Fri | Jan 19, 2018

An ode to life

Published:Sunday | October 16, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Marlene Godfrey (aka Primrose), battling breast cancer, with a little help from friends.
Marica Mitchell - teacher, mother and a self taught artist - clutch and the skirt made by her
Clutches made by Marica Mitchell to raise funds for her friend's breast cancer treatment.
Clutches made by Marica Mitchell to raise funds for her friend's breast cancer treatment.
Clutch made by Marica Mitchell to raise funds for her friend's breast cancer treatment.
Christal-Ann Thompson Richards: Art Walk piano story
Amitabh Sharma

It was a warm, sunny Florida summer afternoon of 2015 when Marica Mitchell got a call from her friend Marlene Godfrey; it was a call that Mitchell thought she would be the last person on earth to get. Godfrey, known to her friends as Primrose, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I promise you, I felt it when Prim (Short for Primrose) called me and told me she had a lump," Mitchell said. "The mammogram result wasn't what I wanted to hear. No, please, I was in denial more than she was."

The stages of grief set in, denial, leading to the question "Why, and why her", and suddenly the warmth of the Sunshine State began to look like the frosty winters of the Poles, plunging the happy-go-lucky friends into remorse and sorrow.

"We were just celebrating happiness and then the shocking news ...," Mitchell said, her voice trailing, still coming to terms with this third letter of the English alphabet, which has gained much notoriety.

It was an uphill task - physically, emotionally, and financially.

"I remembered my struggles with my health - sick and hospitalised 18 times with my firstborn," Mitchell said. "I did win the battle and shared words of encouragement.

"I know that our God that we serve will never leave us nor forsake us."

The first step was to come to terms and deal with the circumstance head on, here divinity and positivity played key roles.

During one of her visits to Mandeville, Jamaica - her birthplace - Mitchell, made Prim (short for Primrose), making bold statements. "I suggested bold pink lips and a beautiful long dress. I went across the street from my home in JA and got all her 'money shots'," Mitchell said.

But, dealing with any form of cancer is nothing less than climbing a cliff with bare knuckles. One has to tread with ease, latch on to the tiniest bit of the rock jutting out to get a foothold, and critically, have the endurance and stamina to tread to the summit.

The price to pay is high, which Godfrey and Mitchell, had come to terms with early on. "How she will finance the surgery was my greatest concern," said Mitchell. "My heart started to ache."

Mitchell, who is a teacher, a mother of two, and finds sewing therapeutic, which gave her the idea to raise funds for Prim's surgery, which is going to cost US$500,000.

"I too could only afford a small donation, but prayed and kept asking myself, what else I can do," Mitchell said. "I took a nap and woke up with a grand idea of using my gift of sewing to fund raise."

Mitchell, who along with fellow Mandeville artist, Christal-Ann Thompson Richards decided to pool their resources and talents to sell their creations to raise funds.

The cost of the surgery, a walk on thin ice, may sound astronomical, mind-boggling and make many lose hope, embrace despair, but the key is to run, walk, crawl ... but keep moving.

"Every moment of life is precious, and when we have to struggle through it, its good to have hands of love reaching out to support you," said Thompson Richards, who has had to overcome her fair share of personal struggles.

When she heard about Primrose battling cancer and needed US$500,000 for surgery, Thompson Richards decided to help.

"I could be the one in that situation, but I was not," Thompson Richards said. "I was the one with the talent who could help her. So with my brush in hand, I will paint until she has had enough money to cover her surgery."

Armed with conviction, hope and prayers on their lips, the two ladies, are on a mission, to look beyond their struggles, to help someone they love.

Mitchell, who started making clutches three years ago, said she plans to sew clutches and donate 100 per cent of the profit made in October, which is observed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, towards Prim's treatment.

It is estimated that 1 in 8 women in the United States develop breast cancer, but there are also more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors there.

Raising funds for Primrose's treatment might seem a task, but the support of her friends, goes to speak volumes.

"I have truly learnt so much about myself through my struggles and always tried to find the positive in light of a tough period in my life," said Mitchell. " And I know that Prim will win this battle for her life."

There are millions of Primroses across the world, who need support - a hug, words of encouragement, reason to live and reason to love life. As the adage goes, little drops fill the ocean, or in Jamaican parlance - every mikkle mek a mukkle - small steps become giant leaps ... and for all the Prim's in the world - rock on!