#tbt Perspective

Perspective (and time) is a hell of a thing.  When I posted this photo on my social media pages on December 30, 2017 I must admit I never really took it in.  At the time of posting my caption read:  Ready to see the back of this year but here goes my #2017bestnine #2018willbebetter.

best nine

Just 2 1/2 weeks into my recovery from surgery, I was reeling, smiling on the outside, trying to be strong, but inside I was a mess.  I had just learned of questionable actions at the restaurant, forcing its temporary closure right at Christmas.  Although I was myself surrounded by the overwhelming love and support of friends and family, I was feeling an immense amount of guilt that my staff, although not without fault, were out of work during the holidays.  I felt FEAR.  What if I couldn’t reopen? What was I going to do?  Those were the things going through my head when I posted this collage.

Fast forward to now.   Today I have a chemotherapy session, after this one more to go. Praise God!!  Chemo although challenging has been manageable.  It took two months but Martha’s Kitchen finally reopened on February 27th, exactly 5 days after chemo began and with new staff I might add.  The restaurant is still not where I want it to be but its been steady and holding its own in this first month back.  Between cycles I’m still not able to work a full week yet, the whole heap of blood tests and as we say in Jamaica general ‘body come down’ (translation: exhaustion, feeling of weakness) have me a way star.  My new kitchen staff and extended family at Martha Brae have been champions at holding it down when I’m not around and for that I am eternally grateful.

Now when I look at this image, I see it through such different eyes.  I’m finally able to appreciate how really wicked this best nine of 2017 was.  Notwithstanding my breast cancer diagnosis 2017 wasn’t so bad after all.  Making the cut are three of my favorite women – my mother, my sister and my best friend.  Then a throwback photo of my first time working with Chronixx at Reggae Sumfest 2013 and the drone shot of our amazing show in Montego Bay a few months ago.  A little known fact to many was that show was just 10 days before my surgery and the best thing that could have happened at the time.  It gave me something to keep my mind off what was to come.  Me with cutey pie Genuwine after his BritJam 2017 performance. What more needs to be said? After all it’s Genuwine and he’s foine!  Me goofing off on a raft at my office…not a bad office eh?!  Rounding it out are two selfies.  The one in the middle was taken at the wedding of my brother’s brother back in late July.  Yeah we got that blended family too.  I remember how happy that time was.  It was the first time in years my father had his 3 children together, difficult to orchestrate often with one living in England, one in Virginia and me in Montego Bay.  Daddy had gone out of his way to pull off the trip.  My brother was in his ackee, as we say in Jamaica.  It was the first time he had his mother and father, his two brothers and two sisters all together under the same roof and he was like a kid in a candy store.  That selfie of me in the pink was taken and posted in October for breast cancer awareness.  I was still awaiting my biopsy results but pretty much already knew it was cancer from consultations with folks in the radiology world.  Funny enough, that smile wasn’t fake (not that I’m into fake smiling), I was on my way to getting healthy and felt ready to deal with whatever came my way.

So now, 3 months after posting, I’m happy to report that I’m finally able to appreciate this Best Nine of 2017.  Go figure…

My Aha Moment

Tuesday October 17, 2017 . . . . .the day my life changed forever.  The day I read the words INVASIVE DUCTAL CARCINOMA.  I sat in the car for what seemed like an hour just staring at the words…..INVASIVE DUCTAL CARCINOMA.  Finally, after 4 agonizing weeks I knew.  Truth is, deep down I knew it from the very day I felt the lump coming out of the shower.  That day when my hand brushed across my right breast and stopped on something hard, I instinctively knew it was the ‘BIG C’.

I spent the next few weeks getting really intimate with the folks at Radiology West…first the mammogram, then the ultra sound and finally a needle biopsy.  Thanks to a resourceful friend I was able to get the 3 tests done within a 5-day span, but then came the wait, 3 whole weeks.  Not enough pathologists in Montego Bay meant I had no choice but to wait.  While I waited, I read. Read everything I could get my hands on as it relates to cancer.  Google became my best friend.  Cancer feeds on sugar, cancer flourishes in stress, body needs to be in an alkaline state to ward off disease.  By October 17th, I had cut just about everything from my diet…..sugar, rice, flour, dairy, all meat except fish once or twice a week.  All the things I had tried to purge myself of over the last 3 years, I quit cold turkey in just 3 weeks.

Turns out my body had become a perfect storm, the perfect storm for cancer to form in her midst.  I wasn’t putting the right things in it, simply put too much sugar and I internalized my stress.  So here I was in the middle of starting a new business, not making enough money to make ends meet, no health insurance, now contemplating how to deal with a potential cancer diagnosis.  It made no sense to panic.  The only thing that made sense in that moment was to take charge of the one thing I could control…what I put in my mouth, what I fed my body.  By the time I met with a surgeon on October 19th I had lost 5 lbs.  I remember joking with my 2 girlfriends who tagged along for that first consultation that there was a least one silver lining in this whole thing….weight loss.  LOL, haffi tek serious ting mek joke.

With the help of my tribe, I ate and laughed my way to December 12th (surgery day), the day the fight with the big C officially began.  The day I said ‘Bye bye’ to my right breast, the day I sent her packing.

Girlies Pre Op

Lisa & Jilly saying goodbye to my right breast pre-op!

This fight is by no means over, its really just begun.  The important thing is I AM HERE, now 26 lbs and one breast lighter 😉, armoured up, bolstered by my tribe and READY FOR THE FIGHT AHEAD.  I’ve struggled with whether to keep my battle with cancer private.  Over the last 2 months I’ve connected with a number of women who walked this same path and their insight has been priceless.  On the urging of my sister and close friends I’ve decided to chronicle this journey in the hope that it will help even one person who may face this same battle.

Tina & Ayah Pre Op

Tina with sister Ayah just before surgery….and yes that’s bright red lipstick 😉

So here we are in 2018 and I am thankful for my tribe who have held me up, prayed with me, laughed with me, cried with me, sponge-bathed me 😉. I am thankful for life and strange as it may sound, I am thankful for cancer.  Cancer forced me to face some hard truths about myself, brought me closer to a healthier me. Not to worry though, I am ready to see cancer’s back so happy to send it packing like I’ve done with 2017, not welcome around here no more…..