‘I did it for mom’

POPULAR doctor, Alfred Dawes on Thursday stunned guests at the relaunch and rebranding of his business, Windsor Wellness Centre, when he ditched his planned speech and delivered an awe-inspiring story which he dubbed the truth behind the repurposing of his craft to offer cancer screening, testing and treatment of chronic illnesses and metabolic dysfunction.

After taking the stage to make his address, Dr Dawes, founder of Windsor Wellness Centre, said, “The best use of this platform now is to help people to understand why screening is extremely important.”

This statement then followed his own admission that, despite being trained to spot the signs of cancer and his advocacy for living healthy and keeping on top of one’s health status, he neglected the person closest to him.

“Last summer my mother mentioned to me she had passed blood while passing stool, and I am a surgeon, I know the causes of a GI [gastrointestinal] bleed. I’m on TV, radio; I write about it, I advise my patients about it; and I do colonoscopies. But, I dismissed it as just haemorrhoids and said we’d get a scope [endoscope] at some point in time,” he said, his guests listening in total silence.

He continued: “Before she got to do the colonoscopy she passed out after a massive bleed at home. I ran and got her, got that emergency colonoscopy done. It was a tumour in the rectum. Seemed to be advanced and, by all appearances, it would be expensive surgery that would have left her with a bag at the side permanently. There was no denying it at that point in time.”

Dr Dawes said he was overcome with guilt that led to depression and eventual therapy, but he also moved quickly to get his mother treatment.

“The guilt set in because here I was helping people everyday for the same conditions and I had let down my own mother. It wasn’t that I didn’t know; I knew the signs very well. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, so what was it why I ignored what was in front of me? It caused some depression, something that I had to work through. I am a big man — I can say I saw a therapist who is here today, did a lot of work to help me to get to where I am because I was in a dark place because of that and other issues. But, we started treatment and the idea was to get some chemotherapy and radiation prior to surgery. Chemotherapy was started — Dr Gillian Wharfe, radiation — Dr Kern Pemberton.

“I was at a launch — coincidentally — and a friend of mine was speaking about this new cannabis compound he had tested on some breast cancer cells and he was speaking about how his own mother’s journey with cancer led him in that field. He is not a medical doctor but that was what had got got him into the field of cancer research. We spoke after and he agreed to give me some of this treatment. She completed chemotherapy, completed radiotherapy and tried this complementary approach to medicine and, within six months, we repeated all the scans and in preparation for surgery we did the colonoscopies, MRIs, and the cancer — which was stage 3 and had already spread and was invading the muscle — had disappeared without a trace,” Dr Dawes said.

Within that period, Dr Dawes said, in trying to make sense of the situation, he resigned that there must be a bigger purpose for all that his mother went through and that what transpired could not have occurred simply because he let her down.

“I promised myself that within that time, as far back as February, that no matter what the outcome I would use this to motivate me to try to use my position — whatever resources, whatever access I had — to help those who really need screening. If they can’t afford private care that can get them through in a matter of months or [have no] access to friends that can give them model therapies, what will happen? We know that 70 per cent of colon cancers in Jamaica are diagnosed at an advanced stage 3 and stage 4. We know that breast cancer, even though we do not have one of the highest incidence in the world, we have one of the highest death rates in the world. The same for prostate cancer. Our prostate cancer victims die more than the average person who gets it worldwide.

“I decided I would first fix myself and then that would be one of my purposes to move forward. Although the genesis was rooted in guilt, I wanted mom to know that what she was going through was going to lead to greater things, not just in her life but in the lives of many Jamaicans. I want my mother to know that everything here has been inspired by her,” the general, laparoscopic and weight loss surgeon said.

Dr Dawes’ mother, Maxine Williams, who was in attendance and in high spirits, beamed with pride at her son’s honesty in the moment. Despite the circumstances, she was happy to have inspired the catalyst and rebranding of Windsor Wellness.

To that end, Dawes further mentioned that he considers his mother blessed and fortunate as — though textbooks say there is a chance of complete response with chemotherapy and radiotherapy — that is not usually the case with higher-grade tumours.

“Having overcome that hurdle I did not want to just let it end there. What was born out of a dark period is just a motivation for me to create a one-stop chronic disease treatment centre where you can know your status, intervene earlier, and then you will have all the support needed for a patient battling cancer. One thing it allowed me to appreciate as a doctor is that we treat the cancer; we don’t treat the patient and we don’t treat the family. That is one thing I want to change at Windsor, and I look forward to our wellness coach bringing that on board as we try to offer wholesome care.”

In addition to its current offerings, Windsor Wellness will now provide a care system to screen for blood tests, with the results available within 45 minutes. They will also offer screening for liver and kidney disease; hypertension, diabetes and pre diabetes; cholesterol; colon cancer with FIT test that detects blood in the stool (an excellent marker for cancerous or pre-cancerous growth) as well as colonoscopies for colon cancer. Also on offer will be Pap smears and colposcopy for cervical cancer; mammograms and ultrasound-guided biopsies for breast cancer; prostate tests with PSA and DRE plus ultrasound-guided biopsies and surgical biopsies.

These will be facilitated through partnerships with oncologists, nutritionists and, for gynaecological cancers, ILAP Medical with Dr Ryan Halsall. In addition, life coach Yulit Gordon will function in the capacity of wellness coach at Windsor Wellness where she will help to support and guide patients on their journey through chronic illnesses.

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