Sun | Jan 20, 2019

Jacqueline Tomlin-Brooks: Breast cancer survivor saved by faith

Published:Monday | October 29, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Jacqueline Tomlin-Brooks
Jacqueline Tomlin-Brooks
Jacqueline Tomlin-Brooks
Jacqueline Tomlin-Brooks

Many persons ring in the new year with merriment and great expectations of what it holds, however, in 2013, Jacqueline Tomlin-Brooks rang in the new year with the shocking discovery of a lump in her breast, which was later discovered to be cancerous. Her reaction to the news, though, was a surprise as the self-declared worry-wart, instead of panicking or crying, laughed, and decided that this was not going to be a death sentence, instead it would be an opportunity to prove God's faithfulness. Although she did not receive a divine healing, her fight against breast cancer is full of 'miraculous' moments.

While not terrified by the diagnosis, Jacqueline was shocked, as she had none of the tell-tale signs of cancer and had no family history, so, when she did what she thought was a routine screening, just to check the lump in her breast, she was almost sure the results would be negative. As if being prepared for battle, she revealed: "A few months before I was diagnosed with cancer, it seemed that God had directed my husband and I into the study of the Book of Job. So by the time I got the news, it was like I was mentally prepared for it." The popular passage of scripture shares Job's story, which is full of several challenges, while maintaining a thankful heart and a triumphant ending.

She adopted a similar attitude during her journey with breast cancer. "I recall jokingly saying to my husband after we heard the news, let's get rid of these two and get two new ones," she said.

Like a true financial expert, the JMMB Bank business support officer, then took the time to ensure that her preparations would be adequate, touching bases with her insurance adviser, to ensure that she had sufficient coverage to offset her initial cancer treatment.

She also met another breast cancer survivor, Patrice Kelly, who was a godsend helping her to navigate the journey, manage her expectations, and understand the process and changes to expect. As if to test the degree of her faith, Tomlin-Brooks recalled being infected with dengue a few days before performing her surgery, resulting in a delay of a few days, until her symptoms subsided. To most persons' surprise, including hers, when she started her weekly chemotherapy treatment, she experienced little down time. "After doing treatments in the evenings, I was weak and tired, but by the following day, I could go to work and was able to function, except for a few occasions where I may have felt drowsy. I kept living my life normally." She added, "I was also fortunate to have a team at work that was like family. A few of my JMMB team members went as far as cutting their hair in solidarity with me, without my knowledge; as I had eventually to cut my hair because of the thinning I experienced with chemotherapy."

But it was God's favour towards her in financing her treatment regime that solidified her faith. "I paid less than J$40,000, for my reconstructive surgery, with insurance. When I got the email the afternoon with the total, I started crying when I saw the amount, because a friend of mine had told me her surgery had cost almost a J$1 million. I just couldn't believe it." In fact, reconstruction surgery usually ranges upwards of J$400,000 per breast, without insurance coverage, dependent on the type of surgery. She, again, saw God's grace when she had to do additional tests to confirm that the symptoms she was having a few months after surgery were not her worst fears that the cancer had returned, instead she had a clean bill of health. "When the doctors saw that all the tests came back negative, in almost disbelief, they ordered additional tests, to verify the results of the initial tests and again the results were negative. Furthermore, I didn't pay for any of the tests out of pocket because a friend covered the expenses for the initial test and the doctors did not charge me for the additional tests done.

"I don't know why I got cancer, but I have told persons that the year I was diagnosed with cancer was one of the best years of my life, in terms of my proving God over and over. It is simply mind-blowing," confessed Jacqueline.

Since her diagnosis, Jacqueline has embraced a more relaxed attitude, experienced a closer relationship with God, and adopted a healthier lifestyle - changing her diet to more natural foods and incorporating more exercise.

So now, five years cancer-free, Jacqueline is not just grateful for God's grace and favour, she is now on a quest to help others who may trod a similar path, armed with the message that breast cancer does not have to be a death sentence. "I am happy to share my story, if it can help another person, because I was helped by others who shared their experience and journey with me." She underscores the value of being screened, doing routine breast self-examination and acting fast when diagnosed, "An acquaintance of mine who was also diagnosed with cancer, around the same time as me, but delayed getting treatment because of fear, she is no longer with us." Instead overcome fear with faith.