kelly clarke

Kelly Fontenelle-Clarke was born and raised in the Simply Beautiful island of Saint Lucia. She attended infant and primary schools in Vieux Fort and Gros Islet, her mother and father's hometown respectively. She then attended the Corinth Junior Secondary School, St Joseph's Convent and then the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College. She holds a BSc from Florida International University and a MBA from University of Phoenix. Kelly enjoys travelling and blogging about her life experiences. She lives in GA with her husband and son.

Turks and Caicos Weekend.

Turks and Caicos

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 I had been in and out of the hospital for almost six months, survived a heart attack and a stroke so a much-needed break was in place. I had not been on an aircraft since March and I was itching to go somewhere. I had an appointment with my oncologist and had some scheduled labs. Everything checked out fine. I had not had a blood transfusion in three weeks and my body was doing well on its own.   My immune system was almost back to normal and was not high risk for a cold or any virus

I told Dr A about my plans for some Caribbean waters and she was in full support. She felt I needed the break and cautioned me not to travel too far away and to keep it short, maybe a weekend getaway.  I still had weekly appointments with the clinic so there were only a few days to play with.  I decided to select somewhere close because I was not going without Elijah.  I wanted to go somewhere I was familiar with and also somewhere with good healthcare (just in case).  Saint Lucia was out of the question for many reasons and not for a weekend.  I was not ready for Saint Lucia just yet.

I decided to visit one of my closest friends in Turks and Caicos. I mentioned to her that I was looking for a quick getaway and she was not having it any other way. She had baby sitters lined up and waiting, but I planned on going with a friend in any case, to help me during the trip. I was not strong enough to care or travel with Eli on my own and leaving him behind was not an option.

The flight on American Airlines from Atlanta to Miami was a breeze. Elijah was perfect, he slept throughout and that was great. We had a short layover and then boarded the flight to Turks and Caicos. He was a bit fussy and restless but he eventually fell asleep. This was his first flight since arriving five months ago.  I ensured that he was sucking on a bottle or a pacifier during takeoff and landing to avoid any discomfort with his ear. He was given water throughout the flight as well.  He is a healthy boy and we did not expect any issues but was prepared.

Happy Eli

Happy Eli

I have learnt so much about traveling with a baby but did not want to overdo it. I had enough food to feed a small army, clothes and diapers for one month.  Medicines in case anything happens, insect repellant sunscreen and the works. Elijah was ready for the tropics. I was so over prepared but I learnt my lesson and the next trip would be easier.

Less than two hours later, the pilot announced that we were about to land and I was so very excited.  Elijah woke up just then and fretted a little. He then puked all over my grey maxi dress.  I was so relieved that I did not wear that beautiful white sundress that I had intended to. Second lesson, never travel in white with small children.  While filling out the immigration forms and was looking for a place to include Eli, however there was none. I went up to the immigration officer and he told me that Elijah needs his own form. Really? Why can’t kids under five be added to their parent’s form?  I need to start a petition. I had to go at the back of the room to find a form and fill it out for Elijah.  After immigration we picked up our luggage and waited for the stroller.  After a ten minutes wait I asked about the stroller. I was told that the strollers are sent out last. Really? What kind of system is this? The stroller was taken at plane side but is sent in last with the luggage. All the passengers were just standing there waiting for over half hour. Petition number two!  Strollers should be sent out first.  Strollers arrived and we picked up ours and ready to hit customs. The line was ridiculously long as we wasted so much time waiting for the stroller.  We had nothing to declare so did everyone else. Petition number three. There should be a separate line for passengers with small children.

We finally got through and ready to hit the beach. Beth was outside waiting for us and I was so excited to be out and about. No blood transfusions, no clinics, no lumbar punctures. Just Elijah, the beach lots of seafood and me. We were ready to just chillax.

TCI as it is called is a beautiful chain of islands just a few miles from the Bahamas. Providenciales the capital and the most populated island is approximately 38 square miles.

This was not my first time to the island and I have been drawn by the beautiful beaches in Turks. Grand Turk, Middle and North Caicos are two smaller islands not as developed as Providenciales but definitely uniquely beautiful.

Our first stop was Boogaloos! Great restaurant right on the beach. First Beth took Eli out to the clear blue beautiful water that Turks is well known for.  That was his introduction to the beautiful ocean. The water was so warm, I wanted to jump in but we just allowed Eli to get his feet wet. We were here for a few days and would have more time for the beach, it was now time to indulge in the scrumptious seafood on the beautiful island of Turks and Caicos.  Boogaloos is well known for serving fresh seafood. They serve the tastiest conch salad, so fresh that you can watch your conch come from the ocean and eventually on your plate. Did I mention that the Turks and Caicos is home to the world’s only conch farm.  After lunch it was time for a nap, we had an early morning flight and were all tired from the long day.

Eli testing the water

Eli testing the water

The nap lasted till the next morning. Yes, we were tired.  We started the day with an awesome breakfast from Casa De Beth, sitting on the patio, watching the beautiful ocean. Breakfast lasted about three hours then it was time to hit the beautiful expanse of Grace Bay Beach.  Grace Bay beach by far is one of the most stunning in the Caribbean.  Clear blue, perfect temperature water. We have friends at the Seven Starts Resort so this was our base for the day. Absolutely beautiful resort and highly recommended if your budget can afford. It is also a great place for family travel.

Ready for the beach

Ready for the beach

Lunch was Kalokee’s, another awesome restaurant with mouthwatering food.  Garry the great waiter served the signature drink “Happy”. I had the grilled snapper with roast corn and plantains with rice and peas.  The baby back ribs are also a lip-smacking choice, overall everything on the menu was excellent. I had an abundance of fruity drinks that Eli enjoyed as well.

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Usually when I travel, my aim is to “eat like a local” I tend to visit the local restaurants and try to stay out of the hotels unless there is a highly recommended restaurant.  Typically, visiting an island, it’s about your ability to interact with the people, learning of their history, these islands are as rich in culture as they are in beauty. And the food is to die for. You can always guarantee that the seafood is fresh as the catch of the day is normally delivered by the local fisherman.

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The trip was short but well deserved and I will definitely do it again.  If you love the beach, want to be at one with nature then Turks and Caicos is a great place to visit. The Belongers are very hospitable and welcoming and the seafood, hmmm…. is flavorful and great!!!!

Thanks for reading and see you on my next adventure.

 

 

Turks and Caicos

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Remission

Remission

Eli and Mommy

Eli and Mommy

 

 

 

The disease called Cancer can take so much away from you but you have to have the fighting spirit.  You cannot just depend on the medical field, you have to have that internal fighting spirit and prayers.  I believe in prayers and that it makes a difference.  My diagnosis came as a surprise to me and I always believed that I would be ok.  I had that gut feeling that I would be fine.

 

I stayed at Emory for another ten days and then came back again for the third intravenous chemotherapy session.  Everything went well and I would be home after the seven (7) days.  My immune system was low but getting back to a normal person.  Chemotherapy kills every cell in your body, god and bad, hopefully all new cells would be growing cancer free.

When I thought all was going well, I got a fever again and then had to be readmitted.  The doctors could not find the infection and was worried.  They had to remove the port eventually as it looked like the port was infected.  I was happy that they found the infection but happier the removed the port. I had to be reminded that I was not totally healed, but just the port was being removed.

 

 

Anyone with a port would understand the joy that comes after having your port removed.  You can now take a shower, wear any blouse and did I mention enjoy a shower.  After 4 months I was able to jump in a shower and just wet every inch of my body.  The little things you miss or take for granted is just amazing when you are able to get it back.  I’m sure there are places in this world where individuals can’t take a shower every day, now I feel blessed that I was able to.

The doctors visited me and told me that I would soon be discharged as the infection was gone and the fever had not returned in 48 hours.  Yes that shower did the trick.  I know it did.  I was in good spirits and felt healthy, I was eating a bit more and feeling less nauseous.  I was feeling like a normal person again.  I did not have to wear the masks as much anymore and I was able to do so much on my own.

 

My next appointment would be crucial as I had to be strong enough to start the maintenance.  That would be two years of taking the oral chemo and a mixture of other medications.  Two straight years of medications.  The doctor reminded me that absolutely no alcohol, not even a little wine with dinner? Nothing, not a drop.  At that exact moment I had such a urge for a glass of Moscato, or Rose, even merlot that I don’t care too much for.  You see, I’m not a drinker and I may drink a glass of wine every two months but just being told I could touch it, gave me the urge to have some.  Funny how our minds work.

 

I had a few strands of hair on my hair until my husband said it was time to shave it all off.  It was a good feeling.  I was healing.  The old hair was gone and I looked forward to the new growth. I felt like a new person as the new cells was also growing in my body.  I would take this opportunity to take care of me and always put Me first.  Being diagnosed with cancer allows you to take a look at your priorities in life and set goals for your future.

I had a second chance to be happy and live my life to the fullest.  Stress and negativity would be thrown out the window, but I had to get used to the bald head.

 

I looked funny with no hair, or eye brows and very few strands of eye lashes.  My husband asked me if I would get wigs or head ties.  I thought about it and decided to wear hats if I needed to but will wear my bald head proudly.  It signified a new life for me.

My weekly appointments would be changed to monthly if my body was healing as needed and I was ready.  My next appointment was due and I went to get lab work done and then the doctor.  My results were good.  I had no more Lumbar punctures scheduled, no more intravenous chemo, no more biopsies.  I was healing.  The doctor also advised me that I was in remission as there were no cancer cells in all my lab work.  I said a quiet prayer and the tears just came flowing.  Yes I was in remission.  I would now be put on the maintenance plan and my weekly visits would be monthly.  I cannot describe my happiness to you.  I just wanted to go home and hug my little Eli, who had missed so much of his mommy attention.  I can now give so much more that a baby needs.

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My prescription was sent to the pharmacy and I had a session with the Doctor’s PA to schedule my monthly appointments and also my medicine management.  I need a manager for my medicine, wow it was so much.  All was well and I was looking forward to my new life.  Just before I was finished with doctor’s meetings I asked a very important question.  Can I travel?  She said yes but very short trips……..

Well that did it.  I was planning my next trip.

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Round two- Chemotherapy

Round Two – Chemo

Eli and mommy

Eli and mommy

 

 

My 30-day period at Emory hospital was finally over and I could now go home for a few days to recuperate.  I would be home for two weeks and then return to continue treatment, that would bring to early May. While I was at home, I had to visit the Emory clinic twice a week for blood transfusions and other procedures.  Two of those procedures were a lumbar puncture and bone marrow biopsy.  The bone marrow biopsy was easy but the lumbar puncture had the most painful after effect I ever experienced.  I suffered spinal headaches or the headache from hell.  I could not sleep, walk or even stand due to that excruciating headache.  Although I drank lots of fluid before the LP which is highly recommend, it still gave me the most unbearable headache.  In two weeks I was due back at Emory to continue my treatment and surprisingly, I was actually looking forward to it, anything to stop that headache

A port was inserted in my chest, in order to continue my treatment and I cried all the way to the hospital for the outpatient procedure. I wept because the spinal headache seemed like a permanent fixture as it literally started in my back and travelled to my head and was ticking loudly.   When I arrived in admissions, to start my second round of treatment, I was in so much pain that I was asked to drink coke.  Apparently the caffeine helps the headache, so I drank as much as I could.

I did not get my old room with a view on the hematology floor but I looked forward to see my favorite nurses.  I was eager to start the treatment which included another dreaded lumbar puncture. Have I explained what a LP is?  (Well a tiny puncture is made in the lower part of your spine and a needle is inserted to draw the spinal fluid and then replace that fluid with a cocktail of chemotherapy.)  The fluid is then tested for cancer cells.  I indicated to the doctor that I was not mentally and physically ready for another LP.  I still had pain from the last one. They decided to do the LP 5 days later and also put me on caffeine pills to help with the headache…… You mean I could have had caffeine pills from day one?

Day one of treatment started well and we all anticipated it would continue that way.  I received a cocktail of chemotherapy in the morning and in the evening.  The treatment was very aggressive and I was just happy it was working.  One of Eli’s Godmother had arrived to care for him while I was going through my treatment.  I was truly blessed to have numerous loved ones.  I would be at Emory for about 8 days and then go home.

My other two girlfriends and another of Eli’s God mother had also made plans to be with us in May so my husband and I decided that we should christen Eli then.  This was something I was really looking forward to.  While in the hospital we made all the arrangements with our church and the caterer.  Elijah would be christened with friends and family as soon as I got discharged from the hospital. Due to the short notice, everyone would be invited via texts and phone calls.  We planned on having a lunch after the church service, something small as we could not anticipate my condition after chemotherapy.

I was elated about   planning the christening/luncheon as it gave me something to do while the treatment was being administered. Hospitals can be lonely and overbearing so it is always wise to have something to focus on instead of the reason why you are hospitalized.

My hair was finally coming off, everywhere at lightning speed except on my head for now.  Yup, wherever hair is grown, the chemotherapy takes it away.  It felt like you’re getting a daily Brazilian wax. The hair was dropping in little patches all over. I looked like a hairless cat with a bad shaving job. The treatments were completed and 8 days came and gone quite quickly. I had no serious side effects except the puking, darkened finger and toe nails, and lack of energy.  The nurses ensured thay you exercise though, one mile a day round the nurse’s station. That was my daily exercise routine and I’m happy I adherred to it. My vitals were checked every eight hours, weight, temperature and oxygen level.   I was doing well and was ready to go home.  I had no appetite and could only handle a smoothie or a milk shake, everything else upset my stomach but I was strong and ready to go home to my Eli.

I was happy to be home with Eli and Agnes, my girlfriend/sister.  She took the motherly role to care for Eli and myself.  She said I needed to rest but I wanted to do everything.  Her goal was to make me eat as she noticed the weight was dwindling off me. I wanted to do everything, (mentally ), but physically I just wanted to curl up in a bed and sleep for a few days.  I was feeling so drained but I had to be strong as that’s what everyone kept on telling me. I could not show weakness, not at all.

All arrangements were in place for the christening and I decided that I needed some me time.  I wanted a mani and pedi but decided against it as my immune system was very low and I did not want to get sick.  I decided to get my hair shampooed though as my hair needed some TLC.  I called my hair dresser and she was happy to get me in when the salon was empty.  She did not know that I was sick just wanted to get me in and out as quickly as possible.  I wanted to look healthy at the christening for my friends and family that would be in attendance.

My me day arrived and my husband dropped me off at the salon.  I was just so excited to get my hair done.   I mentioned to her that I have been sick and undergoing chemotherapy so some hair may fall out.  She indicated that she noticed the port and suspected something was going on.  She recommended a certain treatment and we went to the shampoo bowl. While sitting in the shampoo bowl, I noticed the hair dresser’s face looked worried.  We chatted and chatted while she shampooed my hair.  I then sat in her chair so she could style my hair.  She looked worried but did not say anything , but I did see the chunks of hair in the towel.  She did not want me to see the hair that was dropping off.  She combed my hair as usual and when I looked in the mirror, I went into complete shock, I cried and cried.  it wasn’t about my hair falling off because my hair was falling off in chunks, but I cried because it finally dawned on me that I was really sick.  I finally looked like a sick cancer patient.  I could not hold back the tears anymore and was just bawling in the salon.  I called my husband to come pick me up and I could hardly utter two words, but he understood and came to pick me up.  My me day ended up being the most depressiing day since I had been diagnosed.

My husband came to pick me up with Agnes and Eli and when Agnes saw my face she understood completely.  She told me that I looked nice and that was just a reason to start bawling again.  I could not hold back, think I had a meltdown.  I had to let everything out, my mom’s passing especially as I don’t think I had grieved as yet.  Eli was my distraction for grieving for my mom but now with me looking sick, I could not handle it.  Both Agnes and my husband tried to console me but there was pent up tears and frustration that had to come out.

I think I went into a depression mode for a minute.  The sight and smell of food brought me to the toilet and I just wanted to curl up in a bed and sleep.  Agnes told me that I should cancel the lunch and just go ahead with the christening.  I think that’s what woke me up.  This would be Elis’s day and I would not stop it.  I told her I wanted to have the luncheon to celebrate Eli and he won’t be short changed because of my illness.  Day by day I started getting out of my depression with Agnes’ help and companionship.  The other girls arrived, Ingrid and Marie Ange and they all really took over.  They had a routine going on, who would clean, who would cook, who would have Eli in the morning and wake up for the nightly feedings.  They just took over and did everything.   I watched in amazement how my friends truly loved and cared for me.  They took time out of their busy schedule, vacation away from their family and paid their own way to come care for me. I was truly blessed and yes there is a God.  My mom taught me well because without her foundation, I would not have such loving caring people in my life.

The christening day came and we were ready.  Eli had his handsome suit that would be a onetime wear.  The child was growing like weed.  He was blessed with three God mothers and a God father.  I was happy that we did not cancel.  It took me forever to get ready as I would not find the perfect hat.  I had to cover my head because I believe it would be a distraction to the congregation.  Yup, the hair was going slowly. We had a beautiful celebration in church and everyone came to support Eli.  After church we went home to continue the celebration with a scrumptious lunch.  I had to take a nap before lunch because chemo really is.tough.  This thing drains your body.  I was now feeling the effect of it and I probably need a blood transfusion as well because I was so weak.  Eli had a beautiful day with family and friends.  Everyone who we invited came to support us.  We had so much food and the food was really tasty, everyone was gone by six pm and it was a beautiful day. Eli was now christened and I was happy that I was there and have the strength to go through it.

It would soon be time for my third and last chemotherapy period at Emory.  The last week of May was creeping on us and  I was not looking forward to it.  After this last stint, I would be put on a maintenance plan for the next two years, but before that I still had to complete two more lumbar punctures. I was not looking forward to taking meds for two years straight but if that’s what would cure me, I would compy like white on rice.  I just wanted that evil disease to be out of me.  My mom would always say this, it breaks my heart that she was never able to be healed or healed the way we wanted.  God healed her in his way with no suffering.  I got readmitted for my last stint.  This last period was a bit harsh, the side effects from the chemotherapy was in full swing.  The nausea, constipation and loose bowel, yes you can have both.  The darkened nails, the darkened skin and the hairless body, the sensitivity to light and the blurred vision.   I was so over just being sick.  I took my week of poison very well and was being monitored round the clock.  The nurses at Emory are always on point and I was very happy that they took such good care of me. I kept my hair tied all during the time and did my exercise routine when I could.  I was just counting the days to go home and recuperate.  It is always so nice to be in your environment and your own bed.

I got discharged on a Friday and was felling so well.  I decided to attend church service and say  hello to all the people who had been praying for me.  It was so nice to be out as the only place I had been since the end of March was in and out of the hospital clinic.  After church we went home to relax and entertain Eli.  My week was going well until the following Sunday after church.  I was now home for two weeks and was enjoying it.  I was feeling sluggish but being tired is one of the many symptoms you get from the treatment.  On Sunday after church service I started feeling more and more energy deprived. was freezing inside but the temperature was only 72 inside.  I was also so very sleepy and fell asleep on the chair for a few hours.  I had no appetite as always but this one felt worse.  My husband took my temperature and it was ok, nothing to call the doctor as yet.  The next morning I was due to visit the clinic for the usual check up, blood work and transfusion.   I felt   horrible, very weak and could barely see.  I even thought I was losing my sight, could barely keep my eyes open as it also felt like there were pebbles in it when I blinked.  My husband had to help me bathe and get dressed because I could not stand on my own.  I arrived at the clinic and they literally had to put me in a wheel chair.  I could not walk as my knees felt soppy .   I went straight to get my lab work done and the blood transfusion would be after I visited the doctor.  The Doctor’s visit did not go very well.  My temperature was 103 and my heart rate was not very strong.  I was rushed to the hospital and started on fluids and steroids.  I had an infection and that was not very good in my condition.  For four days my temperature was going up and down and the doctors could not find the source of the of the infection.  I was not doing very well and yes I was scared. The illness was really taking its toil but I was not losing faith.  God does not give us more than we can handle and he is the ultimate healer.  I was not giving up, my Eli needed me and i know that he was put in my life for a reason.

The journey continues.

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Cancer Diagnosis

Read for chemo

Ready for chemo

Cancer diagnosis.

Getting the diagnosis from the Doctor had not sank in yet.  I was both shocked and very confused at the same time.  The diagnosis must be wrong because there is no way I could have cancer.  My mom passed away less than two months ago and now I have to tell my family that I’m stricken with the disease as well.  This was not happening to me, not when I have a brand new baby to care for. My Eli needs me.

I got transferred to Emory hospital the same evening of my diagnosis. The team at Eastside Medical had already made all the arrangements.  My husband arrived just before the transportation came to transfer me. It was a bit surreal as the Doctor indicated I had to start chemotherapy right away.  Chemotherapy…. Hmmmm!! I had such a huge issue with my mom doing chemotherapy because I felt it would make her sicker and weaken her body, but she was adamant.  Now I am in the hot seat and that’s my lifesaver.  Would the chemotherapy have saved my mom, given the opportunity?  Was I being a hypocrite now that my life depended on it? This was just so much to digest.  I needed my mom at this very moment and she was never going to be around.  She would not be there to help me go through chemotherapy, she was not going to be there throughout this ordeal, but deep down I know that she’d be there with me in spirit.

I began to feel all alone in this nightmare because no one can replace a mother’s unconditional love. My mind was going at the speed of the energizer bunny.  I had to relax because I felt I was going crazy.  I’m in an ambulance so I might as well enjoy the ride.  Yes, I’m in a freaking ambulance, the second one in two days, and trying to tell myself to relax.  The EMT was monitoring the blood transfusion quietly while asking me to relax as my pressure was on the rise and for an entire minute I forgot where I was. I felt I was in there for hours, how long is that drive anyway?  He indicated we were almost there.

We finally arrived at the hospital at approximately 1:15 am.  I was met by my nurse Miss M, my room was ready and I was wheeled right into room E623, hematology leukemia.  That would be my room for the next 30 days.  It was frightening but I felt so comfortable with my nurse that I began to relax.  Doctors came and spoke to me for a while.  My assigned doctor was DR A, and I was told that she was one of the best in her field.  She had left for the day but was on the phone with the nurses giving instructions and taking care of me.  I was tired, mentally and physically.  I had not had a good night’s sleep for over a week and I was not sure if could sleep.  Waking every half hour to visit the bathroom was tiring.  As much as I was receiving blood and platelets, I was passing it out as fast as it was being administered.  Apparently I was DIC.  What is DIC?  (Disseminated Intravascular Coagulopathy). A complex life threatening condition that causes a hypercoagulative state.   This just means I was bleeding excessively. That was not a good thing as the bleeding had to be under control as it affected my pressure and my heart rate.  I had been bleeding for over a week now and it was crucial to my survival that the bleeding was brought under control.

The nurses at Emory were just amazing.  The night shift left and I was introduced to my day nurse Miss K.  Miss K was born to be a nurse, so caring, she just made you feel at ease.  She explained all my medications and was so positive, I wanted her to just stay with me.  She made sure I ordered my breakfast as she could see how weak and pale I was.  I had no appetite but I had to eat.  My husband was at my side throughout the night.  I was happy he got to rest as this had to be hard for him as well. The nurse popped in to give me meds and the nurse tech came to check my vitals, what seemed like every two hours.  My room was also very close to the nurse’s station.  I was happy that I made it through the night but again I was still drained from the lack of sleep and from the bleeding.

My first morning at Emory and I felt very comfortable after meeting with my Dr.  We discussed my diagnosis, the type of leukemia I had was Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) a cancer of the white blood cells.  One of the issues with APL was serious blood clotting or bleeding issues, which is what I was at the moment experiencing. A plan was laid out to start on a cocktail of chemotherapy, tretinoid and a bone marrow biopsy and some lumbar punctures some time later.  I did not have to go through the bone marrow biopsy as I arrived already diagnosed. I had to spend a total of 30 days at the hospital, yes 30 days. Followed by three stints of 7 day periods to continue chemotherapy.

It was scary, and yes indeed I was terrified with good reason. Saw how my mom dwindled before she passed in such a short space of time so yes I was scared stiff.  I was very concerned about Eli, I had to be there for him so I prayed and called on my mom to help me.  I believed that my mom had a hand to play in us getting Eli and she would help me get better to take care of my baby.

This illness proved to me how blessed I was.  While I was listening to the Dr about my treatment plan, my network of girlfriends (who are my family) and my family had taken control of the situation in every way they could.  First they called my sister Chris and had her to arrange travel plans.  They then called her manager requesting time off on her behalf.  They got together and decided who would pay, utility bills who would help with groceries and keep an eye on her kids. These arrangements were made in order that I would have someone to take care of Eli.  My sister arrived from Saint Lucia three (3) days after I was diagnosed and cared for Eli. She was there for one month and then there would be a rotation of girlfriends who would be there while I did chemotherapy, so my little Eli would not have to move around too much.   I knew then that I would be ok.  God don’t give you more than you could handle and he was showing me that I would be ok.  I was truly blessed and a true testament that God puts angels in my life. I was going to be ok.  Wait a minute!! This is day 3 and I just started my treatment of 30 thirty days.  God Help Me!!!

Scary Week

Early meds

Early meds

My first week at Emory was touch and go, but because of the incredible team of healthcare professional I had, all was going well.  I was in a good place.  I was facetiming one of my girlfriends like we normally did when she thought I was mumbling too much.  She could not understand my words but I know I was making sense.  I called the nurse who seemed confused as well as to what I was trying to say.   The nurse spoke to me calmly and then called in on her phone.  A few doctors came in and started asking questions that I thought they already knew.  Apparently I had a mild heart attack and thank heavens I was on the phone at the time and had the good sense to call the nurse.  Once again it proved that my angels on earth and heaven was looking out for me.  The doctors stopped the chemotherapy until they found out what caused the heart attack.  It may have been the cocktails or just the illness.  I was happy to be alive.  This meant I had a few more doctors added to my team.  More and more tests were being conducted.  I was now equipped with a Holter to monitor my heart activity.  This was getting scary as I was relieving my mom’s final days with her illness.  Although she had stage 4 lung cancer, she died from heart failure.   So now I was closely being monitored and getting scared.  My Atlanta family came to visit and brought home cooked meals but I had no appetite.  The hospital food was not that bad either.  My nurse Miss K kept on coaxing me to eat “as the chemotherapy will cut off your appetite so eat as much as you can now” I can still hear her words.  I was just happy that my first week was good.  Some new doctors came to see me two days after the heart issue.  They started with the same questioning and then chit chatting.  Well low and behold, my tests showed signs of a stroke.  I corrected the Doctor and said you mean the heart attack?  He said no, the stroke. God almighty!!  I think my body is in shock.  In one week I was diagnosed with cancer, suffered a heart attack and now signs of a mild stroke.  The doctor had to give me time to digest this because it was really too much to handle.  Why is all this happening to me? I am not even a terrible person, why me?

Decorated Room with a View

Decorated Room

Decorated Room

My room was beginning to close on me during the second week. I was tired, the bleeding had finally stopped and I needed sleep.  Fay and Kashima came to visit and decorated my room.  It was the most considerate thing that I never expected.  They brightened up the room beautifully and after it was completed I broke down and cried so much. It was just so kind of them to take their free time and make my room feel calm, a much needed feel good.  Two days later I was able to be transferred to a room with a view.  There is actually a waiting list for those rooms but again, I am truly blessed with great friends. They met with the nurse just when a room with a view became available.  I was transferred and all my décor to the room with the view.  I was now able to see the Emory campus, a beautiful garden, people walking outside and not just a grey wall.  Never appreciated a view so much.  My other girlfriend collected photos of Eli and made 10 x 10 copies and plastered it all over my room.  Another emotional gesture.  She told me whenever I open my eyes, I will see my Eli and will get the strength to get better. I think that worked because I had another barrage of tests for my heart and brain and it was looking good.  My signature was tested every day before and after the chemotherapy, and it looked the same.  I was getting there.

Being in the hospital for thirty (30) days was really a task.  The days seemed even longer than the nights especially when you can’t sleep very well.  The chemotherapy was working and it had killed the good and bad cells in the body.  Now we were just waiting for my cells to grow back. Waiting and waiting. Some of the side effects includes, skin irritations, dry mouth, black finger and toe nails, loose stools, vomiting, tiredness and I had all of it.   The only side effect I did not have yet was losing my hair.  My hair was still holding on after two and a half weeks of chemotherapy but I felt like crap.  My immune system was very low and everyone who visited had to wear masks.

 

I was craving for a shower, a nice warm shower but I could not as I was carrying the heart monitor plus a port.  I spoke to my favorite nurse Miss K and she assisted me in getting that well needed shower.  She called the cardiologist and asked if she could put the machine off for a while.  He agreed, so she took off the monitor, covered up my port and helped me in the shower. So after almost three (3) weeks in the hospital, I had my first awesome shower. It felt so good and it was what I needed, I felt rejuvenated. The rest of the time went by quickly and I was able to sneak a shower every other day.  I had lots of visitors and was able to see my baby on Sundays in the hospital lounge.  I had lots of people praying for me and my priest brought me holy communion on Mondays so I did not miss church service.

I was truly blessed to have the great friends and family in my life at the time I needed it most.  The support given was truly amazing and it certainly helped my healing.  Cancer is not always a death sentence but from my experience, it is not just medicine that helps you heal.  Prayer and support from family and friends is as important as all the medication being administered.  My thirty (30) days went by slowly but surely.  I never looked like the patient who had cancer, suffered a heart attack and a stroke because I had too much to live for.  My son Eli was home waiting for me and I would not disappoint him. Our God is an awesome God and yes he never gives you more than you can handle.  I was going to be discharged and I was looking forward to it.  Thankfully my hair was still intact, though but the doctors warned me, don’t get too happy.  I was scheduled to return to the hospital in fourteen (14) days, early May to continue my treatment while I visited the Emory clinic every Tuesday and Thursday for blood transfusion.  I was not completely out of the woods but was getting there, with God’s grace, prayer, family and friends support and the great medical staff at Emory.. Yes, I was still work in progress.

Home with myEli

Home with myEli

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My Baby is Coming Home

  • Elijah David Clarke Elijah David Clarke Two days old
  • Elijah Elijah Loves his food
  • Aunty Marie Ange Aunty Marie Ange Eli and his aunty
  • Aunty Ingrid Aunty Ingrid Elijah and his aunty
  • Always eating Always eating Eli loves his food
  • Elijah and Aunty Simone Elijah and Aunty Simone Eli and Aunty Simone
  • Elijah and Aunty Angela Elijah and Aunty Angela Eli and Aunty Angela
  • Elijah Elijah Eli and cousin Lanai
  • Elijah and Aunty Agnes Elijah and Aunty Agnes Eli and Aunty Agnes
  • Elijah Elijah Just chilling
  • Elijah and Aunty Janin Elijah and Aunty Janin Elijah and his Aunty
  • Aunty Christine and Elijah Aunty Christine and Elijah My sister Christine and Elijah
  • Elijah and me Elijah and me Yes we love a selfie
  • Elijah Elijah We love food more
  • Elijah Elijah Beautiful cake
  • Eli's baby shower Eli's baby shower Such good food
  • Elijah Elijah So many aunties and uncles
  • Elijah and Aunty Gale and Aiden Elijah and Aunty Gale and Aiden Eli and his aunty
  • Elijah and Uncle Donovan Elijah and Uncle Donovan Eli and his uncle
  • Elijah and Aunty Amanda Elijah and Aunty Amanda Eli and his aunty
  • Elijah and me Elijah and me Off to our new home in GA
  • Elijah Elijah Seated and ready to take off
  • Taking a short nap Taking a short nap Eli on his way home
  • East Side Medical East Side Medical

 

My Baby is coming Home

 

 

January 23 was the saddest day for my family, we laid our mom in her final resting place. It was alright in the morning because 24 hours later, we received the most beautiful blessing.  Our son Elijah was born.  My mom definitely did not want us to grieve too much or be sad. She sent us an angel. Elijah was truly a blessing to my family.  Our six pounds bundle of joy helped us grieve, we saw all the little signs in him.  I was a bit conflicted because I was so happy at a time when there should be sadness when I should be sad.  We were all beaming with excitement on the arrival of Elijah.  We just buried our mom and 24 hours later we were the happiest clan around. Are we terrible people? Am I going to be punished later?  We were not the only ones happy, the entire neighborhood had received the news and they too were ecstatic.  Elijah had the most aunties and uncles in the world and he was a mere few hours old.

I had so much to do, a new baby had arrived.  How would I manage with my job, my travels?  God never gives us more than we can handle.  I will cross that bridge when I get there. It was now time to learn all I could about raising a baby.  I had to absorb this training/knowledge in record time.  The nurse at the hospital taught me how to bathe Elijah so I can give him his first bath.  I had to prepare the water ensure it was the right temperature. What is the right temperature?  Apparently your elbow is a great judge of the ideal temperature for a baby. I had to undress him in sections, wash his face, his hair, while I held his ears back so water would not enter his ears.  I had to remove his diaper last and yippee!! His very first poop. He had his first bowel movement and my first thought was where did all that come from?  How can such a little body deliver such a humongous poop?  What was he eating?  The nurse showed again how to clean him and reminded me to always remove his diaper last when giving him his baths. This precious little human depends on me to do everything right for him.  There is no way I can fail him.  With God’s guidance and help from family, I know I will not fail him.

Elijah has Arrive.

Elijah came home two days after he was born on January 26th, this was also my travel day back to GA. My vacation and bereavement days were over.  Wanted to stay longer but I had to return to work and also prepare our home in GA for Eli’s arrival. I had to go get everything a baby needed.   My sister Christine took care of him while my husband and I had to return to GA. We provided all his needs until I returned to see him very soon.  I spoke with my sister every day to check on Eli. He kept everyone up at nights but my sister was still on leave so she was able to handle the long nights.  She told me he ate like a grown child and slept like a baby, two hours at time, like clockwork.  After two weeks in GA, I could not stay away from Elijah. I headed back to St. Lucia to spend the weekend with him. My sister met me on the airport and she had my bundle of joy. Eli looked like he had put on a few ounces, the child loved his food.  He woke up every two hours and literally gave you three seconds to prepare his feed.  If his food was not ready he would wail so much, the nearest child services office would hear him.  Elijah was a blessing and healing for all of us because when we mentioned my mom, we were not sad but very happy.

 

On Sunday February 13, 2015, my little network of friends, my chosen sisters gave me a surprise baby shower. It was beautiful. I think it finally dawned on me that I was indeed a mother. They were so sweet to have thought of this.  It was really happening, I was a mom with a beautiful baby. My friends brought everything required for a party, all the food, cakes and of course lots of drinks. It was definitely a great get together.  My little Eli had his very first party. He received some great gifts however, he slept through the whole party.

Travel documents had to be organized for our bundle of joy. First his Saint Lucia passport and then travel to Barbados for his American documents. Everything worked out smoothly like it was supposed to. We had no hiccups, my mom was guiding us all. I know she had her hand in everything.  My husband went to Barbados from the advice of our friend Joy Boxill and sorted out all details with a little help from my angel on earth, Marie Ange. My sister Christine accompanied my husband and Elijah had his first trip out of the country, his very first plane ride. He was a happy baby. This was further proof that I have the best friends on earth.  All my friends had a hand in getting Elijah to the USA to his mom and dad.

The Big Day is Here

The big day arrived on March 19th when we got that call that his passport had arrived from Barbados. I was so excited, my Eli was coming home.  I left for Saint Lucia on March 20th to pick up Elijah. I was elated I would tell anyone who asked why I was smiling. I was literally beaming all day. On arrival to Saint Lucia my sister met me on the airport with Eli. The sweet little blessing from my mom.   We had tickets to return on March 23, almost two months after he was born. Not bad for a baby we knew nothing about. God answers prayers, please believe.  I was holding onto Elijah so tight and was ready to take on my mommy duties for the weekend.  My sister wanted to help because she said I looked tired and needed to rest.  I had been going like the energizer bunny work was keeping me occupied.  I told her I was good but a few hours later I asked her to help with Eli as I was just too tired to concentrate on him.  The weekend went by quickly, word was that Eli was leaving for GA with him mommy.  Everyone in the community came to bid farewell to our little Eli.  My son was well loved by all!!!

Monday arrived and we were all set to go.  I got my menstrual cycle and hated to travel when it was on but I was with Elijah and nothing would take my joy today. I was packed and ready with all my tidbits and my bundle of joy attached to me.  It dawned on me that I was traveling alone with a baby for the first time. The fear started creeping on me but it quickly disappeared as soon as I looked into those beautiful eyes of Elijah. He was counting on his mommy to take care of him and that’s what I planned to do.  I was very happy when I saw a friend checking in to the flight as well. I was even happier when I realized we were sitting next to each other.  Our God is an awesome God.  Flight went smoothly, Elijah was an angel. No one knew there was a baby onboard. He slept, ate and a few diaper changes. He was perfect.   My husband met us at the airport and our new adventure began.

My husband took the night shift so I could rest but there was no rest for me. Elijah woke up every two hours for his feeding but I was already awake because of menstrual cramps and heavy bleeding.  I was used to this because I have been going back and forth with anemia.  Tuesday came and I had a great day with Elijah. My husband took the night shift again and we had a good plan worked out.  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday was the same but my cycle should have been tapering down but it seemed to be getting heavier and heavier.   On Saturday I was relieved knowing that Elijah and his papa would spend the day together. I needed the rest. I started to wonder if I could handle a brand new baby because I had him for the first full week and I could barely manage. I was lethargic all week, could barely keep my eyes open but would not sleep. I was restless every day and night. Sunday morning came and I was feeling stronger. I made breakfast and bathed Elijah. I told my husband that I would not be able to make church service so he should take Eli.  He said they won’t go but they would stay with me while I rested. I tried to rest but could not sleep.

At 10:00am I told my husband I was not feeling right. I indicated that I was still on my cycle but it should not be so heavy.  He asked if we should call Emergency services, I said let’s wait. An hour later I told him please call EMS as I could not stand feeling that way again.  The Emergency services came and the paramedics spoke to me. I was feeling embarrassed because who goes to Emergency for their period? They took my vitals and told me I was ok and it was not necessary to go to the hospital. I believed them and went for a nap.  I had an appointment to see my gynecologist the next day so I would wait. The paramedics indicated to me that if I continue to feel bad, call them back and they will not charge me for the second call.

It was about 1:30pm, an hour and a half after the first call I told my husband please call EMS back because I don’t think I can take any more of that feeling. The same crew came and they strapped me on the stretcher.  My husband asked them to take me to Eastside Medical as it was a smaller hospital and the wait won’t be very long. The ride felt like forever but I must say the service was quick on arrival. I was taken to a room, asked a few questions vitals were done again and blood was drawn.  The nurse came to ask more questions and said that I would be admitted. My blood level was at three and a half and needed transfusion.   She read all the risks of getting a transfusion to me but all I heard was that things could go wrong when you receive blood. My girlfriends had just arrived and wanted to know what my options were.  Apparently it was to receive the transfusions or go home and die.  I just wanted to feel better because by now, I could not walk on my own. I was so light headed and tired I needed help to the bathroom. I was so relieved when she said she would start the blood transfusions.  I got nicked a few times because she just could not find a vein. The nurse literally pricked me three times on one arm trying to get a vein. She tried the other arm and then the first arm started to bleed.  I was livid, my friends were pissed because I already don’t have blood and there I’m shooting blood from my arm. It took her a while to stop the bleeding.

I was finally ready to start the transfusions. I was given pre meds and then the transfusions.  The Benadryl knocked me out because I woke up four hours later. My friends were gone and I was alone in the room.  I missed a few calls from my husband so I called him back to give him an update.  I was still very tired so I went back to sleep. I woke up the next morning feeling so much better. Oh my gosh, what a difference a day makes. Yesterday I was literally near death and today I was ready to take on the world.  I prayed and thanked God for waking me up and allowing me to go home to Elijah.  My son needed me and I had to go back to him. The doctor came in about 8am. He told me that my blood level was at about 8 so I am ok to go home. He asked me to see my family doctor and I told him I actually had an appointment today.  A few minutes later a nurse technician came to take me to another room. I told her that I was discharged, she indicated that I was admitted last night but the room was not ready it is now ready. She said I would be discharged from the room. I took my stuff and she brought me up. I was anxious to go home to my son. I rang my husband and told him to be on standby as I will be ready in a few hours.  The clock was ticking and I was getting mad. Finally another nurse technician came in to take my vitals.  I enquired as to why she was taking my vitals as I should be getting discharged. She retorted that she was just following orders. Lunch was brought in and I realized I had not eaten for almost two days.  I ate and laid in the bed for a while, I was still very tired and still had my cycle.  Finally the doctor called me. He said they found some abnormalities in my blood and I did not have a period. I said yes I did, it was the right day yup, I had my period. He said you weren’t passing menstrual blood but one of the hematologist will come see you.  You may have to spend the night. I called my husband and told him that I may have to spend another night because I may have to go through some other tests. I also indicated if anything changes Electra my girlfriend will pick me up.

Diagnosis. 

The hematologist arrived about an hour later.  He was quite nice, asked me how I felt, if I had any sores on my body, any open cuts, any bruises. I answered no to all and told him just a really bad period that wouldn’t stop.  He told me that they double checked, tripled checked and got second opinions and I had leukemia a type of cancer. I asked if he meant leukemia like cancer, yes that’s what I said.  I was receiving this piece of information on my own, what a bitter pill to swallow.  Was this how my mom felt receiving her diagnosis by herself? What a cruel world! Who is going to take care of my Eli. My mind was just flooded.  I had to be calm. I asked the doctor for a minute and he told me, he would wait as he knows that this is not the best news to give to a patient. I called my husband and gave him the news.  He was as calm as ever over the phone. He was home with Elijah preparing to come pick me and here I’m calling to say don’t come pick me up as I’m now diagnosed with cancer. He assured me that this was not a death sentence.

Our God is an awesome God. Elijah needs his mommy so we have to continue to pray. I called Electra and updated her as she was my back up ride.  The doctor returned to my room and continued speaking with me.  I was diagnosed with leukemia and they were not equipped to treat cancer at Eastside hospital. All arrangements had been made for my transfer to Emory, where a team of doctors and my nurse was waiting. Two months after my mom passed away with cancer, I was diagnosed with cancer. How the hell do I tell my siblings? They are still grieving, my baby is two months old, and how do I handle this? My world was crashing once again, but through it all I knew that God never gives you more than you can handle. My God was testing my faith. The journey continues…………

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Celebration of Life for my Mom

  • Beautiful Saint Lucia Beautiful Saint Lucia Home sweet home
  • Happy Mom Happy Mom Mom and I
  • Mom Mom Home going celebration
  • Beautiful Saint Lucia Beautiful Saint Lucia
  • Final resting place Final resting place
  • Yes he is ours Yes he is ours Our first meeting
  • My beautiful blessing My beautiful blessing
  • My mom Elijah and myself My mom Elijah and myself My blessing

It is said that time eases all pain. Losing my mom was indeed painful but I could not feel pain. I was so numb and confused because I did not understand what just happened. She went in for a simple checkup and never returned.

My mom passed about 12:30 pm and they finally came to get her to the morgue about 4pm. She was cleaned, taped and wrapped. It is so strange that she became the body as soon as her death was called. I kept on saying she is my mom and she has a name but this was routine for the hospital staff.

After she was ready to be taken down I was about to leave and then realized I did not know what to do next. I asked the nurse what’s my next step. She told me the body and I corrected her, my mom would be released to the funeral home in approximately two days. What funeral home? You have to arrange it. I have to thank my dear friend Odile Devaux who came to the hospital to be with me and stayed till I was ready to leave. Thankfully she was the sane one and told me that she would assist with finding a funeral home to work with.

Mom wanted to be buried in Saint Lucia so arrangements had to be made to take her back, plus she lived most of her life in New York and had an amazing network of friends and family there. I could not just take her to Saint Lucia without giving her friends in New York an opportunity to say good bye.

After Odile and her husband left, Ferrah came by and demanded I came over to her house. She did not feel that I should stay alone, however I needed some quiet time, wanted to stay in the apartment and hug my mom’s clothes and her photos and just be in her space. The house phone would not stop ringing from visitors. They all came to visit her at the hospital in the evening and was asked to contact family members. Most of her friends thought she had been moved and were shocked to hear she had passed. What could I say, I was still numb. We realized that the apartment was extremely cold and found out the heat was not working. The landlord said there was a problem and it would be fixed later, so that was the deal breaker for me. I went to Ferrah’s house after everyone left.

The following morning my girlfriend Evelyn Paul called me from Greece. Her exact words were she had a dream and my mom had asked her to pray with me and let me know all was well. The prayer was so fitting and I told her so. I then informed her that my mom had passed the day before. This was so profound because she did not know my mom had passed. I believed my mom sent me a message through Evelyn. She wanted me to know that she was ok.

My sister Christine arrived in New York the next day while Donovan, Gale and Janin decided to meet us in Saint Lucia. We had a funeral service to arrange. Odile was able to recommend a funeral home so we decided to make an appointment for the next day. We spent the night by Ferrah and my mom’s faithful friend, Trevor Maxwell came to pick us up in the morning.

 

Picking a Casket.

Our first stop was the funeral home, Frank J Barone. We sat and got ready to discuss why we were there. The words could not come out.  Oh my, I was burying my mom!!  Both my sister and I were inconsolable. The Funeral home director was extremely accommodating.  He asked me to take my time as he understands. I cried my heart out for a few minutes and then I prayed. I asked God for strength to do what’s best for my mom. I felt this calmness come over me and in my head the words Kel it will be ok. My mom was at my side, she was there to help me and strengthen me. She really was!

 

I was able to finalize all arrangements by God’s grace. We were going to have a service in the funeral home on Sunday January 11th and she would be transported to Saint Lucia on the following Tuesday. We then had to choose a casket. The toughest decision, once again the tears poured.  I had to compose myself again because someone had to make the decision. I felt she was right there by my side. We had decided that since her favorite color was lilac, a lilac casket would be most appropriate. As soon as I walked into that room, the very first casket was a beautiful lilac casket just perfect for my mom. I believe that my mom knew I was not strong enough to go through all the caskets and she made it easy for me. The very first casket was hers. I took a picture of mom’s casket and pictures of some others and sent to my siblings. They all said I should make the final decision but they liked the first one. The most difficult task became the easiest.

 

 

Picking her clothes.

I felt so relieved now the next step was getting her clothes. I had to get her a beautiful dress as her final outfit on this beautiful earth. What better place than her favorite shopping spot. My mom loved, loved a street called Pitkin. She always spoke about going to Pitkin to shop. This lady was in Pitkin every Saturday. At first I thought Pitkin was a store and then found out it was a street with lots of shopping. I had to get my mom clothes in Pitkin. Not Macy’s or Bloomingdales or Target but somewhere in Pitkin. I was lucky because my mom was guiding me. The second store we visited I found this beautiful two piece suit for her. The shop attendant coincidentally was from Saint Lucia. She was a great help. I got her stockings, shoes- yes I got her shoes. Flat ballet shoes worked perfectly. Picked up the under garments, hat and gloves. I felt happy because I know my mom would be pleased. I went to the house and picked up her pearl earring, necklace and her rosary. I felt that she was ready to meet her father. I asked the funeral home to trim her hair as it had grown too long while in the hospital and also her eyebrows needed shaping. Call me vain but she would want that.

 

Preparing the program

Having all clothes delivered to the funeral home, the next step was the program. We had two days to get everything done. I called my cousin Jean and she was absolutely amazing. We decided on the songs she loved and the readings etc. My mom was in her church choir and also a charismatic member so she was what we call a staunch Catholic. Jean took control of the program and we were blessed to have Father Theo Joseph for that service (a St. Lucian priest). When the program was ready I realized it had to be typed up to send to the printers. Odile to the rescue! She was able to type up the program, find the words of all the songs and send to the printers in record time. My mom had to be guiding me for everything to be going so smoothly.

I gave my sister the task of calling up all my mom’s friends to let them know of the funeral service details. I also placed it on my Facebook page for my friends. I continued to work with the printers because there were items missing in the program. I had to provide an obituary, I had to provide more songs and a poem and write the eulogy.

I was beginning to feel overwhelmed and called my husband for guidance and chatted for a while. He was coming in that evening to finalize all details and I was looking forward to it. I was able to finally complete the program. Once again, I was fortunate that the person I was working with was from where else? Saint Lucia. She was an absolutely wonderful person to work with. I told her what flowers my mom liked, her favorite color and we designed the program. Whew! So happy this one was in the bag.

While this is happening we had to empty my mom’s apartment. Now that was a task. We could not get rid of too much stuff because we would be serving refreshments at the apartment after the service. Did somebody say refreshments! Thank heavens for Odile, she told me don’t worry about anything. I gave her numbers and she had it covered. Apparently Hortensia Joseph and she had already decided to take care of this. I am truly blessed with such great friends.

 

My husband arrived and the next day we went to get items for the repast. We also had to return to the funeral home for final payment. Everything was in order, my mom’s body had been picked up the Friday and would be ready for the Sunday service. Her death certificate was ready and she was all set. We had to provide a burial date before the death certificate was issued. Agnes to the rescue, and a date was confirmed for the burial. Her flight arrangements was made and she was due to depart the following Tuesday. When I heard the flight arrangements the tears came flowing. My mom’s body would leave New York on January 13th, spend one night in GA and continue on to Saint Lucia the following day. This is exactly what we had planned while she was in the hospital. She would travel to GA and stay with me for a while and then fly or cruise to Saint Lucia. Isn’t this amazing? God listens. My prayers were answered, not the way I intended but God’s way. My mom did not suffer. She did not die alone, and I stayed by her side. She was ok.

 

Funeral Service

On the morning of January 11th I went to see my mom before the service. I wanted to be absolutely certain that she looked great. I arrived in the viewing room with a lump in my throat, I was not sure what to expect. Once I got closer to her, I felt a sense of calmness. She was in her casket looking beautiful. She looked and was at peace. I talked to her like she was there with me. I know she was listening because in my mind, I saw the smile on her face and I felt at ease.

The service was just what my mom would want. A true celebration of life. There were over one hundred friends and relatives who attended. Father Theo did a fantastic job and everyone said she was smiling. The most emotional part of the evening was after the service when so many of her friends, one after the other came to introduce themselves and told me what my mom did for them. “She took me in when I had no place to stay”. She took care of me and my new born baby for six months and never ask for a penny” I lived with your mom when I moved to NY and stayed with her for a year, she never took a penny from me. “She allowed me to work two days a week on her job so I can have some money”. My mom was my hero but hearing it from her friends, just brought the tears out. We went to the apartment for the repast and thanks to Odile and Hortensia, everything was set up and running. My sister Christine was not doing very well and she went to lay down. She woke up the next afternoon. I had to keep on touching her to make sure she was alive. I was just about to go take a nap when it dawned on me that we had to do this all over again when we lay my mom in her final resting place in Saint Lucia.

 

Saint Lucia

I know my mom did a great job with me because I have the most loving family and the greatest friends who have literally become my family. While I was in New York trying to work on the service and empty her apartments, I had a little army made up of Agnes Francis, Marie Ange Williams, Ingrid Millar and Angela Alphonse. Those ladies were and still are blessings. They literally took care of everything. Met with the priest, confirmed the funeral date, drafted the funeral program, helped me with the eulogy, prepared the death announcements and did whatever else that needed to be done. They just handled everything and once I arrived in Saint Lucia, there was very little to do. My sister and I had to purchase the tomb, meet with the priest to confirm details, arrange transportation, cater for the repast etc. It felt like organizing an event. My mom was always about family and friends and she got us all together. I know she was smiling and very pleased, she had her family together again.

 

Funeral and Burial

The night before the funeral the elders in the community came to our house to make wreaths and the prep the food. It was such a community event, young and old came to help. They cleaned and swept and sang for hours. The following morning the elder ladies were back at 5 am ready to start the cooking for the repast. They were catering for 300 people. I had never seen so much food before. The entire community was involved in this funeral arrangement. They brought food, cases of chicken, fish, pork, ground provisions, drinks and cakes and cakes and more cakes. We had enough food to feed 500 people after we were done. It was amazing to see how everyone came together to give my mom her celebration of life. My mom had a beautiful send off.

 

Her funeral was exactly what she would want. The music, songs of praises, and all the songs she loved. She had an absolutely beautiful service in a church filled to capacity. Everyone who knew her from a child to the person she was before she passed came to bid their farewell. I know she was pleased and smiling seeing she brought everyone together. We were in pain knowing that we would never see my mom again. My sister Gale had not seen mom before she passed and she had a hard time dealing with it. I think we all broke down at the graveside knowing that this was it. She is never coming home, she will never be at the family reunions that she so loved, and she will never be calling me again. A little part of me was ok that she never suffered. God don’t let his children suffer and he took my mom so she won’t suffer from cancer. My mom was laid to rest in her final place at exactly 4:15 pm. The casket was lowered and closed. A chapter in my life was closed. A piece of my heart went with her.

 

Blessing

The next morning the elders were back at 6:00 am as they came to clean up after the repast. The community was amazing and supported us 150%. It just reminded us of how wonderful a person my mom was. It reminded us that she did a great job with her kids because I have the most amazing friends who was there to support us every step of the way. It showed that no matter what, your family is your family and will always be there for you. While the elders were cleaning and chatting I just happened to join in a conversation. I acted upon the details heard and at exactly 4:15 pm, exactly 24 hours after my mom was laid to rest, my beautiful son, Elijah David Clarke was born. My mom knew how much we wanted to have a baby and I know in my heart she did this. I came home to bury my mom and I left with a blessing, a six pound bundle of joy. A new chapter in my life had started. Our God is an awesome God, my mom’s favorite song was playing my head. The journey continues!!!

 

 

 

 

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I have decided to continue reading my book. I started this blog in 2014 and so much happened that I felt compelled to stop writing for a while.  The end of 2014 and most of 2015 was full of challenges and despondency, mixed with some happiness, sadness and yes…. it was alright in the morning.

 That cough!
It all started in the middle of November with my mom and a persistent cough. I’m sure you all know where this will lead. My mom had this cough  for a while but we all assumed it was due to her blood pressure medication. The cough did not  worsen but she started having shortness of breath.  My mom routinely went to her family doctor every three months, followed her doctor’s advice during  her routine checks. As  a certified health aide  she had to have blood tests every few months as well so we thought she was 100% healthy. She exercised regularly  ate fish and broccoli, yes she was a health nut.   While speaking to my mom one evening which was customary, she sounded out of breath. I said nothing somehow  thought that she was just tired .  She later  spoke with my sister Janin who immediately rang and sounded the bell that mom was  out of breath while they were chatting.   I called her back  to confirm my sister’s suspicion.   I told her go visit her doctor . I further insisted that she should head  to the  emergency room  if she could not get an appointment  with her family doctor on such notice.  She agreed to go  after she had completed all her shopping because we were going to Saint Lucia in a few weeks.  My mom always did what I told her.  Sometimes I felt like the roles were reversed and I was the mom and she was the daughter.
She  finally went to Kings County Hospital on Thursday afternoon after her shopping spree, the lady was a bit stubborn sometimes. I called her every hour until her phone had no power left. I called the house later that evening and there was no answer.  I was worried all night as I had no telephone contact for her friends, such a shame on my part.
Eventually I received a call from the doctor from Kings County hospital. I was so relieved just to know she was ok. The doctor indicated that my mom was seen and they discovered she had fluid in her lungs so they were going to conduct further tests to find the source of the fluids. My mom spent eight days at the hospital conducting tests after tests. At first we thought this was just routine as she never really had such thorough exams and then, I began to research all the tests and all the reasons they were being done.  The panic settled in as I was unclear as to the result.  I had toyed with scenarios  from pneumonia to the big C and prayed it was pneumonia because I thought my sweet, loving, compassionate mom could not be stricken with cancer. I spoke with her daily as she asked me not to travel until we knew what was  going on. My sister who lives  in DC went to be with her  along with  family and friends. so   I also had a trip planned and she was adamant that I should not cancel the trip. I felt comfortable traveling because she had family and friends with her.
Diagnosis
I spoke to my mom everyday while I was out of the country, she always sound bubbly and reassured me she was was okay. She was always okay.  Three days before thanksgiving while I was in Thailand I called my mom to follow up on her, she had not been discharged as they were still conducting tests. The was was frightening.   She had been at Kings County for six  days now, they were draining the fluid out of her lungs.  Her breathing was becoming easier and that was a relief for us all.  The day before thanksgiving I called my mom and she told me that the news was not good.  I was upset that the doctors gave her her diagnosis while she was alone.  I listened to her while I was breaking  down on the other end.  I had to be strong for her as I know she would need me.  When I hung up the phone, I fell in a corner and cried my heart out.  It was the most heart wrenching news I could have imagined.  My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 Lung cancer. This is a woman who never smoked one day in her life and she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. How?   Why her? Why my family? She  was health conscious and did all the right things. She surely did not deserve this. My mom was a beautiful person.  She was scheduled to start chemotherapy on December 11 2014 and I told her I would be with her every step of the way.
Chemotherapy.
I flew to NY on the morning of December 11th to be there with my mom when she started chemo. I arrived at LAGuardia about 8am and jumped in a cab and went straight to the hospital.  I saw my mom for the first time in 3 months and I had to be really  strong not to burst out crying in her presence.  I hugged her so hard and when we let each other go, I quickly  told her that  I had to use the restroom.  I barely made it out of the room before I I felt my world was collapsing.  My mom had lost over 30 lbs  in such a short space of time.  She looked so frail and  fragile, it just broke my heart to see her this way. This was the saddest I had ever felt.  My strong beautiful selfless mother was sick and I could do nothing to help her.
I went to the bathroom cried my heart out, called my girlfriend and cried again. Then I had to put on my big girl panties and go be there for my mother. This is the time she needed me the most and I was not going to disappoint her.  I went back in the room and sat next to her. Wiped the tears off her face and told her that everything would be ok. Everything would be ok. Those were the the words she would always tell us when we weren’t feeling good.  I promised her I would be with her every step of the way.  I cancelled my return flight to Atlanta because there was no way I was leaving NY without my mom.
I helped her to the doctor’s office when when he was ready to see her.  I had my list of questions for the doctor and some I wanted to ask  privately. I found it very difficult to talk, there was this lump in my throat all the time. I listened to the Dr give her an update and it was not good news.  I became so angry, I was angry at her doctor, I was angry at the world, I was angry at myself, I was just very livid. I felt that I let my mom down. I should have been closer to her, spent more time with her, ask her more questions about her health.  I felt I had let her down and that made me hate myself even more. I became an emotional wreck and could barely talk to anyone.
My mom and I in LA

My mom and I in LA

Please spend more time with your mom, send her flowers, not just on mother’s day,  and talk to her.  Talk about everything and anything.
Emergency Room
After the doctor examined her, he noticed that she was very weak and tired.   She could barely walk for two minutes without help.  He indicated that the fluid had built up in her lungs again and she would have to go back to emergency room. He would not start her on chemotherapy as she was not strong enough.  My mom was disappointed as she was eager to start chemo as she felt that was the only thing to help her.  I had my reservations about chemotherapy as she was already so fragile and weak but she was adamant.
We went to the emergency department of Kings county on December 11 about 1pm and it was such a horrible experience.  What an eye opener………It was depressing It made that I was not financially able to do better for my mom. For all the years I have been working what did I have to show for it? Why didn’t I  ensure that she had better insurance than Medicare? Why didn’t I do better for my mom?
My mom spent five days in the horrible emergency department of Kings county hospital. She finally got a bed after I spoke with the nurse responsible for assigning rooms. I overheard her talking to another patient, trying to get him a room after he had been in ER for just one night. I don’t know where I got the strength to speak out and demanded that my mom got a room before her supposed family member. I told her I would call every newspaper in Brooklyn to let them know how sick patients are treated in this place.  I told her off in such a quiet and soft spoken manner that I think she felt sorry for me and was shocked at the same time.   I had to leave the ER after visiting hours was over about 7 pm, and told my mom that  if the gentleman in the space next to her gets a room before her, please call me.  The emergency area was a nightmare, very noisy,  meals were scarce.  My mom could not sleep at all, she was getting worse in that hell hole. There were no chairs for visitors so I stood by her bed all day because I refused to leave her for too long.
When I arrived back at the apartment that night, I called my mom about 9pm.  She was happy to report that she had been given a room. I was relieved. Finally she could take a nap and feel a little better.
I was back at her side the next morning as I wanted to be there early enough to see the doctors when they made their rounds. I needed to know what to expect, at every step. My mom just wanted to know when chemotherapy would start. She told me she just wanted that “cancer” thing out of her so she could live her life. My heart broke into a million little pieces because my mom believed that she would be healed. She believed in miracles and always said everything would be ok. I am a believer of miracles but after researching her diagnosis and talking to the doctors my mom would need a miracle and God’s intervention, I prayed for that miracle. I asked my friends to pray for my mom, I asked my family to pray for her. I did not realize that I knew how to pray until that moment.  I had conversations with the Father every chance that I got.  I just wanted my mom to be healed and not suffer from her diagnosis.
I met with my mom’s doctor privately and spoke to him.  I told him just please tell me everything so I can do what’s best for my mom. He said the chemo would just extend her life and not cure her. The illness had taken a toll on her body and was very aggressive.  I asked if she refuses the chemo would she be stronger as I know chemo can weaken your body.  He said yes the chemo would do more damage than good at this time but it was the only option.  My mom was scheduled for a pleurodesis procedure to treat the pleural effusion.  I was relieved that she would get some sort of relief from the fluid build up near her lungs.
Moving to GA
I called my husband and discussed my mom’s condition with him. I told him I wanted to bring her home to GA to stay with us. I would have more support in GA and be able to take care of her. He said absolutely yes. I went back to the doctor and told him of my plans. He said that would be ok as they can give me all of her medical records.  I then discussed the situation with my mom. She was all for it, very excited and could not wait.  I made plans to take her to Saint Lucia as  soon as she got stronger as she wanted to go back to her sweet Saint Lucia. We decided we would go by cruise as we were also planning a cruise for her 65th birthday.
Well all those plans were short lived came crashing down when I met the pulmonary doctor.  He mentioned that mom was not in the condition to fly, it would be too risky, she could not fly with her condition.  Once again, the tears came gushing down. I asked him what about driving? He said that was ok but it would be hard on her body. I had a little faith then but was very skeptical that I would be doing more damage to her. I decided then that  we would still plan to do the drive.  When she gets better we would drive to GA, hopefully in a week or two.   I went back to be with my mom and just chatted. We chatted all day, laughed and cried and enjoyed each others company. She was placed on a diabetic diet and the food at the hospital was not very appealing. I decided to take my mom’s meal order every day and prepare her meals for her from home. I know she loved salmon and broccoli so that would be her first meal order.
Meal Delivery
I surprised her the next day with her salmon and vegetables. She was so relieved that she did not have to eat subway sandwiches anymore or the lousy hospital food. I told her to let me know exactly what she wanted to eat everyday and it would be delivered. I went home every evening excited about preparing my mom’s lunch. I enjoyed watching her eat and it made me smile.  When I arrived in the morning she would light up the room with the brightest smile that would melt anyone with a  stone heart. My mom was that type of person. She was always  so happy to see me and I was so happy to be with her as we enjoyed each other’s company.   The word started spreading that Maddo as she was affectionately called was hospitalized and I swear everyone  in Brooklyn knew my mom. She had so many visitors and it just made me happy to see her surrounded by all the people who loved her. On a Sunday my mom’s room  would have had over 15 visitors at any one time. Her friends came from  as far as CT and NJ to spend time with her.
My mom was taken to the OR to prep for her pleurodesis procedure.  I sat with her until they were ready to take her in.  When she was done I was called to sit with her.  She was groggy and sleepy so the doctor asked that I  go home as she would be sleeping for a while.  I took that opportunity to ask him how the procedure went.  He indicated that they could not complete the procedure because my mom’s right lung was riddled with tumors.  It was so hard that they couldn’t do anything.  Her right lung was completely gone and half of the left lung.  That was just too much for one to take.  I must have passed out because when I came to the doctor was trying to make me sip some water, with a few of his colleagues near by.  This news hit me harder than the cancer diagnosis.  I figured it could not get any worse so I asked the Dr, what happens next.  he said nothing! Nothing! There was absolutely nothing they could do for her.  How can a child tell her mother that she is dying?  This is not fair.  This is the woman who brought me to this world and now I can do  absolutely nothing to help her.  This is a cruel, cruel world.
One of my mom’s very close friend Ferrah started visiting when she found out my mom was hospitalized. Ferrah would cook for her as well and we decided to do a shift system. I would bring lunch and visit early and she would bring dinner and come later in the afternoon. This was a perfect arrangement. Ferrah was my savior, she was not only there for my mom but for me. We stayed till 7pm every night and took the bus together.  She invited me to stay with her as she felt I should not be alone in the apartment. I told her my brother would be arriving soon and I would be ok. I also had to spend my nights cleaning and packing my mom’s apartment as we had decided that she would not be going back there. My brother finally arrived, surprised me as always. I was mad at him for a minute not sure why though.
Christmas Day
My husband arrived  a day after my brother and I was just so happy to see him. He was my support and we spoke every day for hours.  He helped me go through so many sleepless nights. We spent Christmas Day with my mom.  I cooked a nice Christmas lunch fitting for the queen she was. Thanks to my friend Odile who brought me a fruit cake to add to our meal. My mom enjoyed her meal thoroughly. We wanted to make her feel normal even though she was in the hospital and she was very happy. She never stop smiling no matter how bad she felt. It took very little to make my mom happy.  Her pain level was always at the six and we laughed every time she was asked about her her pain. What’s your pain level today Ms Fontenelle? Hmmm? Six. She was funny. I enjoyed taking care of her as that was all I could do now. My brother started giving her massages and that just warmed my heart. He helped her and showed her how to exercise her limbs as she had difficulty moving around. This really concerned me as my mom was not getting better. I asked the resident doctor what was happening as she walked in her on December 11 and  by December 25, she can barely walk to the bathroom? His answers were always the same, her illness is very aggressive. How freaking comforting.
 SVT
My mom was scheduled for  surgery  on the morning of December 26th for a pleurx catheter.  That would help the fluid to be drained from her lungs and help her breathing a little easier.  Before the procedure she had to have a blood transfusion as she was anemic and her blood level was too low. When we arrived at the hospital on December 26, she had been moved to a different floor. I did not ask why but she was being monitored more closely on the 4th floor, however I did notice she was hooked on more machines and also a heart monitor.  My brother Donovan and husband were chatting with her about her night and how she spent it. She was her usual jovial self as always.  I was staring at the machine and noticed her pulse rate was going up. It just started climbing and climbing. I watched my mom and the machine. I was going back and forth for a few seconds and I asked her if she was ok. She said Kel I’m fine. I said are you sure she said yes I’m fine. I was curious and just then a team of Doctors came rushing into her room. They asked us to step out for a minute and started talking to her. “Are you ok, do you feel sick, etc etc’. They spent about 15 minutes with her. As soon as they left my brother and husband returned to my mom.  I followed the doctors and called the resident doctor. I asked what was this all about? I told him I noticed the monitor  but she seems ok.  He said my mom developed a heart condition called SVT.( Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT, PSVT) Overview. Supraventricular tachycardia is a rapid heart rate (tachycardia, or a heart rate above 100 beats per minute) that is caused by electrical impulses that originate above the heart’s ventricles) My response was are you f….  kidding me?  What caused this? As always the illness?  Was that why her  room was changed? Yes.  Only to find out that a few hours after her blood transfusion she had the first SVT encounter. I told the the doctor that I just happened to be staring at the machine when this was happening but my mom had no reaction. What happens if this SVT thing comes on when she goes home? His answer shocked me. Your mom is not going back to her home? She will need round the clock care from a physician.  I could not take any more news. I walked away and headed to the bathroom to cry out my anger. I came back to my mom’s room and she saw my face. Kel what happened? Were you crying? No mom, my allergies. Yes right in the middle of winter.  I told my husband later about the diagnosis and the effects. Our plans road trip to GA, then cruise to Saint Lucia was beginning to look very  bleak.
If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans (Woody Allen).  I believe this now, thanks Woody.
I went home that evening feeling so sad, broken and useless. The next morning I decided to do the laundry.  I was so pissed because I realized I had to go out and find a public laundry. I’m wondering why does my mom like this hell hole so much. She loved living in NY. She loved Brooklyn. Whenever she came to visit me in GA, she was always happy to go back to her wonderful  NY.  While waiting for my laundry to be dried, I received a call from the hospital. Mom was scheduled for surgery to place the pleurx catheter but it could not be done because of her insurance. The after care was very expensive and they needed some form of payment assurance before they could do it.  I indicated that she had Medicaid and I was told that it would cover it. The system showed she had no Medicaid. They gave me a website to go and apply to a charitable organization that would supply the bottles for the pleurx catheter.  I went online but my fingers could not work. I decided to go the hospital anyway and speak with the doctor. I indicated to him that I would pay for the bottles. I just needed my mom to have the surgery so she can have a better quality of life. They had to  reschedule anyway because she had missed her appointment.  One day later the system was updated and yes my mom had Medicaid, thank God.
Both my husband and my brother left after Christmas and  I was alone again. Not quite alone, my friend Ferrah was there with me everyday plus my mom’s other friends came to visit. We tried to keep her in good spirits. We continued watching her soap operas on the iPad catching up with all the missed episodes.  She was always smiling and no matter how terrible her diagnosis.  The cancer had spread all over yet my mom was in the best spirits.  She was not quite sure how bad she was but she was happy and I was not going to give her any bad news.  She believed that we were going to GA and then Saint Lucia and that’s how it was going to be.
I started reading more about lung cancer and the effects. I was mad at myself for reading so much but felt I needed to be a step ahead. I would go look for signs of anything I read. The first major sign was using the restroom. I  would always ask my mom if wanted to use the restroom and she would say no or told me she used it before I came. I knew she said that so I would stop but I was getting concerned because I would bring her her special water every morning, plus a smoothie.  I would be with her from about 8am till about 7pm, and she would not use the bathroom. She would also nod off to sleep so quickly, taking little naps in the middle of our conversations. I knew that was not good and mentioned it to Ferrah. Ferrah said she noticed as well and was a bit concerned. We left her about 7pm and I went home to come for more research.  The more I read, the sadder but I could not stop researching.
My brother and sisters called everyday and most days my mom nor me would speak to anyone.  She was getting more and more tired.  She would put her phone off sometimes and tell me she doesn’t want to speak with anyone.  I was also very tired, both physically and emotionally to relieve my days so I too shut most people out.
On Sunday January 4 my mom had a parade of visitors.  This was the most friends she had seen in one day and she was so happy.  Her friends laughed joked, went down memory lane and just gave her a beautiful Sunday.  She was smiling from cheek to cheek.  Monday morning I went to see her early as she was scheduled to have a small procedure done.  They were going to finally put in the catheter so she can go home.  I was ecstatic, my mom was finally leaving this place to go home and be more comfortable.  This was a wonderful birthday gift as this was also my birthday.  I went in pre op with her and then waited till after surgery.  It was a short procedure so she was out in about 3 hours.  She was not groggy at all when she went back to her room.  I brought her soup nut she wanted a subway sandwich.  I left her and went across the street and bought a tuna salad on whole wheat.  She thoroughly enjoyed her sandwich. We spent the rest of the afternoon chatting, checking facebook and watching soap operas.  This was my best birthday because I spent it all with my mom.  I could not ask for anything else.
There was one downer that day though.   A team from palliative care came to see my mom. They came in while I had gone out for a drink and I was livid when  I returned and met them discussing palliative or hospice care with her.  As soon as I walked in she asked them to talk to me as she was not in the mood.  I could see she was very distraught.  She had been praying for a miracle and believing that she would walk out of the hospital cancer free and  now they want to discuss hospice care. In the end she said she did not need their hospice care because she was going to GA with her daughter.  How much pain can one person take?  God doesn’t give you more than you can handle so apparently I could still take, but why did he have so much faith in me.
 
Before I left I reminded my mom that I was leaving for GA the next morning and my sister Christine would be arriving tomorrow to be with her.  I had also asked her girlfriend to come spend the day with her until Christine arrived as I did not want her to spend a day alone.  She was ok.  I explained to her that I would be back in a few days as I had to go back to work but would return.  She said she was fine and understood.  I was sad and did not want to leave her but it was just for a few days.  I would be back the following week. She assured me that  she was ok.  I hugged her tight, did not want to let go, kissed her and told her I would see her next week.
That 2am Phone Call.
I always heard about that 2am phone call but until it happens to you, you have no idea.  My phone rand about 2am or later.  I woke up not because I had heard the phone but because I had that feeling.  I looked at my phone and saw the missed call had come in about 2:10am.  I redialed the number but got a recording from the hospital.  I then listened to the message and redialed the number that was left.   Yes it was Kings County hospital and a doctor had called.  She just asked me to call her back.  I called back right away and got the Dr.  She wanted to know if I knew how sick my mom was?  What the hell kind of question is that?  I told her I knew my mom was very sick but when I left her she was fine.  She said I should come right away.  I jumped in the shower with my pyjamas on as I was not thinking.  I called my husband and he finally picked up on the third ring.  I know he understood nothing I was saying because I was just crying in the phone.  He kept on saying calm down and I kept on screaming my mom is sick.  I hung up to call a car service and they were on their way.  I went outside to wait when I called my husband again.  The car finally arrived and I was crying hysterically.  When I arrived at the hospital, my phone rang again and it was the doctorr calling me.  I told her I was almost in my mom’s room.
When I arrived in the room there were about six doctors around my mom bedside.  She had an endotracheal tube attached to a ventilator.  This was not the person I left a few hours ago.  How could she have gone from smiling to being on a machine now.  I could not handle seeing her this way.  This was not the tower of strength I knew,  my strong loving mom.  The single mother who raised five children.  Ensured that  everyone  was always fed, well groomed  instilled the right principles and got an education.  She struggled and worked hard for her kids.  My mom was my mentor, biggest fan, biggest supporter and my queen.  She was not that person attached to the machine.
Decision
 The resident doctor sat with me and tried to console me.  He told me that my mom was not not doing well at all.  She had 3 cardiac arrest from about 10pm the night before.  They had resuscitated her but wanted to find out what she wanted.   They also felt that they had done some damage to her ribs while trying to bring her back every time.  They needed to know if she had a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate order).  At the end of the consultation, the doctor’s final advice was that my mom was really gone just being kept  alive on machines so I had to make a decision now.  How horrible can they be?  I called my husband and told hi what was going on.  I then conferenced my brother and sisters in but asked the doctors to update them of what had transpired.  I could not talk anymore. My siblings were just crying on the phone or and could not understand what was going on.  They asked me to make the final decision as I was the only one there with mom.  I had already decideed that no matter what, I would not pull the plug on my mom.  I called my best friend in Saint Lucia and she just knew that it was not good.  I just wanted to hear a calm voice.  While I was on the phone about 4:45am, my mom had another cardiac arrest.  The doctors said that they could do nothing more after this.
I went to sit with my mom and was just praying and watching her.  She looked so peaceful.  Is this what I was praying for?  No suffering?  I sat with my mom from about 6am until about 10am when she started to move.  The nurse told me she was waking up.  By this time there were two of my mom’s friend and my colleague Odile who treked in the snow to come be with me.  They felt I should not be aolne.  My mom opened her eyes about  up about 10:15 am and I was so excited.  I believed that she was coming to.  I called everyone and told them she had woken up and she was ok. She tried to talk to me but she could not with the treach in her throat.  That right there broke me down because I so wanted to hear her voice.  She tried to pull the treach from her mouth and the nurse then put mittens on her hands.  The nurse indicated that my mom was awake and was aware of her surroundings.  I started to talk to her and told her she would be ok.  She signaled that she was hot so I used a book to fan her.  My mom was freezing cold but the beads of sweat was continuous on her face.  I continued to fan her until one of her friends came to help.  I could not handle seeing her that way.  It was devastating.  She stayed up until about 11:20 am and started to doze of every few minutes.  I sat with her and talked and just held her hands.  I massaged her forehead, her neck to make her comfortable.  I knew my mom was going because all the signs were there.  The cancer had spread aggressively throughout her body, her organs had failed, she just experienced cardiac arrests and now she was being kept alive by a machine.  Everything happened so quickly, literally overnight.
Sunset
My mom opened her eyes a few times between 11:30 and midday.  She looked around her to see who was there and went back to sleep.  I kept holding and playing with her hands, as that was all I could do.  One of the employees came and asked if I wanted to see a priest.  My mom is a catholic and I know she would want that.  I asked for the priest to come by but they could not find him. One of the cleaners told me to just pray with her, so I started praying.  I prayed and cried and prayed and cried because it finally dawned on me my mom was not coming back.  At exactly 12: 35 she opened her eyes for the very last time.  She looked around. looked up and she was gone.  My mom left this beautiful earth and went to meet her father.  The nurse then came in said she had to get the ME to call the death.  My mom was gone. January 6th 2015, I was lost and could not understand what had just happened.
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Europrime Hotel, South Africa

Europrime Hotel

Europrime Hotel

Europrime Hotel

Our Accommodation in South Africa was the beautiful Europrome 4 star guest house. The property is located in Boksburg West Gauteng. The 41 room property is a very modern self-contained guest. The rooms are all air-conditioned, LCD flat screen televisions, coffee and tea making facilities, mini refrigerator and free Wi-Fi service. The bathrooms are very clean with showers only, hair dryer and a long mirror. I was very impressed with the long mirror. The rooms also has large closets and also an in room safe. The property is located in a beautiful neighborhood with gated security, lovely and very pleasant staff. An enjoyable buffet breakfast is included in your rate and the property is located near the East Rand Mall, restaurant shopping and nightly entertainment. Shuttle service is provided to and from the airport, there is free secure parking and a tour desk to book your safari. The property also has conference facilities just in case it is needed on your vacation. Overall a very welcoming experience, great staff, good breakfast and wonderful inexpensive accommodation in South Africa.

Europrime Hotel

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Mandela House, Soweto South Africa.

Mandela House, West Soweto.

Mandela House

Mandela House

 

A must do while in Johannesburg South Africa is the Mandela House. The Mandela House is located on 8115 Orlando West on the corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane Streets Soweto.  The house was built in 1945 and Nelson Mandeal moved there in 1946 with his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase and his first son.  After their divorce in 1957, his second wife Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela (Winnie) joined him in the house.  Though Mandela stayed there briefly with Winnie as he was forced underground until his arrest and imprisionment in 1962 and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964.  After his release from Runbben Island in 1990, Nelson Mandela returned to the house for 11 days.  He then moved to Beverly Hills Soweto and then to Houghton.  The house now a museum has loads of history of the struggle of Winnie and her daughters and historical significance for the Mandela family. A definite must do while in Soweto South Africa.

 

Mandela House

Mandela House

 

Mandela House

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Johannesburg, South Africa

Johannesburg, South Africa

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We decided to visit South Africa and took the Delta nonstop flight from Hartsfield Jackson to O.R Tombo International in Johannesburg South Africa.  While settling down I was thinking that this is the longest nonstop flight I have ever experienced and decided to do a little research.  (The second place for longest flight is Delta’s route from Johannesburg to Atlanta and due to wind currents, it spends about 90 minutes longer in the sky than the Quantas flight with the longest nonstop route.  At just 5 minutes shy of 17 hours, this is the longest scheduled duration of any flight in the world currently) Thanks Google. So apparently I would be getting back on the longest scheduled commercial flight, I should have done my research on my return . The flight to Johannesburg was quite smooth, and very comfortable.  When travelling such long distance, if you can’t buy a business class ticket I would definitely recommend an economy comfort seat. Your body will appreciate the extra leg room to wiggle around and sleep comfortably.  Drink lots of water and stretch every 30 minutes or so, this will definitely make you more comfortable and have the blood circulating as it should.   After flying for 15 hours, we landed safely in Johannesburg, and though we were a little exhausted but ready to explore.  Passport control and customs was a breeze.  I was quite impressed with the human thermal sensor to detect any heat or fever in your body.  The landing form is a health questionnaire so they are very concerned about the health of everyone visiting South Africa.   It was truly a breeze getting out to the car rental area.  If you plan on renting a car and you are not comfortable with a manual transmission, you need to request automatic as almost   75% of the rental cars are manual transmissions.   Once we got were comfortable with directions to Eurporime, our home for the next 5 days, we set out on our adventure.  After a 15 hour flight the very first thing you would want to do is jump in a shower, a nice warm shower. Europrime provided a splendid shower.

Europrime Guest House

Europrime Guest House

 

After that was completed, you then realized that you are famished.  The closest place for food was the East Rand Mall in Boksburg.  East Rand Mall gave us two reasons to visit. (1) to check out the shopping and (2) to find some good African food.  We found out that everyone, regardless of nationality loves a good bargain as the mall was rather busy.   We settled for the  Ocean Basket in the mall.  Ocean Basket served seafood and the place was bustling.  Optimistically that meant the food was good.  The two storey restaurant was quite busy on a Friday night and everyone was just so pleasant.  We ordered the seafood platter for two with a side of butter squash and creamed spinach. With a wonderful selection of South African wine, the meal was definitely tastier and exactly what was needed.  Our first day was definitely a good start to our South Africa trip!!!

Good Food

Good Food

 

On our second day we continued the trip with a visit to Soweto, former home of Nelson Mandela and visited the Mandela House museum.

Mandela House

Mandela House

 

We also stopped by the Soweto Theatre. We indulged in some shopping, enjoyed a nice dinner with really good wine and visited some more in Soweto.   A visit to Kruger National Park was a must on the list as you cannot visit South Africa and not enjoy a safari.  Two full days in the Safari was good enough for us but you can spend so much time there watching the animals in their natural habitat. What a wonderful experience, definitely something to add to your bucket list.

Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park

 

 

We started our Sunday worshiping at the Cathedral Church of St Dunstan in Benoni.  Definitely a heartwarming service with The Reverend Phill Laurings and his congregation.  The service was lively fun and very educational.  We left feeling a bit more empowered than when we had arrive and this is always a good thing.   Our fifth and final day we spent in Pretoria and did some sightseeing. Unquestionably a beautiful city.  We saw the site of the Presidential offices, beautiful terrace gardens and the most amazing view of the city.  We watched the sunset and was just astonished by its beauty. Certainly a Kodak moment for your memory as no camera can replicate this awesome sight.

Union Building grounds

Union Building grounds

 

This is a must on your visit to South Africa. On our way to the airport we visited the home of the late Nelson Mandela in Houghton as this ended our quick trip to South Africa.  This was an amazing and undeniably once in a lifetime.

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