MAY of 2010 is a month Paulette Morgan-Rhoden will never forget — it was the beginning of a series of health issues that saw her whole world being turned upside down.
A woman who believes in striving to make her dreams come true, Morgan-Rhoden schooled her two children, saw them through the worst, and was looking forward to relaxing and taking it easy when a visit to the doctor confirmed her worst fears — she had breast cancer.
"It was shocking, but I took it with a humble heart because I know the God I serve," she told All Woman.
After doing the biopsy, when the doctor called her in, Morgan-Rhoden said she made a promise to the Lord before hearing the results.
"I said, 'Lord if it's not cancer I will serve you; if it's cancer I'll still serve you'."
The doctor told her she had stage four cancer.
Keeping her focus after that, she said, depended on her relying on strong family members, while reaching out to those who were not so brave. The news also came at a time when she was dealing with her own mother's diagnosis of colon cancer.
"I asked the Lord to keep my focus," she said. In fact she was so confident in God's mercies that she told her doctor, "This is not going to stay in my body, I'm going to fight it".
And so she made up her mind that whatever came her way she would be fighting it.
However, little did she know that she would have to be fighting a whole lot harder than she originally thought.
In July 2012 after aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatment, she left for Georgia, USA, to see her grandson and to visit her ailing mother in Curaçao. She never made it to her mother's bedside as while in Georgia, she got news that her mom had a stroke and passed away.
"With the devastation of my mom's passing everything came back to me," she said.
Rhoden said she started feeling ill, was always coughing and having breathing issues.
She returned to Jamaica in November that year and was back at the hospital with her new symptoms. A Computerised Tomography (CT Scan) revealed that she also had lung cancer.
"After that result I was a bit devastated to tell the news to my children and family, but being a woman of God I trusted Him that He would work this out too just like he did before," Morgan-Rhoden said.
Her faith was surely tested two weeks later, after she felt a pain in her hip and brought it to her doctor's attention.
A bone marrow scan showed the cancer had found itself there.
"That was my New Year's gift," she said.
But with her never-say-die attitude, Morgan-Rhoden didn't allow it to get her down.
"My cousin collected the results for me and she didn't want to read it to me. She called my other family members and when she finally read it to me everyone thought I would crumble," said Morgan-Rhoden, adding that when she eventually got the result she told them, "He'll do it again for me and this is just a test so I can give my testimony'".
She has been doing just that at the church she attends — Miracle Tabernacle Free Town Church of God of Prophecy in Clarendon — even as she struggles to keep up with the mounting medical bills for her treatment.
"I thank God for the way He has been keeping me. When people look at me they don't even know my level of suffering," she said.
Come January 2014, Morgan-Rhoden will have to embark on a course of treatment with the drug Herceptin — a whopping $220,000 per dose — and she will be needing 17 doses.
And though she cannot identify the first cent, she still believes God will come through for her.
"My funds have been completely depleted. As the New Year approaches I will be looking for a miracle to meet this new challenge in my life. The Lord has brought me this far and I know He will help me to cross over this hurdle too, so another life can be spared from this dreaded disease," said the woman who hails from York Town Clarendon and is now a resident of Longville Park in the same parish.
Reaching out to fellow cancer patients, Morgan-Rhoden encourages: "Never give up. What the mind can conceive it can achieve. The important thing is to always keep a positive outlook."