbie Joseph Clarke, Patrice Taylor, Roxy Monica Holder, and Elsa Charles, my dear and loving sisters; my nieces Nzinga Taylor, Judy, Cindy TriniSpice, Tricia Trishee Charles and Kristina Charles; my brother Jaime James; stepfather Alic James; aunt Frances Francis and uncle Jerome (Blacks); my friends: Anne Matthew, my constant companion who accompanied me to most of my treatments; Hilarie Fraser Cruickshank who called me every day; Eslyn Renwick, Rita Alexander, Carmen Peters, Anastasia Lashington, uncle Bob, Jos Sweetcakes Bowen, Yolande Mckenzie, members of the Grenada Association, my children and grandchildren who helped to keep my spirits high, my brother-in-law Caldwell Taylor, Mary Alexis, Maureen Charles, Joyce Cato, Genise Arthur, Mom Dory Courtney, Brenda Francis and a list of many other family and friends who reached out.
I also extend thanks to my work colleagues and friends Jackie Tong, Sandrine Donkpegan, Jane Bracewell, Josephine Leake, Sylvie Bedard and Debbie Mercier for their kind outreach and support.
If you don’t see your name listed and you contributed by way of prayers and words of encouragement, rest assured it is there, in magic and invisible ink.
Thank you wholeheartedly. I am also thankful to the staff and volunteers of the St. Mary’s Hospital Cancer Center; they are great and made a difficult situation bearable. Thanks for the fabulous job of making each patient feel at home.
Special thanks Sara and Dr. Dalfen and the nurses.
NOW ON TO THE NEXT CHAPTER WITH GOD’S BLESSINGS.