Rosalie Bailey yesterday celebrated her 100th birthday, living to tell the tale of beating cancer five years ago.
The bubbly and overjoyed centenarian was surrounded by family members, friends, Governor General Sir Elliot Belgrave, and the doctor who gave her the life-saving operation when she was 95 years old.
Bailey, who read her birthday card, was in good spirits and engaged the Governor General in a brief chat before raising her glass to take a sip of wine during the toast.
Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett, who is also Bailey’s MP, said he counted it a privilege to be celebrating “Mama Bailey’s” birthday with her.
“I have had the opportunity to celebrate three of four birthdays with her, so it’s a privilege to be here celebrating with her today. I have known her almost all my life, having grown up just a stone’s throw away from here. She has always been well respected in this community and she continues to be,” Blackett said.
He made a promise to her and her family to do all he could to make the rest of her days on earth peaceful.
“I assure you that I will do all in my power to certify that you spend the rest of your days as comfortable as possible. I believe that you will be a super centenarian, meaning that you will live way beyond your 100th birthday,” Blackett added.
Sir Elliott said it was a joy to watch Bailey, especially since she was so alert and attentive.
“I’m happy that you look so well. And as the minister said, I hope you will be a super centenarian and that you continue to do what you have been doing in the past and are cared for as you are being cared for now,” he said.
“I take pleasure in visiting people like you who have made a tremendous contribution to the country of Barbados. It’s on your shoulders that this country was built.”
When the head of state asked Bailey if she was able to do anything around the house, she boldly responded: “Yes! But they don’t allow me to do anything.”
After a hearty chuckle, the Governor General encouraged her to spend the rest of her days relaxing.
Also in attendance for the celebration was Dr Vikash Chatrani, who performed surgery on Bailey five years ago.
He said it was an honour to see her reach this milestone after watching her overcome so much.
“I had the pleasure of meeting gran gran at the age of 95. She came to me with Stage Three cancer and I ended up offering her the surgery. I received resistance from all my colleagues and nursing staff. They asked me why I would want to operate on a 95-year-old, because she had lived her life,” Dr Chatrani said.
“But she continued to live her life, cured of cancer, and she even went on to have another surgery to remove the cataract in her eye. That’s why she was able to read her birthday card today and she did me proud. Not only did she continue to live life, but she did so selflessly, she brought needed awareness to the condition. She suffered from gynecological cancer and she spearheaded a movement in Barbados which started in 2013 on how to prevent these cancers and how to manage it. She was there in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, and hopefully she will be there on September 3 this year again. Gran gran, you are someone I consider to be one of the true roots of our nation. I wish you many, many more years,” the doctor said.
Bailey will have a big birthday bash on Saturday.
In her younger days, she was a tomato picker and later a bottle washer with Malls Alley Bottle Company, until she retired in the 1980’s.
She had seven children, two of whom are now deceased, 22 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.