MONTEGO BAY, St James – Reneisha Townsend is fighting for her life after being diagnosed with stage four breast cancer a year ago, but she cannot do it alone.
Townsend, 37, a mother to three girls, needs the support of Good Samaritans through monetary donations, her sister Chiantia told the Jamaica Observer. A crowdfunding account on the popular GoFundMe website has been organised in aid of Townsend’s cancer treatment and her daughter’s schooling.
She has so far received donations of over US$3,000.
Chiantia, in detailing her sister’s journey with the deadly disease, told the Sunday Observer that a lump which was located in her right breast caused a major alarm for the family.
“Late last year she started having some issues with her breast. She said that she was feeling a lump in her breast. She went ahead to University Hospital of the West Indies and they did some tests. When the test results came back they said that they were 75 per cent sure that it is stage 4 breast cancer,” said Chiantia.
Townsend’s situation reportedly became drastically worse, as according to Chiantia, the woman’s right breast developed sores and subsequently bled. However, Chiantia told the Sunday Observer that her sister was not receiving treatment for the cancer up until that point. That frightening development saw the worried family seeking medical attention for Townsend at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH).
“She started chemotherapy, but when she got to the last dose of the chemotherapy she couldn’t finish it because she was getting very weak, and she was complaining about shortness of breath,” Chiantia said.
Acting on the advice of a doctor, Townsend was taken by the family to have a CT scan carried out. That, Chiantia said, was when the family received the most devastating news that the cancer had spread.
“We did the CT scan and got the results. When my mom went down by the hospital with the results, the doctor told her to get family members, so we were wondering why. We went and spoke to another doctor and he told us that the situation has gotten really bad because the cancer has spread,” Chiantia recounted.
She continued, “It is damaging her main organs like the liver, lungs and kidney. Plus, the right breast was first diagnosed and now the bone around that breast has been infected as well. The left one has also been infected.”
Shaken by her sister’s battle with the disease, Chiantia said her family’s hope was somewhat restored after a doctor working in a private health facility told them that a treatment named Herceptin could assist Townsend in her fight.
“After speaking with the doctor, we heard that there is a treatment that she can get but she would have to get it right away to save her life because they don’t think the chemotherapy will help since the cancer has spread. They said that this is a treatment that she would have to always get to keep her going, but it is very expensive,” said Chiantia.
According to Breastcancer.org, Herceptin is a HER2 inhibitor targeted therapy. Herceptin works against HER2-positive breast cancers by blocking the ability of the cancer cells to receive chemical signals that tell the cells to grow.
HER2-positive is a breast cancer that tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.
Chiantia was unable to complete the interview due to becoming emotional, so another sister, Kiera, told the Sunday Observer that their family has been struggling and is appealing for the assistance of Good Samaritans during the fight.
Kiera explained that donations received will also greatly assist Townsend’s 17-year-old daughter who is currently in grade 11 and is expected to sit exams next May. She said that Townsend is a single mother to the girl, as her father is deceased.
“She attends Holy Childhood High School and is going to sit CSEC next year. She keeps breaking down all the time. She is not eating. She is hardly speaking to us,” said Kiera.
“She only has her mother, and because of the situation, her mother isn’t able to work and provide like she normally would. We chip in when we can, but we also have kids, so it is hard on us as well. Her CSEC fees are due in November and she is doing nine subjects, so we would like a little assistance with that as well. Also to provide for the baby,” she added.
In the meantime, Kiera said that their family is remaining positive, but it is clear that Townsend’s diagnosis has brought everyone to the edge of their seats.
“This has taken a toll on everybody. They live in a big family yard so everyone in the vicinity is taking it hard because we are all close. She is also currently in the hospital because she is weak and her blood count is low. She is losing blood because her breast keeps oozing blood. They are trying to retain her energy, so she also needs blood,” Kiera told the Sunday Observer.
Those wishing to assist Townsend in her fight against stage four breast cancer may donate at https://www.gofundme.com/f/8crz9-cancer-patient