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Rosemarie Langoth is a born survivor

Longville Park resident not giving up despite huge challenges

BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Sunday Observer staff reporter husseyd@jamaicaobsever.com

Sunday, May 18, 2014    

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ROSEMARIE Langoth has been held up, robbed, kidnapped, has escaped rape, lived in constant fear, and has gone through nine surgeries in order to survive.

Langoth, now 52, has been having surgeries since she was 12 years old. The procedures, she explained, are done to remove lumps from her breasts, which pop up on average every two years.

"The first time that I had a lump I was studying for class exams. It was like I heard a voice call my name, and like the voice said 'put your book down, lie on your back and take your right hand and pivot on your left chest,'" she recalled. "When I did, I found something the size of an egg, and that was the start of my surgeries. It was benign, but I realised that they were appearing two years apart," she said.

In 1994 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to remove her left breast.

"At the time that I was doing my self-examination I felt something very small but it disappeared as soon as I felt it. I went to the doctor and told him something was inside of me and when he examined me he said nothing was there and that I was to put on back my clothes. I went back and sat in front of him and I said 'Listen to me, I'm telling you that something is inside of me that needs to come out now and you need to cut me and take it out'. He said 'but I have not felt anything', and I told him I know something was there. He told me to go back around and he came back to examine me. When he digged and probed he said that he felt something and he told me to do the mammogram but the test came back negative," she said.

Despite the mammogram showing negative, the doctor's examination and her own self-exam were enough for her to have the medic cut her to remove tissues for testing.

"I said to him, 'I am telling you to cut me', and he did the surgery. He took something out and sent it to test," she said. "When I was home for the two weeks recuperating he called. In all my surgeries none of the doctors had ever called, so I knew it must be serious. When he said I had cancer I froze. He said I was lucky because it did not engulf anywhere else. It was down in the rib cage so that is why they could not find it at first. So it was a decision whether to do radiation or take off the breast. I decided to take off the breast because it had been giving me problems from childhood and we keep cutting the same breast over and over and over," she stated.

"When I found out I had cancer, after two years I realised that I did not find any more lumps as was customary. From ever since I have been having check-ups. It is only through faith and eating healthy that has kept me going.

"Even before I started doing surgeries I remember my mom had to always rush me to the hospital for one thing or the other. As a child, I labelled myself as a hospital baby... not that I hated myself, but I resented that life was so cruel and because of the lifestyle that I lived and when I saw other youths who were so mischievous and didn't live by any sort of rules I always ask God, why me? In my 20s I was hospitalised for two weeks, but I don't even know why. The doctor didn't go into details with me. He told my aunt who had taken me, but I was in denial. I just didn't want to know so I didn't ask," she said.

Langoth also recalled one severe illness that rendered her crippled and helpless to the point where she could not even turn herself over on the bed. To date, she said, the doctors have not diagnosed what her condition was. That was 10 years ago.

She recalled waking up and not feeling any sort of pain but when she tried getting off her bed she could not move. She had to be rushed to the hospital.

"I remember saying to myself that this is worse than cancer because when I had cancer I could move around. But not knowing what this was and not being able to move on my own when they examined me at that hospital they say they didn't know what they were dealing with so they sent me to UWI."

She said that a number of tests were done but nothing found. After a few days she was discharged.

"When I asked why I was discharged I was told that they didn't know what was wrong with me so they didn't know how to treat me because they had no idea what they were dealing with," she said.

"I couldn't bathe for two weeks," she recalled. "My hair couldn't be combed because you couldn't prop me up to comb my hair. My entire body had just gone limp like I had no bones," she went on.

Langoth, who grew up in the church and was a Christian since age six, questioned God as to why all these illnesses were befalling her.

"I remember I said if doctors can't cure me then You are the greatest physician. I believe in You that You can heal me. Immediately I was able to stand up," she revealed.

To date, it has not been discovered what the cause of her illness was.

Langoth explained that a few months after she did the mastectomy in 1994, doctors discovered what was known as redundant colon, in that she had too much colon. She was told then that when she got older she may have complications.

Today, 20 years later, those words have come true.

"I was told that there was a possibility that they may have to remove some, but because of my case with cancer I have to make sure that I don't have blockage of stool and that sort of thing in order to poison the system, and which could give me colon cancer," she said.

Langoth's father died of colon cancer years ago, while her older sister is a survivor of the same cancer. Her sister was also diagnosed with another type of cancer in the chest region three years ago.

"So I'm having some complications now. Last year I was sick for about six months. I could not go in the sun, I couldn't even open the door for the sun to come in the house," she stated. "I started having these severe lower back pains, that when I lie down I cannot move, I have to pull myself up. When I went to the doctor he said my body was losing protein too fast. He gave me a prescription and for me to come back to him but I haven't gone back since then because of funds and because I am not working," she said.

She has since eliminated certain foods from her diet and resorted to home remedies in order to ease her pain. She explained that even her bones have begun to hurt and she has to apply her own exercise in order to ease them.

Langoth did a colonoscopy a year-and-a-half ago and was told by the doctor that a tumour was spotted on the outside of the colon. She was sent to do another test at the University Hospital of the West Indies to confirm.

"I have not been back to University Hospital. I still have the letter sealed. I should have gone now and done some tests on the other breast because I am under a type of watch. A tumour was found in my right breast and was removed and I was told by the doctor that if it recurs, he would just do one thing and remove the breast entirely, whether or not the results show negative or positive for cancer," she revealed.

The Longville Park Sports Department, of which she is a member, has decided to have fund-raisers for persons within the housing scheme who are having problems with their health and has decided to make Langoth the first recipient.

A gospel concert will be staged at the Longville Park Community Centre on Sunday, June 1, in order to assist Langoth with medical bills.

"She is one of our committed, hard-working volunteers at Longville Park," President of the Longville Park Citizen's Association Baldvin McKenzie said.

"We classify her as the mother of Longville Park. She has written our anthem, theme song and created our own dish, which is the pumpkin dish. We see her as our very own 'Ms Lou'," he added.

McKenzie said that even though Langoth has been sick for many years, if she does not tell you, you would never know, because she participates in all the activities happening in the community. "She sets the foundation for Longville Park," he said. "She is very disciplined, and if she sees the youngsters on the street she will get them in."

The president said that Langoth has done so much for the people in Clarendon and would go the extra mile to help those in need, and it is only fitting that the community should give back to her.

An account will be set up to assist not only Langoth

but others in the community suffering ill health, and persons everywhere are being asked to contribute.

Langoth said that she has not received a cost from the doctor as she has not been able to visit in recent time, nor does she know what is inside the sealed letter that she has been holding for over a year. However, the former employee of the Clarendon Parish Council now needs to do a chest X-ray and ultrasound to determine what is happening in the region where her left breast once was, an ultrasound and mammogram on the right breast where the tumour was found, and another colonoscopy.

"What they have been doing now is checking me because of my age. But I just have to have faith that nothing else is wrong inside of me because I have waited so long to go back to check," she said.

Despite her situation, Langoth is not throwing in the towel. She has since written a book, My life with Christ, and is awaiting funds for its publication. She has also been writing songs and working with a musician trying to put things together to launch her four songs. One of her songs, Shut U Down is receiving positive comments on YouTube.

The former Vere Technical High School athlete and former fashion designer for Kingston and St Andrew Festival queens, and runway models said that if she gets her book published, this would help in some way to deal with her health issues.

She said that it is her neighbours, friends and her sister who have been her lifesavers as they ensure that she eats properly, even though she has not been working.

"It's very nerve-racking even though I know persons have worse situations than I have, because, thank God, I didn't have to do chemotherapy or radiation when they found the cancer, because it had just started."

But giving up is not in Langoth's vocabulary as she continues to live her life undaunted.

Langoth, who moved into the Longville Park Housing Scheme in October 2003, was elected president of the Longville Park Citizens Association by January of the following year. She served in the position for three years before stepping down.

Apart from writing a song for the community which is being used as the community's anthem, she set up a registered cultural organisation in the community, served as public relations officer for the association for two years, and is still actively involved in the operations of the organisation.

Those wishing to assist can do so by contacting Langoth at 1876 899 2268.

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