As parents, when we are faced with the devastation of a diagnosis like cancer, all sorts of things run through our minds. I remember with JB the question was where would he have gotten cancer from? Who in my family had cancer? Because apparently no one in Noel’s family ever had the dreaded disease. Family-trees and backgrounds are scrutinized, fingers are pointed, marriages are tested, relationships with extended families are strained and in some cases friendships are shattered. Past habits are brought into question. I smoked in my early 20’s so that was also on the table as a strong possibility as to why JB got sick. So I had to deal with that guilt for a while until I learned the facts.
We all have questions and are searching for the answer as to why an innocent child would have to face such a battle. Cancer has always been said to be “an old people’s disease.” So why would my 3 ½ year old be included in this demographic? How do you process this for your own sanity and then be strong enough to face your child going through such pain and suffering? We had a conversation with parents of 3 year old Rinelle who had some questions of their own. Here is a brief look into the life of a family searching for answers.
What was it like when you were told about Rinelle’s diagnosis?
Rinaldo (Rinelle’s Dad): The first time we found out Rinelle had cancer, It was real tough. We couldn’t believe it, I didn’t even know how to talk, I wasn’t present, I was just very angry and any little thing made me burst out in anger. I was always so protective of my children and to find out this happened to my little girl, really hit me hard.
I wanted to know; when this happened? was I sleeping too much? Where did it pass, how did it get in? Who put this on my child? They always say the sins of the parents fall on the children and I wanted to know who was against us.
Patricia (Rinelle’s mom): I was denying everything. I was in denial constantly saying, “Rinelle does not have cancer, they must be making a mistake.”
Patricia, what were some of the symptoms that caused you to become concerned?
Patricia: She had high fevers for a while, she was losing weight drastically. She kept complaining about pain in her feet and we eventually realized that her belly was becoming enlarged.
According to her mom, after a series of tests, which included screening for sickle cell anemia as well as checks on her liver function, Rinelle was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). I asked Patricia about her experience on the JBF Unit.
Patricia: The parents on the ward were very supportive. They told us to accept the diagnosis and go with the flow, but never stop the fight. I’m very grateful, Rinelle is a strong child, she is always happy, very hyper and only cries when she has to get injections.
Rinaldo: JBF deals with everybody and treats all cases with similar empathy and support. We get lunch during the day and Rinelle always gets a toy. The JBF always has something to offer and they’re doing a wonderful job. I hope that the JBF will continue doing what they’re doing from now to as long as they can. The positivity behind everything, the love, respect and the prayer is just incredible. It makes me very comfortable.
What impact did this situation have on your life as a family?
Patricia: We were really frustrated, limited in where we could go as a family. There was the concern that Rinelle could pick up anything, anywhere. We couldn’t go to the movies, the beach or the zoo. We even wanted to cross the waters to go to Tobago for my birthday and there’s even the belief that crossing waters brings good luck to the family. However, we were told we couldn’t. Life is at a standstill right now. We are looking forward to going on some family trips in the future without worrying about Rinelle getting sick. Our son Rinaldo Jr. was very understanding and supportive and wanted to come see Rinelle in the hospital. We just want to be a completely normal family.
Rinaldo: Yeah. We’re looking forward to just taking a run away to go to Maracas, eating a little bake and shark, watching our children play and enjoying the sand.
What about Rinelle, how has she handled all of this?
Patricia: Rinelle is so strong, despite what she is going through. She always gives me strength. She used to look forward to coming on the ward because JBF always brings something nice for her.
Rinaldo: She’s always interested in doctor’s equipment. She wants to be a doctor from just being here. We were informed that she’s in remission and we are looking forward to when her treatments are finished. We are still praying. We are seeing good signs. She’s happy and active. So we’re looking forward to a miracle.
Rinaldo offers words of encouragement to other parents.
Rindalo: The key to this whole thing is don’t give up. Continue praying. Pray hard and be on your knees right through. Don’t give up on praying at all. Don’t keep to yourself. Try to unite with other parents because you all become one big family.
Come let us bow down and worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker, for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. (Psalm 95: 6-7 NIV)
We wish them all the best as we join in prayer for Rinelle’s complete recovery.
(please note that the signs and symptoms listed may be indicators of other medical conditions which may not be related to cancer. However, if these symptoms exist or persist, please have the child visit a paediatrician as soon as possible. This is not intended to create fear, panic or paranoia but to serve as information and caution.)
Submitted by: Chevaughn Joseph
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