Amazing courage, awesome faith

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Atamamao Toleafoa with her husband Toleafoa Kuka and their children.

Atamamao Toleafoa with her husband Toleafoa Kuka and their children.

Faith is essential when you want to get through any struggle in life, even when people tell you it’s not okay.

And holding on to faith could be the ultimate hope of overcoming pain and sorrow. 

Such is how Jody Tole’afoa described her mother’s faith while fighting cancer in 2010.

Her mother, Atamamao Tole'afoa, was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer but it was her faith that helped her through the most painful chapter of her life.

“November 2010 in Utah, America, is the day I can never forget,” she told the Weekend Observer.

“It was then that we were told of the news about our mother having cancer. She went to do a mammogram and then she went to do a biopsy and so the doctor said that they would call for the results.

“That morning of November the doctor called for us to come in so I was with her and my nephew.

“It was very surreal and never thought it was going to happen to us and especially to her.

“While the doctor was letting us know about the news, mom just sat there in disbelief and stared at the doctor like these things don’t just happen and we were in big shock.

“While the doctor was telling her I was just standing there and my immediate thought was I don’t want to lose my mom.

“But at the same time Dr. Shelton was very comforting and encouraging saying that there was treatment and that we can get through it and that there were a lot of survivors and that she was not in the fight alone.

“We then went home and I just cried just by looking at her and the thought of losing her made it worse because I’m the eldest and I love my mom very much.

“We told the family about the news and one of her brother came and gave her a blessing and I can never forget what he said in his blessing.

“He told her that whatever was to happen and if she was to lose her hair it will grow back a 100 fold and it did happen.

“When she went through chemotherapy after her surgery, she lost all her hair but when it started to grow back it was darker and curlier and it was softer.”

Ms. Toleafoa said they were told of the news in November 2010 and her mother’s cancer was in stage 2 but it spread faster and by the end of the year it was in stage 3.

“God is so good and it was hard but there were a lot of tender mercy just seeing her goes through it,” said the eldest of four.

“Her cancer progress very fast from stage 2 to stage 3 and that was just within October and November.

“So they scheduled for her surgery on the first week of January in 2011.

“So mom had a vasectomy on the first week of January and it was a very hard and long surgery because she went inside in the morning and she came out at night.

“But we were grateful for a lot of people who came to support not only from our family but also the church as well as mom’s friends.

“While waiting for her surgery, all we did was prayed because we don’t know what the outcome is going to be and during that time, our prayers were so sincere because we hear a lot of stories where surgeries did not go well or as planned.

“But it was such a blessing and heartbreaking at the same time because I remember when she came out she was still very tired.

“Just by looking at her going through that much pain we felt useless.

“When mum was scheduled for surgery at that time, Dr. Nelson was booked out for up to six months so it was hard but then there was an opening that came and mom was able to have her surgery a lot sooner which was good because they thought they were getting all the cancer out through surgery but even after that they couldn’t.

Ms. Toleafoa added chemotherapy was the most crucial time for her mother.

“Mom would go to chemo on Monday and then Tuesday she would have a neulasta shot and that shot cost $4000 per shot,” said Ms. Toleafoa.

“And then the steroids they prescribed for her would be finish by Thursday and so from that Thursday until the following two weeks where she has her next chemo she was in pain because the shot would go straight into her bone marrow to be more effective to fight off any cold or flu.

“But she would be in so much pain, she would lie in crying because of the pain and she had no appetite, all she wanted to eat was the juice from the crab and then ripe banana and mango that’s all she wanted to eat.

“Those three things we would buy and make for her because she had no appetite.

“The pain would get better for a short time and then we see her in pain again and she had a whole jar of different pills so went through a lot.”

The daughters had to cut their hair in support of their mother as chemo made her lose all her hair.

“We went as far as cutting our hairs for her and it was one of the hardest things because one Sunday we were getting ready for church and she called me to come and help her with her hair,” she said.

“We tried to be strong because we don’t want to cry in front of her because we don’t want her to cry but she ask me to comb her hair and try to make it fuller but then when I was standing looking at her hair I can see it was very thin and could see her scalp.

“While I was combing it a lot of the hair came off but still she had so much faith and even though she was sick she would still go to church.

“That time we were all living in faith because she had so much faith to fight and to live and fight through all that pain so she can be here for us.

“Anything she wanted our dad would do it for her the support she had from our dad was just indescribable and that was one of the reason why she fought because our dad was supporting her and being by her side in every step of her battle.”

Ms. Toleafoa couldn’t stop thanking God for His love on her family and especially their mother.

“Our family is very close and we went through some hard time but God really showed us that He is the God of miracles.

“She came through in 2011 and she’s back to her normal routine and she makes the best poke and has the funniest jokes.

“She’s well and stronger than ever.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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