EVEN after going through six rounds of chemotherapy procedures and surgery to remove a part of her colon, 28-year-old Shaunice Dean is enjoying the happiest period her life.

In fact, she believes that by December, after her final surgery to remove her entire colon and a few medical tests, she will be cancer-free, which she said will remove some of the emotional burden from her family and friends who cringe at the sight of her enduring excruciatingly painful moments at times.

“I am manifesting to be cancer-free by the end of this year. After the surgeries I will have some tests to do. After I have won this battle I will definitely go back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree in production and operations management and a minor in international business,” the ambitious future entrepreneur told the Jamaica Observer at her home in Allman Town, Kingston, on Friday.

Dean, who mothers a son, told the Sunday Observer that roughly two years ago she began experiencing symptoms such as abdominal and back pain, nausea, vomiting, appetite loss and weight loss. After visiting a number of doctors, she was finally diagnosed with chronic acid reflux.

Last year August, she learned that she had colon cancer.

“I then did a surgery to remove part of my colon; I am now recovering from surgery. I did six rounds of chemotherapy, [the last of ] which I just completed about four weeks ago, and then the next step is to do another surgery to take out my entire colon. The first chemotherapy was December 2020 and I did the sixth one in April.

“Chemo is a very tedious process. It affects you mentally and physically. After chemotherapy you are not able to do much for yourself because it causes a lot of pain and depression. My depression made me have a lot of negative thoughts that I would die leaving my son. I felt like just giving up, but I knew I couldn’t. I didnt want to come out of bed, talk to anyone, be around anyone or do anything,” she recalled, despite suffering temporary memory loss due to chemotherapy.

According to the World Health Organization, cancer was the leading cause of death worldwide in 2020, accounting for close to 10 million cases.

Colon and rectal cancer accounted for the second-highest number of cancer-related deaths with 935,000 cases, behind lung cancer with 1.8 million deaths. Cancer of the liver accounted for 830,000 deaths, while stomach cancer and breast cancer were responsible for 769,000 and 685,000 deaths respectively.

To the families of cancer patients, Dean, a former student of Convent of Mercy Academy “Alpha”, encouraged them to rally around their relatives, as their chances of recovery have a lot to do with strong physical and emotional support. She shared how her sister and other relatives, as well as friends, stood by her side throughout, even after she could no longer do most things for herself.

“My condition affected my social life yes, but not too drastically. I am still myself most days; the fun and outgoing person I was before. I am more myself now since chemo stopped. I have a good support system. That is very, very important. A support system will help you stay positive and help you to keep pushing even when you don’t want to. I have family and friends who would go to clinic with me, chemo if necessary, and just be around me on a daily basis so I don’t remain depressed for too long. I took a while before I told people I had cancer. There was a lot of speculation, because I was slim as a skeleton.”

Her elder sister, Dadriann Smith, who never abandoned her during the greater portion of her tribulation with colon cancer, praised her courage.

“Sometimes mi did wish mi coulda tek her pain. Fi see she a go through this so young, as my only sister, who always a think high, it’s hard. It has been a lot, but God has guided us. It is still shocking but we still are able to maintain high spirits because the family rallies around her,” Smith said.

Jamaica Observer