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Story of victory - Cancer survivor pens book on keeping faith in tough situations

Published:Sunday | July 17, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Rosemarie Benjamin - Photo by Christopher Serju

Christopher Serju, Sunday Gleaner Writer

"Today I can say God is awesome," Rosemarie Benjamin declared with quiet conviction.

The health professional just finished recounting the most agonising period of her life, a period during which her self-esteem took a nosedive as her health failed and finances dried up. Remarkably though, Benjamin's trust in God and the love of friends and family never wavered.

Diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and losing a breast to the disease, Benjamin is on a path to recovery centred on spiritual renewal, vegetarian diet and a very strong desire to share her story with the world.

A trained nurse with a master's degree in public health, Benjamin said in 2009 she was inspired by God to check under her right arm where she found a lump which a subsequent biopsy confirmed to be cancerous. Over the next several months, her body struggled through the agony and rigours of chemotherapy, alternative medicine and diet alterations. The physical demands threatened to override her equilibrium.

"The experience was just tough. The nausea, the vomiting, the entire experience. At points after leaving chemo my sister would have to lead me to the car because I was basically dizzy and just thrown over. My hair went, my nails were extremely dark and it was just hard," she recalled before going on speak of the love that helped her through the tough period.

"During that time I had a lot of support from friends, family and church members and even my colleagues at work. Tony Thwaites Wing at University Hospital is where I work and there were also supportive cards, phone calls, flowers, gifts. They were just all there and it happened that with all of that I was able to come through and today I can say God is awesome."

Soon after taking ill, Benjamin began writing down her experiences - good and bad - on pieces of scrap paper which her sister Joan transcribed and which is now all documented in her book, In His Time He Has Made All Things Beautiful.

"This book looks at how God has been there for me, how he has really carried me throughout my life. I've done nothing without him and even during the chemotherapy he basically gave me strength. It's amazing to note that after coming home from chemo, not being able to walk to the car on my own, at 1 o'clock each night I'm up reading the word and just spending time with God. It has been really inspirational, really moving, he has really lifted me," she told The Sunday Gleaner.

"Basically he has been there for me and that's all the book is saying."

Now she is looking to another book. "Somebody asked when is the next book, so I said next year and I am saying next year for myself as well, in terms of helping to motivate me to make sure it happens."

Now a strict vegetarian, she no longer consumes dairy products or sugar, and eats brown rice and lots of fruits and vegetables.

Returning to work last year June after a 10-month layoff, Benjamin has a new perspective on life and, even with the demands of her job, is making time to do the things she enjoys such as singing with the group Advent Joy Ministries which also does a lot of outreach work.

"My word is to do what is best for the body. Focus on the illness in terms of getting over it, don't listen to everybody. You can't listen to everybody, but do what is best in taking care of your body. The exercise, the rest is very important, proper nutrition, proper diet, cut down your oils and trust in divine power and ensure that you have a happy life," she offered.

"Don't allow pressure to get you down. Don't allow stress to get you down. Do stuff to enhance your life, have fun, and go to the beach. Go have a picnic with family and friends, just have excitement in your life. If you are not a person who is usually excitable try and get it going."

Then there is her relationship with God.

"I can't help emphasising the importance of communicating with him. If there is a problem with a spiritual issue - meaning if you have a problem getting over a particular weakness, speak to the Lord about it. If it's an emotional scenario God will, if it's a means of getting food, God will provide. I went 10 months without working. I had a car loan over $27,000 and God did it. I didn't have to beg a person a dollar, was never hungry, never."