Sat | Dec 15, 2018

Little giant 'Pepe' silenced by cancer - Youth leader remembered as fearless and committed

Published:Friday | May 4, 2018 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Oshnel Bryan

Described by his peers as a budding soul, a tough nut, and kind-hearted, Oshnel Bryan had big dreams that he would be one of the most impactful leaders helping marginalised youth in a harsh Jamaican society.

In fact, young Bryan was well on the journey to fulfilling his dreams, having got himself involved in youth programmes and ventures, which gave him the opportunity to interface with those whom he aspired to help most.

However, his journey was cut short on Wednesday when cancer stopped him in his tracks.

Pepe, as he was fondly called, was diagnosed at the age of 17 with adult T-cell lymphoma, a rare and often aggressive form of cancer that can be found in the blood (leukaemia), lymph nodes, skin, or other multiple areas of the body

The first sign of what would be the beginning of his struggles appeared when Bryan noticed that he had begun drinking unusually large volumes of water.

He eventually developed a searing pain at the right side of his stomach, and his lymph nodes would become swollen for periods. His health condition was considered to have improved through chemotherapy treatment, but almost a year later, he was forced to accept the dreaded news that the cancer had returned.


Clinical trial


He had two options: more chemotherapy or travel to the United States of America to participate in a clinical trial with new medicine developed to treat his rare disease. Bryan and his family, after much consideration, made the difficult decision to travel to the USA to participate in the trial.

It did not work out for Bryan, and like so many before him, he lost the battle.

Back home in Jamaica, he was known for his debating skills and his youth leadership enthusiasm. He was a former student of Kingston College and Wolmers' Boys School. According to his peers, who spoke with The Gleaner yesterday, Bryan's struggles appeared secondary to him as "his drive was to do as much as he could while he could".

"It is as if he knew he didn't have long," Kriston Ashman said yesterday.

On Facebook, the tributes poured in as the reality that Pepe had lost his battle sank in.

"I just heard that my Friend Oshnel Bryan has passed away. He gave up the fight, but he knew God and was always positive. You will be missed. An outspoken, well-disciplined defender of the weak. A true optimist," Nicholas Sanchez said.