Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
The test of one's faith in God can come in many different ways, but for 57-year-old early-childhood education specialist, Silvera Kennedy, the uninvited invasion of her life by the dreaded disease, cancer, is not something for which she could ever prepare.
"Everything was fine, this was totally unexpected, such a vicious disease is not something one can ever prepare for," said Kennedy, who lectures at Sam Sharpe Teachers' College in St James.
"..., but I make no bones about it ... I am a living evidence that Jehovah God is a healer."
It was in November 2008 that Kennedy visited her doctor because she had a concern about a lump on her tongue, which was growing to fill the gap created by a missing tooth on the left side of her mouth.
After several failed attempts to correct the problem through normal medical procedures, a biopsy revealed she had oral cancer, which experts say can form in any part of the mouth or
The news devastated Kennedy, a devoted Christian since the age of 15 years old. However, she placed her faith in the words of a preacher, who just weeks before the diagnosis told her that God had already dealt with her problem.
"Weeks before we learned what my true condition was, my husband and I attended a crusade and the preacher walked over to me and told me that something was wrong with me, but that God had killed it from the root," said Kennedy as she spoke with The Sunday Gleaner at her home in Flamingo, Trelawny.
"While we accepted the Word then, it was when we heard the result of the biopsy that we understood what God was saying and that gave me some confidence," said Kennedy. "I had nothing else to hang on to, but the word of God."
The journey to her recovery began with radiation everyday for two months, including twice on Thursdays.
However, it was a costly exercise that left severe damage to the muscles in her jaw, mouth and throat.
For the first four months, the experienced educator could not eat, but was fed through tubes, causing her to lose some 120 lbs in no time. Then, several tumours appeared on her tongue, one as large as a guinep seed.
"It was porridge for breakfast, porridge for lunch, (and) porridge for dinner and even the cornmeal had to be blended ... all my meals were watery meals," she painfully recalled. "Nothing tough, nothing spicy ... everything had to be smooth."
She added: "Even drinking water became a painful task as my jaws were tender; I had to crush ice on my tongue to quench my thirst."
She recalled: "Life was like that for me for the first three years, then things started to get a little better."
Kennedy, considered one of the leading minds in early-childhood education in Jamaica, has high praises for her husband, Bishop Rudolph Kennedy, a retired preacher with more than 65 years of experience.
"He was phenomenal," she said. "Even when I was down, and no matter what the doctors kept saying, he kept reminding me that God said that he had killed it from the root, in fact in praying we have never asked God to heal, we gave him thanks for healing."
Bishop Kennedy watched the disease eat away at his wife, changing her appearance as her weight plummeted from more than 238 lbs to 118 lbs in no time, but his undying love for his partner of more than 13 years and an unshakeable faith in God's ability to restore her health saw him hold firm.
"Even when I heard the doctor describe the viciousness of the situation I was calm," the veteran preacher said. "I held on to the fact that my God is able to deliver."
Her doctors marvelled that despite being at an advanced stage, the tumours were not spreading. But Kennedy, who has the distinction of training the first batch of inspectors to be dispatched in Jamaica's early-childhood education system, knew the prayerful support from her church family at the New Testament Church of God and her colleagues and friends at Sam Sharpe Teachers' College was key to the progress she was making.
Although the tumour was not spreading, two huge lumps remained on her tongue, adding to the unbearable discomfort caused by the excessive dryness in her mouth, and the pains in her cheek from the continuous radiation.
After so long, Kennedy had got to the point where she accepted her situation and made up her mind to live on porridge for the rest of her life.
But on the way back to Jamaica from London, England, two weeks ago, she requested a special meal from the stewardess, but the only thing available was beef and broccoli, and macaroni and cheese.
"I was very hungry, and being on a flight that had nothing on their menu that catered to my situation, I did not know what to do," she recalled.
"I don't know why I made the order, but all I know is that I did," she said, adding that before she realised it, she had consumed the entire serving.
It was then that she realised she was not feeling the pain and that the lumps that were on her tongue prior to boarding the flight were gone.
"At first I thought it was my imagination," she said, "..., but then she (flight attendant) came back with two sandwiches, which I had not eaten for five years, and instead of passing them to my husband, I started eating and it was then I realised that it was not a dream, but that God had answered my prayer and was restoring my health."
Said Kennedy: "God knew that I would have had too many options if I was not on a flight so he took me up in the air, so he limited my options by taking me 38,000 feet in the air, travelling 550 miles per hour ... with some 350 passengers to deliver me from my situation."