My mind did not register that the scream came from her so I continued my journey quickly to my uncle’s room. As I walked in, I saw him lying peacefully on the hospital bed and again my mind could not comprehend that he was gone. I sat on the chair next to him and just stared. I felt my mother’s hands on my shoulder and heard her say child he is in a better place now and he is in no more pain. What did she mean a better place? Is she really saying that he is dead? Can’t she see that is he is only resting? Shortly after, a nurse came into the room and begun to wrap him up in white linen. I asked what is she doing to my uncle and I was told that she was preparing him for the hearse to come for his body.
I could not understand what they were saying, because to me, my uncle was just sleeping. Preparing him for the hearse, has everyone gone mad? I sat and watched as the nurse continued to wrap him up and then it became evident to me that he was gone.
I then got up and walked out of the room and continued walking until I reached the furthest point of the hospital and sat and began to cry. Then, I felt a hug and looked up and saw my adopted father’s smile. He said my darling child I know you are hurting but only time can heal. He then began his usual way of making me laugh. As I tried to cheer myself up, I realised that they were taking my uncle out in a body bag and I took off running. Where are they taking him? My mother held me and said “Let him go.”
I don’t understand, it was just a couple days ago I lay on his bed chatting up a storm with him. We talked about Carnival and how he enjoyed watching me play mas. We talked about how hard he had worked for his family. We talked about the basketball team the Chicago Bulls who would not stop losing their games. Now, I am being asked to accept that he was gone. My head started hurting real bad and it felt like a forty piece orchestra was having a recital in my head. I needed to go home and fast. I looked around and saw my mother who is always serene and calm especially during difficult times. I then asked her if she was okay; knowing that she had just lost her brother. She said I am fine and God knows best.
We got home and I took to my bed. I wish I could just take off my head and rest it on the dressing table. I started thinking about the first time my uncle called me with a quiver in his voice. I was shocked as I have always heard his voice firm and strong. He said, my niece, I have prostate cancer. I was shaken but I quickly recovered and asked him what the doctor had said and he started to repeat. As usual my spirit said of course we will fight this disease. That is what this family does, we fight and we don’t give up.
So I put on my mental armour and I told him not to worry we will fight. I started to research and ask as much questions as I could about the disease. I needed to arm myself with information so I know what to ask the doctors. For three years, he held on and at one point we really thought we had this disease beaten. He was strong again, he was working, and enjoying life but then it came back in full force and no amount of medication could stop its progress. Watching my uncle roll around in utter pain while tears came out his eyes will always remain branded in my mind. I will never forget him telling me he loved me and that he was proud of me days, before he died.
It was as if he knew he was leaving and he wanted me to know how he felt. Even then I could not grasp that he was leaving. I kept hope alive in my mind because I could not fathom my world without my uncle in it. He was my father figure since a child; he was my financier for college; he was my cheerleader when I wanted to try something new, and he was my counsellor who was never afraid to speak his mind.
The day of his funeral was one of the most painful moments of my life. I prayed all morning that Father would give me the courage to make my tribute to him. As I walked in and viewed him, my heart eased a little because he looked so peaceful. When the time came to give my tribute, I walked passed his coffin knowing that there lied my uncle and I would never have the blessing of his counsel again. I delivered my tribute but ended up a tearful, snotty mess. At the graveside, I could not watch them put him in the ground so I stood off while a friend comforted me. I could not say goodbye to him as I could not understand why he was gone. To this day he is always with me in my memories but I will never forget the disease that took him so early in his life.
Therefore, I urge every man over the age of forty to get their prostate checked on an annual basis. What happens in the doctor’s office is between you and your doctor. The macho and bravado means nothing if you have this disease. It is a disease that if caught early can be treated and you may have prolonged life. However, if not it is a painful and expensive journey that both you and your family can avoid through a yearly check-up. I appeal to the women to urge your men to get their annual check-ups.
Too many island men are now becoming afflicted by this disease, and it is a preventable and treatable disease. We need to understand that we are responsible for the health of our loved ones and ourselves. As the old saying goes “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”