"IT wasn't just a process, it was a hard task to face thinking of the outcomes — where do we go and what could happen," was her husband's reaction to Kaydia McKoy's breast cancer diagnosis. "It's like our lives made a full stop, like having a handle at life and that handle broke."
McKoy told All Woman that her husband was supportive, but also scared.
"It was hard for him to process, but thankfully we had great support from family and friends who helped to process the surgeries, as it was in the millions and we had to pay most of it in less than a week," she explained.
"My daughter went to live with her godmother Candy and my sister Dr Amber McKoy, because I wouldn't be able to take care of her. My cousin Michelle took care of my physical needs."
McKoy was 30 at the time she felt the lump.
"I was taking a bath and while observing my boobies I felt the lump, and I thought it was just pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) because I asked my cousin and she said it was PMS. I then waited and watched. That was my mistake — never wait!
"I waited a few months until it was my 31st birthday. My husband felt the lump and we weren't comfortable with it so immediately I made an appointment, and just a few days after my birthday I went to my doctor and she thought it was nothing as I was too young. I then mentioned to her that there was a strong history of cancer in the family she said she would give me the referral to get the mammogram done. I did it the next day and immediately the doctor was able to tell me that it was breast cancer. My heart skipped a beat. I didn't want to believe. Then she told me that I was going to be okay."
No insurance and business was slow
"When my husband picked me up and I told him, he wasn't driving straight. It was hard for him to process. My world started moving fast, it was like a whirlwind and that's where the mental, emotional, financial and physical stress began. Imagine it was in the pandemic, no insurance and business was slow. I had to do a surgical biopsy. I'll never forget, two days before those surgeries — my daughter was four at the time — and she started playing the fight song. She asked if I was going to die. I myself was uncertain, but I had to muscle up for her. I felt so betrayed by my body."
"I started seeing three different doctors — a gynaecologist because of an ovarian cyst and the cancer was driven by oestrogen which is produced by the ovaries and it was advised that I do a total hysterectomy. My husband acted as if he wanted another child, while I just wanted to get rid of whatever was making me sick. I just wanted to live; I wanted to take off my boobs.
"The second doctor was the breast surgeon for the mastectomy — that's the removal of all breast tissues and lymph nodes. The third doctor was the cosmetic surgeon — that was for the reconstruction. Imagine how overwhelming it was, seeing three different doctors in one day for an all-in-one surgery. I cried that day and Dr Arscot said to me, let this be the last day you're crying because cancer feeds off stress. I then asked him for some pills to get me relaxed and he said no, I had to find that inner strength, and I did. Some days I felt like I was dying inside. It was too much and I cried out to God. I asked Him to give me the strength and He did. I found my inner strength and that was it there and then."
A mountain of support
"I had a mountain of support, with each bringing different gifts of strength. I was so scared going into surgeries but then I asked God to hold my hands and walk with me and that took away my fears. I remember when I came out of surgery I was in a lot of pain but when I opened my eyes, my husband was there, his daughter, my daughter's godmother and my cousin. Support plays a major role with surviving and I'm so very grateful. After the surgeries I waited for the results which would determine If I needed chemo or not, and the results came back revealing stage two oestrogen breast cancer which spread to the lymph nodes. I had 14/17 positive nodes, so I had to do chemotherapy.
"Chemotherapy was the hardest thing I ever I had to face. I remember with the first round I was sleeping and my husband kept checking on me, because chemo is good and it's bad so he was very fearful. I remember when I started losing my hair and I had to go bald, I would hide because I didn't want him to see me like that. My confidence level went low. My daughter would get nightmares that I was going to die and I had to reassure her that mommy would not die. One thing about my daughter, she never made me feel I wasn't beautiful. She would embrace my bald head and kiss me and that for me was priceless. I had to fight for her because she was rooting for mommy.
"After chemo, then it was time for radiation. I did 25 rounds of radiation therapy which completed the treatments."
The economic side of cancer care
"Jamaica has fairly good treatment facilities but you need money to survive. I applied to the CHASE Fund and no one replied. But one good thing, the National Health Fund (NHF) card does help a lot as I didn't have insurance and chemo was expensive. NHF covers chemo drugs and breast cancer drugs and those are very expensive.
"I am on maintenance pills for 10 years and those pills will help to shrink potential tumours. Thankfully, the NHF covers that. I'm also doing bone treatments like Zoledronic acid to strengthen my bones because of damaged bones due to cancer treatments. So being in survivorship is hard because it's learning the new me while I miss the old me."
Life after cancer
"I am in menopause but I'm only 33 years old. Things are happening to my body that I don't fully understand and I'm thinking of the what ifs. It's like I'm not sure if it's OK to have a tummy ache or a headache. My daughter constantly talks about breast cancer. She puts herself on a diet, with limited processed foods and no sweets. She draws breast cancer ribbons all the time, every day for me. She watches what I eat. She asks to see the keepsake box I made for her — I made it for her explaining life before and after cancer. That's the uncertainty I was in that I made her that box and wrote down all passwords."
I commit myself to help women
"In survivorship, I commit myself to help women who are fighting breast cancer through my foundation, Heads Up For Pink, where several women benefited from beauty care, gift certificates and wigs in 2021. This year I'll be having my breast cancer drive where I will be at three different locations on different days distributing breast cancer souvenirs and pamphlets. These souvenirs are intended to remind women to self-check and to also get their mammograms done.
"I will be at Immaculate Conception Prep, Ammars, Village Plaza and possibly Fontana, Waterloo. I want women to be educated and to spread awareness. We have to be our sisters' keeper and I'm very dedicated with that while striking a balance with the business, my daughter and my family and also doing what I love.
"My coping mechanism is keeping my mind occupied, like helping people and going places and just living a happy life and to have gratitude.
"Special thanks to Fyah105 and Sandals Resorts who made celebrating one year cancer free magical with a trip to Sandals Royal Bahamian. You die once, but live every day!"