After a hard-fought battle with rare bone cancer two years ago, 50-year-old Sukree Boodram thought she was winning when she was told that she was in remission. But this past January, the cancer returned aggressively. She continues to fight.
“I feel that it is important an issue that plagues millions out there and if we do not speak and share then we could have more potential victims not detecting cancer symptoms early,” she responded, when asked why she had decided to speak publicly about her illness.
“I was not very educated on cancer and the signs. I walked around months with the symptoms before I was admitted to the ER to have a CT scan that showed it was cancer. By that time it was at stage 4, which means it can be seen in more than two areas in the body. If I had known early on, I could have caught it earlier and be rid of it,” she related. She recalled the moments after the diagnosis was made. “I was lying in the ER, in pain and heavily medicated. I was barely making sense of my environment. After they took the CT scan, the doctor came to my bedside with my sister there and he said he had very bad news. I seemed to have stage 4 cancer and it was all over the right lung. At first, he thought it was lung cancer, but later we learned it was not.
“At that point I felt I lost all sense of reality. I must have gone into shock because I did not remember much until about two weeks later. I was moved from that ER to one of the top hospitals in New York City where I was subsequently treated… “The moment I heard the comment, ‘99.9% cancer,’ I went blank. I could not make a single decision for myself. Thank God for loving family and a sister who took the time to speak for me when I could not do it for myself. I felt like everyone was not talking about me having cancer, but about someone else.
“I was in severe denial. I later realised I was probably going through the stages of grieving for myself with the first stage being denial. “The next stage is anger. But I did not get angry at any point in this process.
“The third stage of bargaining was briefly felt, when I began to ask God over and over again to take me back to the time and feeling prior to a few months ago when I was extremely healthy. “Depression is the fourth stage and I fell into this stage head first or was already there.”
Thoughts of her two children kept her going in the days after diagnosis, even as she lay in a hospital bed wondering if her life would have ended.
“… I knew I did not finish my job as a parent and I want to see them both finish [college]. My daughter finishes her programme in May 2018 and my son finishes in December 2017. “I really wanted to fight hard for them. My son struggles each day with my illness and he is not a really stable person in himself. I worried that if I died prematurely, he would fall apart and not be able to recover. Even though he is 25, he is not able to handle this cancer and any level of stress.
So I keep on going for my children.”
Following the diagnosis she has had some pretty low days. “The worse day was after lung surgery in May 2016. I thought I would never be able to walk and breathe again. I was in the hospital seven days after they took out part of my right lung. I was weak and just was at a bad place.
“[I was on] a lot of medication that prevented me from thinking straight.”
But it has not all been bad.
“One of my best days was in December 2015. I had been gone from my home since September 2015 and I could not fly, so my family drove me from New York to spend the holidays with my children in Florida. “I was weak, but I was so happy to be at home and around my children and in my bed. It was the best feeling to hug and kiss them and have them see me getting better.”
For a while, she felt she was beating the cancer, though she was still not fully recovered. But then disaster struck.
“This past January, I was hospitalized again as the cancer returned very aggressively. And in 48 hours, I had all the same symptoms. I knew it came back. It was spreading all over my right side. They had to administer new medication and that seems to work. “When I felt like I was going to die at any moment, that overwhelming feeling of wanting to live is a feeling words simply cannot describe.
“You pray a lot over and over again asking God for more time…”
And she is looking to the future.
“My biggest focus is on my health. I have to keep my body healthy for chemo treatments so that means I have to eat right and exercise. I do both.
“I also want to continue to work to keep my brain and cognitive functions working at best. Next I want to be there for my children as they wrap up their education and try to get that first good job.
“My feeling is that life is such a short journey that should never be taken for granted. I did a lot more than most people.
“I have a great career, a few college degrees, I travelled a lot for work and pleasure. I am well established financially.
“I feel God has been very good to me and going away from this body of flesh is not a worry for me. I just want to finish my job with my children. I feel I am going to live to see 2018 and maybe beyond.
“Only God knows that date and I pray it is not soon. I am alive and I am living right now pain free. There are good pain blockers when I have pain, but with chemo treatments, the pain goes away.”
Boodram has Ewing Sarcoma, a bone cancer that affects mostly children and is rare in adults. From the size of the mass, she said, it was estimated that it manifested in her in about 6 months, and metastasized in soft tissue in her lungs. And even though she had symptoms of the cancer it was not picked up by her primary care physician.
Symptoms include severe back pain, constant high fever, excessive sweating especially at nights, loss of appetite, loss of motivation, depression and a constant heartrate of between 120-145, even in a state of rest. The average heartrate for a person should be between 60-80, but anything over 100 should be considered high.
Boodram has a blog www.sukreespeaks.com where she has written about her battle with the disease. She will continue to give updates on her journey.