Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hermide's Story

Today I said good bye to a dear friend of mine, Hermide. It was the first memorial service I had been to where I was older than the deceased. Her death hit me pretty hard even though I know how sick she was and that it would happen sometime soon. The one thing I will always remember is how spunky and full of life she always was. Her Yulee Hall antics, our AIM chats, and her wedding day plans are all swirling in my head and that is how I would like to remember her. I was born the week before her and I was married the week before her. I will always think of her when I celebrate these milestones for the rest of my life. I think this was one reason her passing was so devastating to me; I was faced with my own mortality. The other was knowing the excruciating pain she had been in for the last days of her life.

Hermide's love for her husband Robin was beautiful and profound. I would like to share this story she wrote about their journey together and how hopeful and amazing her spirit was.

On Christmas Eve of 2003 I was home on break from college, and met Robin Toussaint on a popular singles website for young people. He wrote me a note expressing how he enjoyed reading my profile and wanted to learn more about me. I replied to his note and later we exchanged phone numbers. We spoke on the phone for what seemed like hours on end and met in person a month later. When we met we immediately clicked and began to date...we were inseparable! Robin and I dated for two years, he moved to California and we broke up while he was there for two years. During our break up I dated 2 guys both for short periods of times but the relationships always went down hill and no one could make me happy like Robin did. I stayed single for the remaining time in college and decided that when I ran into Robin again, I would express to him how I truly felt. When I graduated college, he moved back to South Florida and we reconnected when he called me up one night. After a short while we began dating again and two years later we began talking about marriage.

Robin and I talked about everything, so we didn't have the typical down on one knee proposal that every girl dreams about. Instead, he told me that he was in the process of paying for a ring that he picked out for me. I was just as excited because I had played in my head for years what it would be like to exchange wedding vows with the only man who made me truly happy. We began to formulate invite lists, perspective wedding venues and reception sites, caterers, brides maids, wedding colors...etc! Around this time however, I started feeling really bad pains in my lower back that I somehow couldn't shake no matter what I tried. Finally I went to my primary doctor and she wrote me a script to get an X-Ray done. The results from the X-Ray were not as clear as she wanted so she ordered a CT scan and ultra sound which revealed the most shocking news a 24 year old could ever find out in her life. Immediately I thought to myself, no more wedding more happy endings, I'm going to die.

On May 19, 2009 I was diagnosed with stage 4 Renal Medullary Carcinoma-Kidney Cancer. This type of cancer is found primarily in young African Americans with sickle cell or sickle cell trait. I have sickle cell trait. This cancer has no cure and is so rare that no real studies have been done to help fight it...the survival rate is said to be 2%. When the doctor delivered the news of my cancer, he also stated that there was nothing he could do at that point, and that chemo wouldn't be responsive, and surgery wouldn't work in my case because the cancer had already began to metastasize to the lymph nodes surrounding my kidney. Finally I asked the doctor was I going to die, and he looked at me with cold eyes and said "I'm sorry" and shook his head. I left the doctors office that day without a shred of hope inside and kept thinking to myself, I'm only 24 years old...why me???? Being the computer nut that I am, I began to google this cancer and tried to find the cure for what had invaded my body...surely there had to be someone out there that had faced what I'm now facing and could live to tell the story. However, nothing came up to put my mind at ease. Site after site revealed no knowing survivors of this cancer...not one.

My boyfriend began to comfort me and assured me that as long as he had life in his body, he would do all that he possibly could to find a doctor that was willing to fight for me. I began to think that maybe he wouldn't want to be with me anymore for fear that I might die soon. It's almost as if he could read my mind because he began to suggest that we still get married but do a court house style wedding instead because our finances would begin to take us on a roller coaster ride due to medical bills. Thus, this is what we did...On May 31, 2009, we were married in the presence of 5 of my dear friends. Our parents weren't able to make it in such short notice so we proceeded anyway and prayed that the future would allow us to put together a dream wedding someday.

Like any dedicated husband he searched day after day until finally he came across MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston Texas. They requested my biopsy labs, and immediately started working on a plan for me to come to Texas. On June 2, 2009 I met with Dr. Tannir who looked me in my eyes and told me that he was going to fight for my life and I should NOT give up especially not on his watch!

Dr. Tannir started me on an oral chemo pill sutent that began to make me feel awful but I had to take it for one month and return to Texas for testing. Just shy of that four week period, I fell ill and was admitted into the hospital for pneumonia. I stopped taking the pills and was hospitalized for about four days while receiving respiratory treatment for the fluid in my lungs. After being released from the hospital, I returned to Texas only to find that the oral chemo pills weren't working as much as they'd hoped. Without delay Dr. Tannir scheduled me to start chemo treatment and my first round of chemo was administered on July 4, 2009.

As of September 29, 2009 I have completed 7 chemotherapy treatments. I have lost all of my hair, I've been on every pain pill imaginable, I’ve experienced horrifying symptoms, but I have not lost hope. On August 18, 2009 after completing another set of CT scans, the doctor advised that the cancer is indeed shrinking and that I was to continue treatment and I would be able to do chemo back home in Florida. Finally!!! The delivery of good news!! I wasn't going to die anymore!!! I could finally go to bed at night and know that I would wake the next morning. I could even possibly start planning my dream wedding, and have my grandfather walk me down the a isle. Life could and would go on for me!

Words cannot begin to express the true gratitude I have for those who have helped me along this chapter in my life. Even though it wasn't at all how I planned it, I still had a chance to marry my true love who has stood by my side despite hearing bad news after bad news after bad news! Even though the doctor said that I would never be able to have children, God has blessed me with a beautiful 3 year old step daughter that I love dearly and am in the process of adopting. People at my job have donated over 600 hours of sick leave to ensure that I have enough time to recover from my treatments; but most importantly the hope that the doctor took away from me when I was diagnosed on May 19, 2009 has been restored. I count my blessings each and everyday, I’m thankful for second chances, and although I'm not in remission yet, and my medical bills are through the roof...I consider myself very lucky. I'm lucky because most people don't have the support system that I have. And NO ONE has the husband that I do! He loves me through my small spurts of depression, my bald head, my weak fragile moments, and holds me tight every single night and tells me that he loves me and only me and lets me know how beautiful I am.

Hermide Pierre Toussaint

7/30/1984- 1/25/2010

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