Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Stage Four breast cancer survivor spreads hope
A lesser woman would have crumbled under the deathly pressure of a six-year-long battle with breast cancer, not so for the irrepressible, Clover Allen-Wilson.
But instead of capitulating under the numbing pain of the dreaded disease, Allen-Wilson continues to defy death.
The inevitable smile was present as always on the face of the long-suffering woman.
Not surprisingly, Allen-Wilson was flamboyantly attired when the Flair caught up with her at The Pegasus hotel, ahead of the Rotary Club's historic power walk for breast cancer last week.
Clover is at stage four - the final stage in the painfully cancerous journey, yet, her daily struggles are placed determinedly on the backburner.
The confidence, charisma and charm of the cancer survivor continued to illuminate others with the debilitating disease. "It's been a long journey," she asserted.
In her typical, if inimitable style, her quest for a cure has propelled her to spread her wings beyond local shores to become one of Jamaica's foremost Global Cancer Ambassadors.
The only sign that all was not well with the effervescent personality of Clover Allen-Wilson is that she seemed out of breath as she spoke candidly to the Flair. "God's grace!" was the unhesitating response of the larger-than-life characters who has been a source of inspiration to others.
"It's (the treatment is) expensive, I have no money, right now as we speak I have a CT scan to do from June and, because I have to be undergoing chemotherapy treatment, money is finished," she said. "The treatment is ongoing and has left me flat broke."
Touches of heroics and courage notwithstanding, the story of Clover Allen-Wilson cannot be romanticised as she emerged as an unyielding advocate on the United Nation's global agenda on cancer.
For as long as one can remember, Allen-Wilson has been a community worker - a lay magistrate and justice of the peace for the parish of St Catherine. She currently serves as secretary for the Governor General's Achievement Awards Scheme, St Catherine Committee.
Allen-Wilson is also a member of the Jamaica, member of the St Catherine Community Consultative Committee the Passagefort Citizens' Association; the Jamaica Cancer Society; the Relay for Life Team; the counselling team, and the Jamaica Reach to Recovery.
Busy as a bee
Among a flurry of other activities Allen-Wilson, a trained mediator in conflict resolution has served on the Advisory Committee of the Dispute Resolution, Foundation. She has spent much time signing documents for community members; carrying out counselling, assisting the police with identification parades, cautioning statements, and other related duties. She also presides as a judge at the Petty Sessions Court in Spanish Town.
But then, along came the dreaded breast cancer in 2006. Life became harsh beyond words for Allen-Wilson. "I have to use up all my resources. I have to prioritise as to whether I can insure my house, insure my vehicle; license my car, buy food or buy medication," she said.
Allen-Wilson revealed that she has received assistance from friends and family members. "Even the association that is putting on the project (Rotary) sometimes assists, but it is so expensive. So if you get a $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000, I appreciate it, but it's a drop in the bucket because the treatment is like millions of dollars."
She continues to use her counseling aptitude to good effect - for her, it's a rewarding exercise. "I do counselling for the Jamaica Cancer Society and when I go to the hospitals and a patient may do surgery to remove the breast and I counsel with them and I see the look on their faces, I get satisfaction from that ... I really enjoy doing that."
Allen-Wilson noted that the Rotary Club is raising funds to purchase a state-of-the-art radiation machine for the University Hospital of the West Indies. "The Jamaica Association of Administrative Professionals, of which I am past president of the Kingston Chapter, saw my struggles and realised how difficult it has been for me and how expensive the treatment is."
It is against this backdrop that the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club came on board and decided to pool their resources to acquire such a machine. Initially, they decided to purchase one for the Cornwall Regional Hospital at a cost of US$2.2 million.
However, the Jamaican diaspora in the United States decided to come on board and, because of the care that I have been receiving at the University Hospital of the West Indies, buy a second one for the hospital, so the target is US$5 million.
As she moved about in her infectious style, Allen-Wilson even grabbed the attention of the American Cancer Society which invited her to speak. "They sent her here as a cancer survivor - someone who had been through the pangs and had walked through 'the valley of the shadow of death'," said Alessandra Drustinol, vice-president of the American Cancer Society.
There she spoke at the United Nations, wanting to put on the global agenda for the first time cancer and other non-communicable diseases "so they invited me to share my story."
The standing ovation was deafening after Allen-Wilson's story penetrated the consciousness of those present.