Mon | Mar 25, 2019

Cancer survivor set to become the disease'sworst enemy

Published:Wednesday | June 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Romeo Henry (right) poses with his son, Kemardo, who is headed for Syracuse University. - Photo by Nadisha Hunter

Nadisha Hunter, Gleaner Writer

A Jamaican youth hit by a rare but treatable form of cancer has transformed that trial into triumph, achieving scholastic excellence and harbouring dreams of making groundbreaking medical breakthroughs.

Kemardo Henry was confronted with the grim news, during his studies in 2008 at Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) in the United States, that he had Hodgkin's lymphoma, which affects lymph nodes, the liver and spleen.

"I had it hard to study because every three days I had to go to the hospital to get chemotherapy, so I would miss classes.

"Plus, the chemotherapy would suck every energy from my body, making it difficult for me to keep up, but I have a no-excuse philosophy which kept me working hard to achieve my goals," he told The Gleaner.

Henry, who suffered hair loss - a usual consequence of chemotherapy - received treatment until April last year.

As a result, the 20-year-old, who migrated to the US when he was 17, remained focused on his schoolwork and eventually snagged two prestigious scholarships, clearing the way for a career in medicine.

"I was chosen for the Granville T. Woods Scholarship, which covers my tuition at BCCC, where I was an 'A' student. I maintained the scholarship, even throughout my illness, and I am excited, because had it not been for this I wouldn't have been able to finance my way through school," Henry said.

Scholarships to further education

The Granville T. Woods scholar and recipient of a Governor's Citation for academic excellence has been selected the 2010 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Transfer Scholar on the back of first-class honours at his community college.

The latter scholarship, worth US$30,000 per year, will cover tuition, living expenses and books for his tenure at Syracuse University, where he will kick off biochemistry studies in August.

He is one of only 40 such scholars nationwide and the second from BCCC in four years to receive the scholarship.

"I don't only want be a doctor, but I want to do research on medication for illnesses such as cancer," he claimed.

Henry, who volunteers at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, said he wanted to get a first-hand view of the medical world, as well as give back to the institution that saved his life.

While in Jamaica, Henry attended the St Mary High School, where he passed 11 subjects at the Caribbean Examination Certificate level.

The scholar attributed his success to the hard work of parents who, he said, overcame financial woes to provide him with a solid education.

Henry's sights are also set on giving back to his homeland.

"I will be coming back here to build a centre where I can do research on medications for cancer, as well as to help persons to be informed about the disease," he said.