Thu | Apr 2, 2020

°Viva Feluke! - Musician-singer recovering after Mexican cancer treatment

Published:Sunday | June 3, 2018 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew
Feluke smiles during last September's benefit concert, held at Jamaica College.
Feluke focuses on his guitar.
Recording artiste Feluke enjoys a laugh as he relaxes at Kingston Waterfront.
Feluke relaxes at the Kingston Waterfront.
Recording artiste Feluke (centre) embraces Denesha Downer (left) and Crystal Campbell, who were with him during his recent cancer treatment in Mexico City, Mexico.
Recording artiste and musician Feluke (centre) and Crystal Campbell (right) laugh as Denesha Downer shares memories of their time in Mexico City, Mexico, where Feluke underwent cancer treatment.

Imagine having to consume a meal of cream crackers and plantain, or rice, peas, and chicken - blended. That is the burden that master percussionist and songwriter Denver 'Feluke' Smith had to bear over the past six months.

Feluke left Jamaica for Mexico City, Mexico, for the second stage of aggressive cancer treatments last October following 'The Healing - A Denver Smith's Charity', a benefit concert held in hopes of raising the money to cover the cost of procedures. This included low-dose radiation, ITP chemotherapy, alternative forms of cancer treatment, and changes in diet, with increased amounts of vitamins and minerals.

"The doctor told me he was not promising a cure but that we would be taking it one step at a time. The first thing he asked was do I believe in God. I was like 'what the hell?', because, of course, I believe in God, but the care had to embrace the spiritual side of everything," said Feluke. The Soul Alive singer had previously travelled to the Spanish-speaking country for the first time in April 2017 for a 21-day programme, but had to stay for much longer. When he returned on June 9, he was met with discontent, losing his father only two days later on June 11, 2017.

Feluke told The Sunday Gleaner that he was downtrodden at that moment and did not speak much. However, he got back on the performing horse and graced the stages of Reggae Sumfest only a month after. "When I returned last year, I was strong enough to do the festival. I was even climbing trees. I started panicking, having found out another round of treatment and surgeries would be needed and was unyielding to go back to any type of hospital," he said. It was approximately five years ago that Feluke had surgery in Jamaica for the same medical issues with his colon.


Emotional roller coaster


His friends, Crystal Campbell and Denesha Downer, told The Sunday Gleaner that it has truly been a roller coaster of emotions. "Crystal and Denesha were the ones who kept encouraging me to try again, with additional encouragement, support, and interest from the music fraternity. People always got upset when I use the phrase, 'if I am alive next year'," said Feluke.

The two females have accompanied Feluke to and from procedures, as well as back and forth from Jamaica to Mexico. "I don't think I have one word to summarise what the experience was like - just a world of mixed emotions. It was up and down - happy times, good times, bad times, sad times. His pain was so overwhelming that he would be from one extreme to the next," said Downer. Campbell added: "Being away from our families was the least, although we are excited to be back home. It became a learning experience, just how to comfort him to sleep and how to react to him crying due to the pain and dispiritedness."

Persons would send money constantly to assist with any additional treatment and for personal upkeep. The team of three made friends in Mexico who eventually began to assist. They remember that in December, a woman even provided Christmas decorations and a duffel bag of gifts.

Outside of the heartfelt support he had, the musician still describes the entire journey as a horrific relay. "Not the treatment, just the pain, like the daily pains of not being able to sit up. When I walked, I was bent over. I, basically, had to learn to walk again. I would toss and turn, so the girls couldn't sleep because they had to be a headrest and play in my hair for comfort," he said.

For the amount of energy that the multitalented musician exudes while reliving the experience, it's hard to believe that he is still recovering from surgery, not being able to pass stools normally (wearing a colostomy bag) and having restless nights. Only the small donut cushion on which Feluke sits may lead persons to question what has happened to him. He said, "not a lot of people know I am in Jamaica now, but those who know are surprised to see how I am doing." He has become more of a homebody only because he is planning to take it easy this time around and focus on healing.

However, after he has fully recovered, Feluke is making plans to host another Denver Smith's Charity concert to help someone else get to the same centre in Mexico.