West Blackwood, the 31-year-old publisher and chairperson of the National Book Industry Association, is only one of several people who have lost loved ones to cancer.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, West-Blackwood shared that following the detection of a lump in her mother's breast in 2011, a diagnosis came three years later that would forever change her life.
AdvertisementHer mother, the late Leonie Smythe-Melhado, who was the fourth woman deputy commandant in the then Island Special Constabulary Force, was diagnosed with terminal inflammatory breast cancer in March 2014 at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, USA.
West-Blackwood said the diagnosis was a mix of emotions for the family, as the woman who once led an active and healthy lifestyle was now terminally ill.
"The lack of a formal infrastructure within the healthcare system to accommodate persons with terminal illnesses was discouraging. There is only one hospice in Kingston and it's at a private hospital. When the pain for her became unbearable I was willing do anything to get her some relief.
That's when I was put in contact with Dr Jason Toppin, a consultant in anesthesia and intensive care at the University Hospital of the West Indies, who did home visits and brought her a lot of relief through palliative care," she said.
But, her mother's condition kept deteriorating at home and she had to be readmitted to hospital where she died. It's at this point that one of West-Blackwood's greatest regrets was realized.
She has joined forces with the Palliative Care Association of Jamaica, headed by Dr Dingle Spence -- senior medical officer of The Hope Institute (St Andrew) -- the public sector oncology hospital, and Dr Toppin to bring public awareness to the specialized medical care for people with terminal illnesses and their families.
She stressed the need for more hospices to be available locally. She's set to release a publication looking at the patient/practitioner perspective on the issue at the 2016 Palliative Care Association's annual conference.