Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever Psalm 107:1 (NIV)
Meet Gerard Assing a single dad who we had the pleasure of meeting many years ago. Our paths crossed when our children Cathrina and JB were both diagnosed with cancer. The kids chemotherapy schedule were basically the same so we would meet on the ward. They would play together and there was even one time, when Cathrina had a procedure to be done and they began prepping JB in error. It was a serious situation but we were able to joke about it because with their bald heads they looked very much alike. I remember Gerard to be an amazing dad who took his daughter’s care very seriously. It was a very emotional greeting when they came upstairs to my office to give me the great news. We reminisced, and I hugged Cathrina so tight as I got flashbacks of our kids playing, laughing and enjoying their time together. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
CJ: When did you realize something was wrong with Cathrina?
Gerard : A lot of fevers started before she was 3 years old. She got into pre school and kept having fever. I was of the opinion that it was just the cold until within 6 weeks her belly started to bloat on one side and the doctor, an African doctor, who’s name I can't remember, found it to be strange. He said, “Mr Assing, I want to say this, it is just an opinion”. He said back where he came from, most times it is a form of malnutrition and if not, its cancer. He said that he was trusting it wasn’t and he’ll send her for blood tests.
The weekend came and Cathrina went by her mother. The Saturday morning, I got a phone call from Mt Hope Hospital stating that they needed my presence. Then the doctor, I think Dr. Bodkyn, inquired if I was the daddy. I introduced myself and he took me to his office and said they need to keep Cathrina for observation. At the time, I could not have stayed so her mother compromised, I left and came back the next morning. I took up my position through this journey. We learnt that the results came back and she was diagnosed with WILMS TUMOR. They explained that it was a rare tumor, the tumor was cancerous and needed to be treated immediately. I would never want anyone to experience what I experienced; It was traumatic. General knowledge about cancer suggests that cancer kills, and I wasn’t ready to accept that. I trusted in God that nothing would happen so I said to him, ‘God you deal with it’ and I left it to Him and the doctors.
Looking at Cathrina go through chemo, I held more hope that it would work rather than thinking it wouldn't. I've heard rumors that chemo leaves you with side effects and scarred memories. That is for the patient but it left something within me. Something you wouldn't want your enemy to experience. It's like looking at somebody there lying down and not moving, no life in them, hoping that the person will wake up but even though they are awake, you know it's on the downside. You learn to appreciate people more, especially looking at her go through those months moving from the common area to isolation area. Then we got you all as neighbours (Cheaughn and her family). That's when I met you guys. I remember Jabez (JB), he was a cute little boy, really nice. I remember sharing fruits with him and over the years even through we lost contact I always remembered and thought about you guys.
I remember signing surgery forms. They said there is a 50\50 chance that Cathrina will make it. I remember this one female surgeon, she was like a mother hen. She made Cathrina and I feel better, and gave us a sense of hope and positivity during these tense moments.
Cathrina’s surgery took eight hours. It felt like forever, I had no idea what was happening and my mind strayed to thoughts about not seeing her again. It was so much I remembered having no appetite no matter how much time had passed; I just waited anxiously. Then as soon as the doctor came out and announced that they were done, I release a sigh relief. I remember going in after the surgery and I heard her say ‘Daddy’ then smiled and she went back to sleep. I was happy but it was an experience that no other experience will ever replace. I was told that even though the surgery was successful and she was still alive, she has one kidney and we needed to work with a new diet and provide support emotionally. She was so disciplined. Cathrina is what she is, a gift from God.
We were discharged from the hospital. Weekly, monthly, fortnightly visits came and went.
My experience at the hospital made me more in contact with the emotional side of situations as compared to the battlefield (Mr. Assing is a retired Police Officer). Even though the experience of cancer was not a nice one, I still thank God for it. I thank Him for teaching me to be humble, as in my previous job as an officer, the world viewed us as inhumane and not understanding. Cathrina’s case brought out that inner part of me that I never knew existed.
This side of me is a part of me that will not change. I will find time to help people and give to people out of the nothing that I have. It really does change and make you a different person. People will never ever understand what happened to you unless they experience it.
As Cathrina grows i hope that her focus is always positive. She has set her goals and I trust that it will be an enhancement for everyone around her. I always tell Cathrina to strive to be an engine and not the carriages of the train. An engine pulls the carriages. In other words, the leader in you, the person that is outgoing, spontaneous and motivating, let that be your forerunner with God and it will work not only for you but for others. Make yourself proud first and then others. I am proud of me, I may not be rich but I am wealthy. My wealth is not tangible, you can never touch the wealth I have. Dr Bodkyn called her a miracle. I thank God for full recovery, that he will keep her safe spiritually and healthwise and that one kidney that she has left will function better than the two put together. My last visit to the hospital I got good news. The doctors didn’t recognize her because of how much she grew She was examined. The doctor say Cathrina was fully discharged from the clinic. It was a miracle for me and I will thank God for that everyday.
CJ: Cathrina, now fifteen years old is brilliant, chatty and loves sports. While growing up saw her Aunty making floral arrangements at her shop. She makes extra cash selling roses for Valentine’s Day. So we’re were happy to place an order and she came back on Valentine’s Day to distribute the roses to parents warded on the JBF Ward. Next week we will give you her side of this amazing journey.
Submitted by: Chevaughn Joseph
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