In 2015, Rodell Hinds had a visual inspection of cervix with acetic acid (VIA) done and cancerous cells were detected and presumably treated through cryotherapy, with follow-up treatment done the following year. In 2016 she also had a partial hysterectomy after she was diagnosed with a uterine problem which brought on extreme pain and bowel issues. By 2017, she was diagnosed with stage four cervical cancer.
Hinds was immediately placed on chemotherapy, but she was advised by a doctor that because of the late-stage diagnosis the treatment would not have gotten rid of the cancer but prevented it from spreading to other parts of her body. But she felt like the chemotherapy was “killing me” and she decided, after a few sessions, that she would have no more of it. She is now on herbal treatment and has since changed her diet to vegan.
“I felt like lying down to die,” Hinds told the Sunday Stabroek in an interview. “I did that for a while, actually. I laid down and just allowed life to get the best of me. I had started having the chemo, but I was ready to give up. But as a mother when I looked at my children and I believed in God, so I realized that there is something to hold on for and I trust in God and I know I will live.”
While she is aware of the warnings by medical practitioners who advocate conventional medicine, Hinds believes that the conventional medicine (she was told that she is too far gone for radiotherapy to be administered) for her illness will cause her body more harm than good. She also pointed out that she did have the screening for the cancer and was administered treatment in what should have been the very early stage and was given the all-clear, yet she was eventually diagnosed with stage four.
A mother of four who has faced many challenges in her life, including her husband walking out on her when she became ill, Hinds is a strong believer in God and is a Seventh-day Adventist. She believes that with her religious beliefs, herbal medicine, vegan diet and a positive attitude she will beat the cancer.
She pointed out that while she has the herbal doctor she also has a medical doctor who works with her and who keeps advising her and it is hoped that eventually she will be able to return to her job as a part of the housekeeping staff at the Davis Memorial Hospital.
“I am making it by the grace of God and I must say I feel much better than I felt when I was taking the chemo and the hardest part right now is not being able to work and earn and that sometimes can take over my mind,” she admitted.
While reluctant initially to share her story, Hinds, who has spoken at public forums before, eventually relented and noted that she hoped that her experience while not easy may serve as a motivation to others.
“I am brave. I have put my mind in a place where I must live, that is my mindset. And if I meet a million people I will tell them of my experience and maybe just one person will get motivation and do something,” she said.
Hinds said she was aware that she may have been susceptible to cancer as she lost four family members to the disease and there is also a survivor who was diagnosed in the very early stages of cervical cancer.
“They [her relatives] had different cancers and they did strictly chemo and radiotherapy and then I watched them die and so that is why I am trying something different because my cancer is at the late stage,” she said.
When she was younger she also suffered from Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) which could also be a contributing factor to the cancer.
Three years ago, when she started experiencing severe pain she had surgery for appendicitis and it was around then that the doctor suggested that she had a VIA done; it revealed cancerous cells. The screening was done at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and it was right there, according to her, that the “cancerous cells were frozen.” This was done again the following year.
After the follow-up treatment the pain was back in 2016, and she had the hysterectomy, but two months later the pain returned.
She recalled that she was working at the hospital, which was a struggle, and when she got home, because of the pain, she was unable to give her husband the attention he seemingly craved. “I was vomiting. I was in pain and I could not even get a motion by myself and when I came home in the afternoons he would nag about me not giving him enough attention. One day I went to work and when I came home he had left with everything he had and everything he ever bought,” Hinds said quietly.
At that time, it was a relief that he had gone, because she could now go home, ensure her children were okay and then retire to bed without having someone else looking for her attention.
“I took that part very easy. I was sick and feeling pain and I did not want to go home and a man nagging at me. And because of the kind of person he was I could not have opened up to him and tell him how I was feeling,” she pointed out.
As the pain continued and her stomach became swollen, Hinds said, she visited another doctor and he recommended an ultrasound. A mass with fluid was found in her right ovary and a CT scan was also recommended. But because this was expensive at a private institution Hinds decided to visit the GPHC.
One Friday afternoon in August last year, she left work and headed over to the GPHC; the pain was so intense that Hinds said she was delirious. She was seen at the emergency unit and after the doctors examined her and her ultrasound result, surgery was recommended, and she was rushed to the theatre.
“They did an open lobotomy, but they closed me back up because they said the mass had covered my entire inside and they could not have touched anything,” Hinds said, adding that two days later she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It was later discovered that she had cancer of the cervix which had spread to her ovary.
She was discharged from the hospital and started to undergo chemotherapy but following a television interview she was contacted by an herbal doctor who asked her if she was willing to change her lifestyle. This meant going completely vegan and using herbal medication and Hinds said by that time she was willing to try something else because she knew “the chemo was doing nothing for me, I was dying from the chemo.”
She recalled when she indicated to the doctor at the hospital at GPHC that she would no longer be undergoing chemotherapy he was angry.
“My mother was with me and he told my mother that I wanted to die and that she should take me home and give me a few beers and let me die. But I knew I was not giving up and my mother knew I had another purpose in my mind and she went along with my decision.”
She started the herbal medicine and according to Hinds within a month she was “up and running” as opposed to being almost bedridden when the conventional medicine was being administered.
“I feel so much better right now, and my doctor is suggesting I do a CT scan for us to really see what is happening with me because the medication has been flushing me out. But because it is so expensive right now I cannot afford it, but I hope to soon have this done so I can really see what progress I am making,” she said.
Her herbal medicine consists of four doses in powder form and five in liquid form and they are expensive, but Hinds said she is trying to manage.
What works best
“Everybody has their own opinion on healing, so what might work for me might not work for you. The biggest thing is what your mind tells you works for you. God, in his word, said that healing comes from the herbs,” Hinds said in response to the suggestion that many might disapprove of her approach.
The 41-year-old is mother of five children, aged 4, 12, 16, 18 and 25 years old. An aunt helps with two of the children. Hinds said initially everyone was depressed, including the children, as they felt she would have died, but because of her positive attitude and her willingness to live they are all in a better frame of mind.
She shared that her aunt took the children even before she was diagnosed as at one time she was living in a one-bedroom apartment.“The apartment leaked and when it rained we were sleeping on wet mattress,” Hinds recalled.
Because of her approach to life, Hinds said, she made many friends at the Davis Memorial Hospital and one of them was a woman who eventually died. The woman’s relatives offered her the patient’s home for rental at a reduced price.
“It is still hard and right now I am even owing rent and I explained to the relative and he said whenever I get a little, pay what I can. But you know when it rains now I can look down to the water in the yard and not in my house,” she said. “God has been providing. Sometimes I think I want to give up the house because of my health, but I am saying if God provided that for me he is going to find a way to sustain it.”
While her eldest daughter works and helps to support her, Hinds’ biggest wish is to be given the all clear to return to work so the financial burden can be eased.
She receives a lot of love and support from management and staff of the Davis Memorial Hospital and she recalled that while she was bedridden the hospital had a prayer chain which saw everyone one praying for her for 15 minutes at 12. Her niece, who was attending classes at the time, also with the teachers’ permission, had classmates praying for her aunt every day and her daughter engineered the same at her workplace.
“Everybody has this determination for me to live and I was there throwing back and just want to die. So, I got up one day and looked in the mirror, and I said I am beautiful I have a reason to live and that was where I placed my mind.”
Now with her herbal medication and the prayers and her determination things have turned around and while from time to time she will still not feel 100%, Hinds said things are better.
She is grateful to her older sister Della Hinds, who left her home and family and travelled to Georgetown to provide round-the-clock care for her. A cousin is also assisting her even though Hinds believes that she soon will be able to manage on her own.
“Right now, I know I can’t heal thinking about the bills. So, I am focusing on getting strong, but I need to start working because my mind still wander and so it can’t be in two places at the same time.
“Herbal medicine is restoring my body and I will continue to use it, but I would continue to see my regular doctor as well,” Hinds maintained.
Her biggest dream is returning to her place of employment and she hopes that one day soon she will be given the all clear.