Mom adamant son will beat cancer
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Vanessa Williams-Morgan is dedicated to the mission of seeing her 12-year-old son Rajé Josephs beat stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Rajé was diagnosed with cancer in 2019 at the age of nine, after his mother observed a swollen lymph node in his neck. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which is part of the body’s immune system.
Rajé underwent multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, which led to the cancer going into remission. However, it returned earlier in January. Determined to help her son fight the disease, Williams-Morgan immediately looked into other treatment options.
The Jamaica Observer understands this was what led the mother-son duo to India, where they have been for the last six months. Williams-Morgan said her son has since completed six cycles of immunotherapy and a stem cell transplant, and is now undergoing radiation.
For Williams-Morgan, the journey to India has not been the easiest as she was told by doctors that her son had a five per cent chance of surviving the treatment, due to the severity of the cancer.
A PET scan done on arrival in India revealed that the cancer had spread to Rajé’s bones, back, and legs, but his mother told the Sunday Observer that her commitment to seeing her son through the battle did not waver.
“We are living in answered prayers because we have been praying for this and we have come this far. When we came here I remember that the doctor pulled me outside and said, ‘I am not going to tell you what to do but I am going to tell you straight up where we are. The chances are slim for him to survive this and for this to work.’ I decided to go ahead regardless, and they rallied around me,” Williams-Morgan explained.
“They gave me the facts and they didn’t hold anything back. They told me exactly what was happening and what the possibilities were if they went ahead but I can say, ‘Thanks be to God that he has surpassed all expectations,’ ” she added.
Though she received the heartrending news Williams-Morgan decided to hold down the fort and remain positive for her son. That was not easy, Williams-Morgan admitted, but she had her eyes set on the finish line — a successful stem cell transplant — so she placed her trust in her faith and pushed through.
“I didn’t tell him at the time how bad it was because I didn’t want to break him — and it was so important that he remained in a positive state and just have a good outlook on everything. What I did tell him is that it is a bit more than we thought, but I couldn’t tell him that the chance for him to survive was five per cent,” said Williams-Morgan.
The mother-son duo went on to spend 45 days in isolation as Rajé underwent the stem cell transplant. Williams-Morgan shared the journey with her over 15,000 supporters on popular social media platform TikTok, as a means of maintaining contact with the “outside world”.
“That is where we have to give thanks for technology because I was able to go on social media and talk to my friends and family back home. I had the support of a few people who I could always count on. My friends Sash and Oshane, they have been tremendous, not to mention my husband who calls me every single day! We have our movie dates. The time difference is crazy but we just try to make the best of it,” she explained.
What was remarkable was her ability to remain authentic as she showed the impacts of a cancer diagnosis on the parents of a patient. Williams-Morgan also celebrated her 35th birthday during the time.
“I realised that the only way for me to deal with all that is happening is to channel my energy somewhere else. I am not saying that I don’t get depressed or have my challenges, because I have gained close to 40 pounds since my son got sick in January. I compensate for my emotions by eating, and that is not good. I am an emotional eater and I can’t sleep at night so I’ll be up snacking,” Williams-Morgan told the Sunday Observer.
Williams-Morgan vividly remembers an incident when she “almost lost” her son during the stem cell transplant. She explained that approximately 10 doctors had entered the room to tend to Rajé, and “I folded up like a child on my bed”. Though frightened by what was taking place in the room, Williams-Morgan said that she felt at peace.
“I felt a sense of comfort and peace but I cannot definitively say where that came from. I can only say that it was God,” she said.
“But after everything was done and I realised that he was going to be okay, that was when I started to cry tears of joy,” added Williams-Morgan.
After isolation was completed and the duo received news that the stem cell transplant was successful, Williams-Morgan told the Sunday Observer that it was time for “celebration”. Williams-Morgan said that she was also grateful to be able to head back to the hotel so that she could cook her meals.
“He was bedridden for a while and he was finally able to get his legs back, as I like to say, because he was so weak. When the stem cell started to take and his body was now strong enough and he started to move again, it was a celebration. We laughed, danced, and we were just so happy because we knew that the time was coming when he could get out and start acclimatisation,” said a thankful Williams-Morgan.
“We are doing radiation now so we can go to the mall and go have lunch,” she added.