January 31, 2016
BY PENDA HONEYGHAN Sunday Observer writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Five-year-old inspires family despite health challenges
IF anyone were to ask Rashida Bailey to describe her daughter’s state she would tell them … as strong as an ox, but as delicate as a rose.
Five-year-old Jerodene Bailey was only four when doctors at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) diagnosed her with rhabdomyosarcoma – a rare cancer that affects the muscles.
“Cancer was the farthest thing from our mind. It is something that we never imagined. We have seen it wreak havoc in other people’s lives and realising that it had crept its way into our baby’s life, into our life we were scared but for her, she has remained strong and inspiring,” Rashida said.
Rashida told the Jamaica Observer that Jerodene first started experiencing pain consistent with the cancer from last year January, but the cancer had the perfect disguise since just around that time the Chikungunya virus was wreaking havoc on the country, so it came as no surprise when the doctors told them she had the virus.
“She was having joint pains and we took her to a regular doctor, he told us that it was Chikungungya based on the joint pains and he started to treat her for it which worked for a while and so we thought that the problem had been solved,” Rashida said.
However, three months later Jerodene started developing other complications, and more severe joint pains and at this time the parents decided that it was best for her to be taken to a specialist.
“She started to feel pain, and for two days she could barely use her hands and feet because of the intensity of the pain she was feeling, then that stopped until one night she was crying for her neck and she woke up the next morning with her [neck] tilted towards the left side of her body, like a crick neck. In this same time a lump appeared on the calf of the left leg and we became suspicious so we took her to the paediatrician in Mandeville,” Rashida shared with the Sunday Observer.
She said it was at this time that the paediatrician, who also had similar concerns about the number of complaints that Jerodene had, sent Rashida to do blood tests, from which she made the decision to provide the family with the necessary referral documents so that Jerodene could have the relevant tests done at the hospital.
But getting ready for the journey, Rashida and her husband Jermaine were not ready for the news that was to come.
“When we went to the hospital she was examined. We were there for a while when we were informed by the doctors that we couldn’t take our baby home because the doctors still needed to run some tests. They did a series of tests including a biopsy, CT scan and an MRI, and after two weeks of being there the doctors said that it could be cancer,” Rashida said.
But very quickly Rashida moved from just being a very concerned mother to living a mother’s nightmare. The doctor’s had confirmed their suspicion — for Rashida and her husband Jermaine, the unthinkable — and as the words escaped the doctor’s lips, “Jerodene has stage four rhabdomyosarcoma,” Rashida recalled feeling limp.
“I was consumed by shock, my husband was in shock, but Jerodene in her usual, very vibrant way beckoned to us — I was in tears, I didn’t want to believe and her father stood with teary eyes — she said, ‘Mommy daddy, leave and God will do it, he will’,” Rashida recalled.
“Hearing her say that made all my tears disappear immediately and I didn’t even need tissue. I was inspired, and it was no doubt that her father felt the same way. She made us whole with those few words, it sounded bad but I wouldn’t give up,” Rashida said.
She said that following the diagnosis in May she was told that Jerodene needed to start chemotherapy. This treatment, she said, lasted for over a month, with follow-up checks of weekly chemotherapy. However, about five months into the treatment Jerodene’s condition became progressively worse.
“In November of last year Jerodene started to complain about painful headaches and when she started to feel worse we had to contact UHWI… hospital so the doctors there could give guidance. We were directed to take her to the Mandeville hospital where she spent several weeks, and where they also discovered that the headaches were as a result of lesions that were growing on her brain. She was then transferred to the UHWI hospital to continue to get treatment until she was discharged last week,” Rashida said
Jerodene, relating her experience with the illness and her second home for several months in hospitals, grew quite comfortable learning to adapt to the environment and being without her parents at nights; but she had grown tired of all the tests and treatments that involved needles.
“Being sick I have a lot of pain almost all the time. It was fine at the hospital but when they kept sticking me with the injection for medication and for other tests it makes me feel sad sometimes. I don’t like it at all,” Jerodene said.
She said that all she wanted to do was to heal completely so that her parents and family would not have to worry so much.
The emotional pain of watching their once vibrant daughter struggle to fight cancer is not the only trouble that the Bailey family has been experiencing. Rashida, who is without a job, is in that situation because of back injuries, and her father, who is a farmer, is the only source of income. However, from time to time they have received assistance from the church. An MRI was paid for by Our Little Angels — another non-profit organisation — but other than that the medical bills and other bills to cover Jerodene’s needs such as acquiring diapers, items necessary for her special diet and transportation for the family to and from the hospital keep piling up.
“It has been difficult for us to take care of everything. Last week Thursday when Jerodene was supposed to do the brain marrow transplant I was told that we owed the hospital upwards of $500,000 to date and the figure will rise as she continues to get treatment,” Rashida said.
But she said that while it has been a rough year for her and her husband the support of her friends, family, church members and her faith in God have been the greatest source of strength for her and her husband as they try every day to cope with the challenges that have come to light with her daughter’s illness.
Luckily for the Bailey family, the Sagicor Group through its Sigma Run programme became aware of their plight and has pledged to assist the family with some of their medical expenses. This support, Rashida and her husband believe, is the work of God and the product of many prayers and a company with a big heart. The Sagicor Sigma Run will benefit two other children who have also been diagnosed with cancer in addition to a number of other students with cancer who are being obstructed from leading a normal life across the Island.
In order to achieve this, Sagicor Group are anticipates raising $50 million, twice what was raised last year. Monies from the Sigma Run are also expected to be used to refurbish the Black River Hospital’s paediatric lounge as well as to donate a mammography machine to the Jamaica Cancer Society.
As for Jerodene, if all goes well this week she should be undergoing the rescheduled bone marrow transplant by Thursday.
Donations can be made to the Sagicor Foundation at https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/sagicor-sigma-corporate-run–3. Donations to support this year’s causes are also being invited, and can be made via pledges. Local donors may make cheques payable to Sigma Run 2016, with deposits at any Sagicor Bank location to account number – 5502392157. Deposits may also be made at the National Commercial Bank – account number 291012795 and the Bank of Nova Scotia – account number 11-9911 (Donations lodged to BNS & NCB must say ‘donation to Sagicor Sigma Run’.