This is the fourth and final in a series by Tara Playfair-Scott, a marketing and public relations specialist and manager of internationally rated Jamaican athlete Asafa Powell, who disclosed recently that she was diagnosed with cancer of the breast and was taking adequate steps to fight the disease. The series is being highlighted in recognition of Jamaica’s observance of Breast Cancer Month in October.

So there I am awaiting my results but also waiting on the clearance to remove my drain. I had a tube that was draining the blood and fluids from my mastectomy. I learned to empty and to hide the tube and drainage bulb so that people wouldn’t look at me crazy (this part was probably in my head), but I felt like people were staring. I was shuffling around and suffering from even worse insomnia than I ever had before, but I wanted to be self-sufficient. I think I drove my mother crazy because she wanted to be Florence Nightingale and I wasn’t really having that (lol).

One thing I learned as I took this journey is that if there is any time you have to be a little selfish, it’s now. Part of the reason I told so few people was because it’s hard enough trying to deal with your own emotions without having to manage everyone else’s. Does that make sense? To have to explain every detail, or what you did or didn’t do? How you’re feeling, what’s next or when, over and over, can be itself exhausting. It also causes you to be so focused on the disease that you can end up being only focused on the disease. So for me, the less I spoke about it and didn’t have to try and not make people feel sad or cheer them up, the better able I was to live a life of normalcy in the midst of the chaos.

So back and forth to the clinic I went, hoping that was the day I was going to get the drain out and my pathology report back. However, my surgeon wanted the fluids to turn from bright red to more yellow and be less than 25 ccs. Every day I stared at that bubble and the tube coming down my side, looking for yellow, hoping it would dip below that 25 line… During that time, one of my dogs that was in boarding at the vet started to get very ill. It was distressing knowing I couldn’t be there. I felt guilty and responsible as they had to be there for so long and they weren’t used to it. I just wanted to get the okay to leave to go home and pick them up. One morning, a week before my scheduled flight to come home, I got an email… Scout was getting worse. They wanted to put him to sleep. I asked if they could wait just one more week… It wouldn’t be fair. He was in pain. I had to let him go — that was gut-wrenching not being able to be there for him. I was helpless. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get over that.

Finally, on what I called “fluid watch” I saw yellow and sent a Whatsapp pic to my doctor… He agreed. So the plan was to meet him at 1:00 pm to get the drain out. Yessss!!!!! Almost as soon as I was off that call there was that familiar POP! The one Jamaicans all know… The sound of lights going off … Ah wah dis… Power cut? Well yea… So the lights came back but no TV… I’d later find out this was a three-city, massive power outage. Nowhere had light except hotels and hospitals. We went to the clinic and I actually had my drain removed with me holding the flashlight on my phone so the doctor could see. It was straight, old- school gangsta but at that point I didn’t care. I just wanted it out. However, it meant I could not get my vaccine as the lab where it was kept was closed because of the massive power outage. Darn! More waiting. I got the pathology report back though and everything was all clear. The tumour had shrunk to a microscopic size and my lymph nodes were clear. God is good! I was happy. I, however, wanted, as did the surgeon, for the oncologist to review it along with my genetics test to see where we would go from there, if more chemo would be needed. Because I had done a mastectomy, no radiation was recommended for me.

My mom and I went to lunch a day later and I had been having a missed call marathon with the oncologist to see if he had sent my report and what he thought. Finally, while at the restaurant, he called back. “Hey Tara!” Excitedly I blurted out “Hey Doc! Did you read my pathology report?” – silence – “Hello?” I said… “Yes Tara… I did but I don’t know. It’s very good but maybe it’s too good… And I don’t know the pathologist that did it. I have never worked with her.” (This is where I felt all my joy evaporate… What did he mean?) I then said, “So what does that mean?” I got up from the table and went outside. He went on to say he wanted a pathologist he knew who was one of the founders of a cancer centre to review my samples etc… A second opinion. I just listened, feeling a bit despondent. Then he said: “Tara, it’s a very, very good result, but maybe it’s too good. It would be a miracle.” This is when I clicked back to life and said: “Well, guess you don’t know about my God and miracles — so ok, let’s get this second opinion,” and he chuckled like yea sure and said “Ok”.

I went back in and told my mother and saw that look of distress on her face, but I just decided I wasn’t gonna give in to that … We had to remember this was just a bump in the road. So we ate our lunches and went about the day as we normally would. A few days later I got my vaccine, which turned to be a 90-day supply of vials which I was to take every three days orally. Once I had that in hand it meant I could head back, and so we did. Once I got home I realised it was only a few weeks before it was October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I wanted to share my journey so that I could, hopefully, even encourage one woman to get checked or to not take her health lightly. Cancer does not discriminate nor care. Age, socio-economic status, race nor religion matters. We are all vulnerable and our best defence is early detection. While I may have been able, by the grace of God and the amazing angels God put in my life, to try other alternatives such as low-dose chemo etc outside of Jamaica, that does not mean that the treatment options here aren’t good. They are and have and continued to work for many many women.

What I can tell you is that this is an expensive journey no matter which path you take, especially if you’re like me and you had no insurance. Here are a few tips that I learned along the way:

* Get insured! Sagicor and NCB both offer critical care plans… the very plans you don’t think you will need until you need them.

* Get checked. Do your selfexams and get your mammograms and/or ultrasound. The Jamaica Cancer Society does mammograms for only $3,700. Call them: (876) 927-4265

* If you find yourself uninsured and facing an illness such as this, ask your doctor about the NHF (National Health Fund). One of the most efficient and customer service-friendly arms of the Government I have come across. You can get your chemo medication from their outlet at a reduced cost and take it to your doctor to administer. They also supplement the cost of a biopsy. Talk with your doctor about filling out the application form. Call them: 906-1106

* If you do not have the funds to have your lumpectomy or mastectomy, our public hospitals do it for free. (I know, right! I just found this out recently). So KPH/Cornwall etc will do this surgery at no cost. Talk with your doctor.

* There is also the Hope Institute, which is a cancer hospital (brainchild of Jamaica Cancer Society) that provides treatment and care to cancer patients at a reduced rate. Call them: (876) 977-2111

* How you approach this mentally is equally as important as the steps you take physically to fight. If you need one person or 100 persons as your support system, it’s okay. Do what is best for YOU! Whatever it takes for you to stay focused, positive and to have good energy around you.

* Your life has changed. Ignoring it won’t make it go back to the way it used to be. Take action as quickly as possible. Whatever direction you take, once you’ve competed your treatment be sure to stick to your follow-up regimen and don’t go back to old habits. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your life, you just have to tweak it.

* Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or whomever is providing you with a service — ultrasound technician, the person giving you your mammogram, the nurse administering your chemo, or whomever. If you have a question, ask it! If you then want to go find out more and come back and ask, again, it’s your right. I find that we tend to be intimidated or fearful because it’s a doctor/health care provider, but it’s our health and our lives and we have every right to ask questions.

* Your life isn’t over … It’s only just begun. You get a chance to start this new chapter and write your story the way you want it, with your eyes wide open. Make the most of it!

Thanks for letting me share, thank you for reaching out to me with support or even sharing with me your journey or your loved one’s journey. Also, for all the amazing women who have gone to get checked since reading my story, you’re the reason why I decided to share this bump in the road.

PS: I got the second opinion back on my pathology and it was exactly the same as the first one! Tumor was microscopic surrounding tissue and lymph nodes cancer free. Told ya about my God!

3 thoughts on “TARA’S FIGHT PART 4

  1. Wow beautiful story..may God continue to bless you Tara…met what I can’t understand why you have be a certain age before you can get check? What if I want to go now and I’m 29

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