Ruth Quintyne, 41, will not allow cancer to rob her of the rest of her life.
Almost one year ago she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a health condition that has left her in physical pain and mental anguish but in spite of all the anxieties associated with a cancer diagnosis she has maintained a steely determination to fight through the agony.
In addition to suffering through chemotherapy treatment, Ruth, who cannot work because of physical constraints, is also struggling to meet some of her basic needs.
But as she sat down with a Barbados TODAY team to chat about how her life has changed in the twinkling of an eye, Ruth made it clear that giving up is simply not an option since she has much to live for, including a teenaged daughter who is currently pursuing studies.
“I am fighting with everything that I have. I am fighting to be healed. I am willing to work again. I am fighting just to get better and live a normal life again. I just want things to get back to normal,” she said.
Ruth’s diagnosis came as a complete shock to her and her relatives and close friends.
In 2017, Ruth began experiencing stiffness in her right leg and hip and realised that she could no longer put weight on that side of her body.
“It all started when I was bitten by a mosquito and I thought it was Zika because it was paining my body. I was taking the medication. But then there was a pain in my knee and my leg began to swell. Then I felt a pain in my hip for months.
“I was just going to a doctor and going to therapy. I did not know what was the illness at that time. Then one day in July 2018 my foot just snapped and they said it was something name bursitis which is inflammation of the joint. After that my foot just kept swelling and I was waiting for this bursitis to get out of my body, but it never left,” Ruth recalled.
Her pain and agony worsened as her face started to swell. Ruth said this is when an alarm went off in her head that something serious was going on with her body. She went back to her doctor who informed her that she should go to the dentist to get a scan.
She recalled that the dentist told her she was unable to give a diagnosis.
“The dentist sent me to her doctor and he asked me why my foot was short and told me it look as though it is broken. I told him my foot can’t be broken because I have been going to doctors all the time.
“He sent me for an x-ray and took some bloods from me. I took back the x-ray to him and in a couple hours he told me to go directly to the hospital. After being in casualty (Accident and Emergency Department) for three days, I was admitted and got the diagnosis of multiple myeloma, which I knew nothing about,” she said.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer that forms in the white blood or plasma cells. These cells help the body to fight infections by making antibodies that recognize and attack germs. Multiple myeloma causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow where they crowd out healthy blood cells and rather than produce helpful antibodies, the cancer cells produce abnormal proteins that can cause complications.
Ruth, who walks with the assistance of crutches, described the moment the doctor told her she has cancer as mentally draining. She said the news left her blank and scared and not knowing where to turn or what to do.
“It was so much to deal with and to accept. It was painful mentally and physically. I was throwing up nonstop. Doctors were asking me to go over my story over and over as they tried to gather as much information as possible. It was just a lot for me to accept.”
A number of treatments are available for people suffering with multiple myeloma which will help to control the disease.
According to Ruth, unfortunately in her case, her condition was caught at the point where her bones had become very brittle and treatment was required.
“I am undergoing both chemo and radiation at this moment. Chemotherapy started off king of rough, but I didn’t throw up as much. Right now I have to do further tests to see how far the chemo has killed the cancer cells. After that I would know what other treatments I need,” she said.
What was life like before the diagnosis?
“I was working at Royal Westmoreland as a private cook. And I would do other private work in between. I have a daughter and she is studying. Because I am not working, I need the assistance from whoever is willing to help. I need help with things like food because I am trying to help my daughter.
“I had to change up my diet to make myself more comfortable because of the chemotherapy. Doctors say that I have to get a hip replacement and to have it done here is going to be very costly. It is going to cost thousands of dollars,” she said.
Ruth has no insurance. Recently, a group of students from her former school St James Secondary (now Frederick Smith Secondary) joined hands to raise funds to assist her.
Trents 95 Alumni handed over a cheque for $10 000 to a grateful Ruth. The funds were the proceeds from a fish fry held at the Bay Street Esplanade.
“I have a very good support system with my family and friends. The only people I want around me are people who are ready to fight with me. Yes, in the beginning you would feel sad, but then you have to turn your attention to fight. It is not every morning I get up and I want to get it because I am not doing what I am accustomed to doing. I can’t sit down and cry and complain, because that wouldn’t help me at this stage,” the Spooner’s Hill, St Michael resident said. (AH)