Not once, but twice she managed to defeat breast cancer. And never once was she afraid.
During her first bout of stage three cancer Juliet Pitcher was given a mere 30 per cent chance of living another 24 months. But 20 years later she is celebrating her 69th birthday in fine style.
It was two decades ago Juliet first noticed a lump in her left breast while taking a shower. And after visiting the doctor and undergoing various tests, several lymph nodes were removed, one of which was cancerous.
After receiving treatment and being in remission for about 17 years, the disease returned. Three years ago, Juliet again felt a lump in her breast while taking a shower and it turned out to be cancerous.
While not going into details about her battles with the dreaded illness, she told Barbados TODAY never once was she fearful because she was certain she was prepared and credited her healthy eating habits during her earlier years.
“I have never been scared. At the age of 17, I was in Canada on my own and I had my child . . . . I have never been scared,” said the Guyana-born cancer survivor.
When the disease returned the second time after so many years, Juliet knew exactly what to do.
“I had to have treatment and chemotherapy; the whole works all over again,” she quipped.
“My cancer came back . . . and I got all the treatment again . . . And I am back!” she declared with laughter.
At her birthday party last month at her Rendezvous, Christ Church home, the wife and mother briefly recounted her journey.
Juliet insisted that paying close attention to her diet helped her overcome what would usually be a terrifying moment for many.
While people often offer their own solutions, she said a person’s lifestyle was crucial. Juliet said many years ago she eliminated sugar and milk from her diet and it was long before her cancer diagnoses. Her diet consisted of many locally produced organic foods. “I don’t eat a lot of can foods,” she added.
“That is about 30 or 40 years now . . . I feel I was prepared because I also drink a lot of water, and all through my cancer I was drinking Mauby and cinnamon boiled together. Not because of anything but because I like the taste. I think that helped me because I haven’t done anything different,” she said.
Although last month’s celebration was more about Juliet turning 69 and having survived breast cancer twice, her husband, businessman Robert ‘Bobby’ Pitcher, was not to be left out.
Like Juliet, he faced health challenges, though not cancer.
Almost two months ago, Robert had his right foot amputated below the knee and now uses a wheelchair.
“It was a shock for me . . . . He was in Canada and he came back with a cold that he couldn’t get rid of,” his wife recounted.
After a doctor’s visit and medication, Robert was still not getting better.
Unsure what was wrong, Robert’s doctor sent him to specialists including a lung specialist fearing he might have bronchitis or pneumonia.
By April he had undergone several medical tests, but none was conclusive.
“When we were in Guyana I noticed something on his foot and he showed it to the doctor. The doctor said it looks like callus,” she said.
It was while visiting the British Virgin Islands that Robert’s condition worsened and he quickly returned home.
At one point doctors feared he had contracted tuberculosis, which turned out not to be the case. And in May when x-rays and other tests were done on his foot doctors still “didn’t find any problem”.
This was followed up by tests of his kidneys and treatment at the renal clinic as he was retaining fluid. It was during this treatment that blisters appeared on his leg. All this while, the businessman was taking medication for diabetes.
“It didn’t get any better and by now we are into August. He only managed to make one overseas trip between May and August. So here we are in August and I was on my way to Toronto. By that time the leg was paining him,” she recounted.
“They squeezed it and a black thing came out,” she said. After this episode Robert was admitted to hospital on August 2,” she said.
A few days later her husband had his first surgery when it was discovered gangrene was taking hold of his right foot.
“I had the operation and they took off two toes. The surgeon said to me the third toe does not look so good, and suggested it be taken off. I said to him, ‘if you were lying down in my position what would you do?’ and he said ‘I would take it off’. So he took it off,” Robert told Barbados TODAY.
It was not long before doctors advised him they need to cut again. This time below the ankle. Robert said he requested a few minutes “to compose myself and say a short prayer”.
He added: “My God said to me cut it just below the knee so you can do prosthesis. If they cut below the ankle and they find anything wrong they would cut above the ankle and keep cutting and cutting and I would be in the hospital all this time. So I got the cut below the knee,” he said.
He explained after this month his required hospital visits would be reduced significantly. A happy Robert said his next appointment was scheduled for December.
“I am doing well. But I am only doing well because of my faith in the greatest doctor in the world, which is the Creator,” he said.
Immediately after Robert’s discharge from hospital, Juliet made several changes to their home to accommodate his wheelchair.
The couple’s advice is simple as they beat health challenges and prepare to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.
“You can’t love anybody unless you love yourself. And if you love yourself the things that you do to destroy yourself you wouldn’t do it, like sugar. If you can’t have something, just move on to something else, for God’s sake! If you fall, get up and brush off and move right on. We have no choice, we’ve just got to get moving,” she said with a smile.