Up Close … with Tracy Uzice, cancer survivor-‘Never give up hope’


18-October-2011

I could not believe that only three years ago she had been in a coma and on the verge of Tracy Uzice … feeling like a new womandeath. I was there to listen to her story in the hope of spreading her new found enthusiasm for life among cancer patients all over the country.

Growing pains

“It was December 2008 and I was only 28 years old when I was diagnosed with cancer,” she began.

“I had had a really nasty cough which did not seem to go away. For a little over three months I was in and out of hospital and had taken more antibiotics than you can imagine. Nothing seemed to be working. At one point it felt like if I didn’t throw up each time I coughed, I would not be able to sleep or do anything comfortably. It was overwhelmingly painful,” she remembered.

On December 21 of that year, Tracy found herself at home spending some quality movie time with her youngest son. “He was only around eighteen months at the time. I remember he would not stop pacing back and forth and continuously turned the television off. I told him to stop and would turn it back on,” she said.

But the restless baby would not listen.
“Finally I sat him down on my knees so he would stop being so fidgety; I was beginning to feel tired and all of a sudden, he rear-headed me in the chest. He was only a baby and of course he was simply just trying to wiggle away to go and play but suddenly I was in immense pain,” she said grimacing from the memory.

“My chest felt cramped and I couldn’t breathe. I went to the Casualty unit of the hospital hoping not much damage had been done but when I got there I began to vomit and cough up blood.”

Not surprisingly, the doctor on duty was alarmed by this and told Tracy her condition was not normal.

“I was admitted the next day after taking an X-ray. They had found a suspicious growth in my media sternum – a tube in the chest area near the lungs.”

On closer inspection, the doctors informed Tracy that she had a malignant tumour.

Devastating diagnosis

“I had a biopsy done but nothing could really be determined. Deep down I knew it was cancer but the doctors refused to confirm it. In fact, they could not really tell what the diagnosis was since they couldn’t identify the tumour.

After several trips to the hospital and steadily increasing pain, I underwent another scan only to find out that my left lung had collapsed.”

Tracy was admitted on January 28 the following year for an immediate operation and unbeknown to her, slipped into a coma lasting three days.

She regained consciousness on a Friday only to be told she had non-Hodgkin Lymphoma – a cancer that starts in cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body's immune system.
 
“The worst thing was I was one of the first registered cases in Seychelles and I was afraid that we had no real experience in dealing with such cancers,” she said biting her lower lip.

“Thankfully though, I began chemotherapy on February 2 and started taking all my prescribed medications.”

Tracy said up to now, she has seen no trace of the cancer and attributes that to her faith in her doctors, herself and God.

“This coming December will be three years since the diagnosis and I have had blood tests done every six months and scans every year. I am officially in remission,” she said smiling.

Family and re-defining my priorities

“During my ordeal, my friends and family were devastated. My mother was continuously experiencing spikes in her blood pressure and everybody except me was stressed beyond imagination.

“In fact, I believed during this time I was the strongest person in my family. I had to be.
 Even when I was first diagnosed with cancer, I knew I had to survive it, if not for myself then for my three precious children who to me were the only reasons I had to live. They were still babies and I was just not ready and still am not ready to leave them.

“One lady I befriended on my stay in hospital (sadly she passed away not long after) used to tell me, ‘Where are you going to run, my dear? Just take it one day at a time, take your medication and have faith in God. Have hope’”.

“I have always remembered her words and they have stuck with me until now.
“Soon after, I became a member of the Cancer Concern group and used to make rounds at the hospital, using her words to me for comforting others who were now facing the same things I had.

On hope

“I believe anybody who is facing cancer is facing the battle of their lives but they must never give up hope,” she said almost pleadingly.

“Hope is all you have and it’s very important. I hear people complain about not having many friends or that they’re single and struggling with this disease. Don’t let that discourage you. While I was in hospital, my then husband had already filed for divorce and was going through the procedures.

“I could have given up or felt sorry for myself, sat in a corner and bawled my eyes out like a baby, but I didn’t.

“Compared to what I was facing, this was a minor issue and like I said, I had my children waiting for their mum to come back home. So I had a reason other than something that trivial to live for,” she said smiling.

“If you believe in a God, you know that you are never alone,” said Tracy, and with the help of optimistic doctors and one particular encouraging aunt, who had gone through three different cancers and survived to tell the tale, she finally pulled herself out of the hospital bed and today says she feels like a new woman.

“If you’re looking for death in any way, you will find it, but if you have put your whole will and faith into overcoming it, then you will triumph regardless.”

By Rebecca Chang-Tave

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