Wed | Dec 13, 2017

Young Ashanti conquering paediatric cancer

Published:Saturday | September 30, 2017 | 12:00 AMSyrannno Baines
Denese Dacres Reeves (centre) moderates an activity for the children (from left) Damaine Brown, Nickayla Francis, Delroy McLeish, and Sharline Cunningham at the FLOW Foundation handover of annual contributions to the Bustamante Hospital for Children paediatric cancer fund and treat for cancer unit patients yesterday.
Natricia Brackett (left) and Leacoy Palmer (right) bow their heads in reverence during a prayer as their children, Maleque Steele (second right) and Nicayla Fitzgerald, innocently play.
Valora Burke (right) hugs 10-year-old Delroy McLeish.
Young cancer survivor Ashanti Allen (right) and mother, Mariann Miller.
Bustamante Hospital for Children.
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Her toughest battle should have pitted her against the upcoming Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), but

as fate would have it, in the summer of 2015, 11-year-old Ashanti Allen's opponent turned out to be leukaemia.

The turn of events which preceded that dreaded diagnosis on the morning of July 27 began taking form only a few days after the preteen complained of severe eye pains.

At first, a single lump appeared behind Allen's ear. Then almost suddenly, lymph nodes began to appear on Allen's face and neck.

Startled by the manifestations, her mother, Mariann Miller, took her to a nearby medical doctor, who in turn referred her to a paediatrician in Mandeville.

After undergoing various tests, the mother of two recounted the uneasy feeling that threatened to overpower her on the morning of the results.

"When I got there, he already had the results from the night before. Then he told Ashanti to go to the nurse so we could discuss adult stuff, and that's when I began to fear for the worst. He then asked if I knew anything about leukaemia, and I just broke down in just tears, there were no words," Miller told The Gleaner during a treat yesterday for children afflicted by cancer at the Bustamante Hospital for Children.

With the cancer cells expanding rapidly, Allen sat out the entire year of grade six to undergo chemotherapy, which saw the young St Elizabeth native being housed at Bustamante for months at a time.

After enrolling in grade six in September 2016, she would fall ill on multiple occasions before adequately recovering and being discharged from Bustamante on December 17.

 

COME A LONG WAY

 

With less turbulent months ahead, the youngster delved into her studies and would later be rewarded with a place at her preferred secondary school the Sydney Pagon Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Academy in St Elizabeth.

Now a first former, the bubbly young lady with pharmaceutical aspirations has declared that she's come a long way on a hard journey and is eyeing nothing but good health and success.

"No matter what the circumstances are, I stay strong and always read my Bible, and I encourage other children with cancer to do the same. My mother is my rock. My other family, friends, and my teacher Miss Miller, take very good care of me, and I'm very thankful. Also, the doctors and nurses at Bustamante, Dr Scott Brown, Dr Mclean, and Nurse Campbell, who give me so much support, I thank all of them, and I will beat this for them," Allen shared.

To this end, Ashanti's gleeful mother replied: "God has been very good. Since her release in December, she has been doing very good in terms of health, school, spirits. Each time I stop and look at her, she'll probably wonder why, but she's my only daughter, and I want nothing but for her to be cured and excel in life. The chemotherapy finishes in February 2018, and thereafter, every six months, she will have to do an overall check to see if the cancer cells return. But if she stays in remission for three years or more, she'll be rid of it, and I'm here waiting on the glorious day."

September is observed as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.