Being strong in the face of adversity is not a new concept for cancer patient Winston Powell, so when he was diagnosed with COVID-19, it was no surprise that he drew on his strength to fight the virus and keep his family’s morale up.
“To be honest, I have to be strong for my wife because she broke down, and I had to be strong for her. So, we prayed,” Powell, 62, of West Bay, said during a Zoom interview with the Cayman Compass this week.
The tour operator recounted his COVID-19 experience as he praised God for seeing him and his family through another test of faith.
Powell, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014, and his wife Marcia, who is diabetic, are among the 201 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Cayman.
The couple are considered to be high risk, given their medical conditions.
“[When] they told us that we have the COVID, my wife started crying … and I said, ‘No, don’t do that. We have to just think of a way to really get rid of it,’” Powell said.
Powell, who is originally from Jamaica, said he was worried by the coronavirus diagnosis, as he knew his immune system was compromised because of the cancer.
He said, prior to contracting the virus, he and his wife had been taking all the recommended precautions of social distancing and wearing masks in public spaces.
However, he said, it was a short family visit that led to their positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
“I went over to one of my cousins’ home and she was just probably got it lately. She didn’t know… we didn’t know, and she just said to me the night ‘I feel that I have a cold’, and I was just running a little joke and said ‘Careful you don’t have the COVID, you know,’ and she said ‘No, no, no,” Powell recalled.
A few days later, his cousin tested positive for COVID-19, which she likely caught from co-workers who were diagnosed with the virus.
“She call us and tell us that she had COVID. So, we called the flu clinic and [they] told us that we must come in right away. We drove to George Town hospital and they ran the tests,” Powell said, adding that he did not feel unwell at the time and did not seem to have any symptoms.
“A few days later, they called us and let us know that both of us [have it],” he said.
Cancer before COVID
For Powell, the diagnosis was a worrying one, as he continues to battle his cancer as well.
He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer six years ago, during a routine doctor’s visit after he started feeling sick.
He said he thought it may have been diabetes. Doctors ran several tests, including bloodwork.
“When I go back for the results, they tell me that my prostate is growing, and I need to come to George Town hospital. I went to George Town hospital, they run some tests on me, and then they tell me that my prostate is cancerous,” he said.
Powell, a father of one, said it was a difficult diagnosis to hear.
“To be honest, my wife cried and cried. But for me, I just look at it and said, ‘Well, you know [if] something going to happen, it will.’ It wasn’t like a good, good feeling. Actually, I am a man of God and I just looked at it, and I say whatever the result, I depend on God to help me,” Powell said.
The news of his cancer diagnosis was stressful not only from a health perspective, but financially as well for the couple.
He said, at the time, as a tour operator, he was not making a steady wage, so he turned to the Cayman Islands Cancer Society for help.
“I can’t stop saying [thanks] to the Cancer Society. [It was] a big help to me because with all the treatment, after I do the radiation and come back for all the treatment, I could never afford it,” he said.
Powell said his cancer count was low at last check and he is now due for his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test for the year. He said lockdown had delayed that that test, because he had to get a voucher from Cancer Society which was closed to the public.
Powell said, unlike his struggles with cancer, following his COVID diagnosis, he did not develop any mayor typical symptoms of the virus.
“I used to feel like [I had a] headache, like, I feel some pain in my forehead, and eventually that’s where I use the rubbing alcohol… [my wife] did have [some symptoms], she had more [of an] attack with coughing,” he said.
The Powells said they relied heavily on natural remedies to help them overcome the virus, such as breathing in steam baths morning and evening, drinking a concoction of lime, honey and rum, and drinking hot soups.
“We drink a lot of soup, like three times a day. We buy the cup soup and we have that three times a day. And then I realised that hot cup soup is very good because it’s like COVID can’t manage that heat,” he said.
The couple, he said, did not take any medication.
Having apparently beaten both COVID and cancer, Powell said he is looking forward to spending time with his family.
He said he has resumed his morning walks with his wife, and they wear masks when around people.
Powell said he would like to do the antibody testing, but he is cautious about going to the hospital, as he is limiting the places he goes to.