Thania was a busybody, deep into her Bajan cultural lifestyle from dancing at Crop Over to ‘doing hair’, so news of signs of breast cancer could not stop this effervescent soul who took it in stride and refused to abandon Barbados’ international signature festival.
Unperturbed, she carried on with life, took short breaks for things like chemotherapy – which she went through ‘like a boss’. Then, a more thorough body check revealed that what was first diagnosed as a treatable form of cancer had spread across her body taking her to Stage IV. Her world stopped for a while, but only long enough for this vibrant person to gain the resolve to fight the extreme deadly threat.
Each person has a story, and it becomes a much more dramatic and interesting account when the teller of the tale has gone through highly unusual experiences – none more so than journeying through a part of one’s life with the threat of death from cancer.
The story told by Thania Lynch-Newton is one of many journeys storified in oral form at a recent Cancer Support Services forum, ‘Can We Talk? Your Journey. Peril or Triumph’, in the Courtney Blackman Grand Salle of the Central Bank were survivors, those currently battling it, relatives and other loved ones gathered to give glimpses of their experiences.
“In 2017, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in Stage II. The doctor said it was Oestrogen positive which is supposed to be good cancer to have if you’re going to have cancer. It was diagnosed early and once I go through the treatment of the chemo and the radiation and everything it should be fine,” Lynch-Newton related.
“I asked the doctor ‘do I have to make a decision right away’. He said ‘No. It’s not at that stage where it’s spreading and you could take your time’”.
She decided to do the important things in her life. “I’m a dancer. I love Crop Over, I love carnivals and everything, so I said to myself, I will take my time. I ain’t jump for Crop Over in years but I jumping this year… I went to Miami Carnival in October.”
Then she decided to take chemotherapy treatment. “I had four hours of chemo and I went through chemo like a boss. I went to work every day, still dancing, still doing hair, still living my life. I gained weight,” she recalled believing that things were being handled well.
“I’m thinking, man, everybody talking about cancer [but] man, I went through cancer like a boss. I didn’t think anything was wrong, I figured I was good.”
Radiation treatment was less comfortable, but she regarded it as just a bump on the road. She followed up with a PET scan (a Positron Emission Tomography scan is an imaging test that helps reveal how your tissues and organs are functioning) in Miami.
“That’s when the proverbial thing hit the fan,” she explained. The result showed, “this thing had spread to my lungs, my bones. Then I started questioning myself… I lost weight. I wasn’t eating. I was in the hospital. It was awful.”
Contrasting the ‘boss’ experience during her first chemotherapy, Lynch-Newton’s emotions in the next encounter reflected another view.
“This second round of chemo is the one that told me ‘look you really got cancer. What you feel you had, you ain’t had, but you really got cancer now’. When I was first diagnosed I was positive. I went through the initial emotional state but I went through it positive. I was happy.”
She took months off from work and finished chemotherapy in April. “Between April and now, I’ve been going through all kinds of sorts of effects, pain in my leg … and the emotional part of it which has been harder to manage this time than before because now you sick, you real sick.”
Her indomitable spirit enables turning the mundane activity into significant signs. “When I am feeling down, I always say I might be down, I might be crying. I go through it but at the end of the day, I go to sleep at night and I wake up every morning. And as long as I do that I know there is hope. I have not triumphed as yet but I believe that I will and I… will overcome this.”
Lynch-Newton’s will to live has given her the benefit of the doubt and put all the questions on cancer itself.
Speaking at a forum chaired by Antoine Brudda Daddy Williams, who had beaten Stage IV cancer, Lynch-Newton said, “When I was in the hospital the doctor said, ‘you have Stage IV cancer and it is terminal’ and I said to her you [aren’t] God and you will not speak that into my life.” (GA)