Jamaica | April 2-9 ’18

Arriving at the airport, we were eager and ready for some down time. The past couple months has been exhausting to say the least and it was time to relax and watch Janaya unwind.

The flight was uneventful, smooth and the view upon arrival was magnificent! The crystal clear blue waters could be seen from the plane as we circled around the shore to the ideal decline position. Upon landing, after assuring the family we were alive and well, we proceeded outside to catch a bus to our resort, the Royalton Montego Bay. Stepping out into the humid, salty smelling heat of Jamaica was so refreshing, as Janaya took a big breath in and an approving sigh out. Walking through the crowds of bodies, I catch a sign out of the corner of my eye that reads Janaya Mckenzie which was held by a Jamaican man in a suit who, to our amazement, was there to escort us via town car to our resort! Rendered speechless, we follow the gentleman to his car and off we went!

Jamaica is by far the most gorgeous island I have ever been to. It was clean, the people were friendly and the water was so blue it seemed fake. Being that Janaya is part Jamaican, she felt so much pride knowing her ancestors were from here!

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Pulling up to the resort, we were completely unaware of the efforts the Royalton and it’s amazing staff had put into the experience for Janaya. There, waiting for us at the doors, was the Easter Bunny! Along with an entourage of staff, we were greeted with such genuine warmth, love and care! The Easter Bunny even had a basket of goodies for Janaya to bring home. Did I mention they upgraded our room? It was gorgeous with an ocean view and 2 beds. Janaya hadn’t slept in her own bed alone since diagnosis, so we squeezed onto the queen together for bed time! There were two towel swans made on the bed, island flower petals, balloons and even a special welcome to Janaya made out of palm fronds! She definitely felt like a celebrity already!

First things first… PINA COLADA!

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Virgin piña coladas have been a favourite since she tried one on an island excursion when we went to Mexico in 2016. Naturally, it would be the first thing she asks for once we got settled into our room, changed and strolled on downstairs. The first evening there was relaxing, uneventful and much MUCH needed. Janaya was exhausted from the early flight, all the walking her poor little legs could handle and just overall symptoms from the dex. Day 1 and already feeling heaps better energetically.

Day 2 started off with a late wakeup and meandering downstairs for breakfast. A hard boiled egg, pancakes with a heap of peanut butter and chocolate milk, obviously! We planned out our day, filled with relaxing on the beach, reading some books and what restaurants to check out for lunch and dinner. Steroids = ALL THE FOOD!! Jay and I had finished our breakfast, Janaya was done her food but hadn’t touched her milk yet. Come on Janaya, places to be girl!! So she grabs her glass and chugs that baby down…

And then it happened…

“Mom, my throat feels funny…”

 Panic begins it’s unwelcome crawl up my spine as Janaya licks her lips, then looks at me wide eyed and exclaims ‘there’s tree nuts in something I ate!’. For those who don’t know, Janaya is deathly allergic to tree nuts, especially hazelnuts! Cue the mad dash, Jay searching the bar and asking the staff if anything had tree nuts in it or came in contact while I try and find out waiter. They all assure us nothing she ate contained tree nuts, only the Nutella spread which she hatefully avoided like the plague. Then it dawns on me… I ask the waitress what kind of chocolate milk it was. She looks at me like a deer in head lights.

“Milk and Nutella…”

Jay picks up Janaya as she began crying with fear, expressing through sobs the tightness building in her throat. We took off our flip flops and RAN back to our room as fast as we could to get Janaya’s epipen from our med bag. By the time we made it in and placed her on the bed, her lips were turning blue and it was an emergent scramble for the epipen, taking the cap off. ‘Blue to the sky, orange to the thigh’ I repeat to myself, mentally preparing myself for the first ever use of it. With a breath, I jab the epipen into her thigh, count to 10 and remove. She still struggles to breath at this point, gasping for air and so, so very scared. I urgently dial the nurses number on the phone and within minutes, she was at our room with an oxygen tank and instructing us to call 911 as she is going to need much more epinephrine than what she currently had. See, we still had a JR epipen… Janaya only weighed 51lbs at diagnosis. The JR caps at 66lbs.. Janaya was over 80lbs from the steroids, 2 months from diagnosis. The epipen was not enough…

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We moved her downstairs to the nurses office so she could monitor her O2 levels and make it easier for the paramedics. While she was moderately stable (or as much as she could be), we dialled 911, called our insurance to warn them of the upcoming paperwork to be sent through and notifying family via Facebook of the current predicament we were in.  Janaya had had anaphylaxis twice before, though she has always thrown up immediately after ingesting so her symptoms were mild. This time, a whole glass of basically pure hazelnuts went down in a matter of seconds and nothing came up. Her body was on overload and could not handle how much of the self-proclaimed poison she had just ingested.

The nurse asked us why we hadn’t asked if there was hazelnuts in the chocolate milk, to which my response, slightly defensively, I retort ‘who makes CHOCOLATE milk with tree nuts????’. ALL Janaya’s doctors even agreed, who would have thought?!

Once the paramedics showed up, they explained that the nearest hospital that accepts medical insurance upfront was 20 minutes away, but that they had oxygen to provide for Janaya to maintain her lower-end-of-stable stats. Medical documentation in tow, we head off down the highway with sirens on and a heavy drivers foot.

While Jay headed in with Janaya, I squared off the ambulance ($400USD) and got Janaya’s chart made at the nurses station. Upon completion, I headed towards the door into triage only to be told that there was only 1 visitor per child due to space. With no way of contacting Jay, I sat as patient as a worried mother could manage while waiting to go see your scared child being poked and prodded by doctors. Needles are the bane of her existence, and I knew she was going to need one…

After some time, Jay came out and explained what was going on. She had an IV put in, meds were being pushed however a sharp pain in her leg had begun. Oh no… I forgot to rub the area of injection before and after… Cue the leg cramps and shrill cries of pain.

Note to self… Jamaican doctors are not patient with cryers. It seems in North America we are more accustomed to crying children than other areas of the world. He was a nice doctor, he did an amazing job however he was completely baffled and asking multiple times why she “cried so much”. I tried explaining that she was scared, cancer riddled and suppressing some emotions she hadn’t dealt with yet, but it only marginally changed his views.

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Pain meds did nothing to suppress the intense throbbing pain in Janaya’s leg. She was so exhausted from the whole ordeal, she just wants to sleep. A nurse came in and I asked if they had any heating pads, though none were available. She asked if we wanted to try warm clothes, so we figured we would give it a shot! The second I applied that hot rag to her leg, Janaya lets out an ever soothing ‘aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh’ of relief. We needed to refresh the rag frequently with hot water, but it was worth it to see her get some relief and much needed sleep. Poor Jay waited in the waiting room for hours :(.

Once the pain had started to subside and her swelling in her throat went down, 5 hours later, we were off heading back to the resort. Man, we could DEFINITELY use a break now. All drama aside, Janaya was in positive spirits and just happy to be okay and leaving the hospital!

The remainder of the day was spent napping, cuddling and just coming to terms with the whirlwind of a day we just had. We couldn’t even make it 24 hours without something happening, just our luck!!! Thankfully, it was done and over with and the rest of the trip would go over without a hitch.

Dinner was spectacular! The resort felt so bad for what had happened earlier, they really went all out for Janaya. They made her a SPECIAL dinner (which wasn’t even on the menu) of steak and lobster! I didn’t hold any animosity towards the resort for what had happened, however this was definitely a nice ending to the day. Well.. that and mommy cuddles of course! ♥♥

Day 3 brought sand, beach air and salt water. Sitting by the beach was our ONLY job today. Well, besides eating of course, which was served to us at our ocean front gazebo we managed to get our hands on.

One struggle we found out relatively quickly (once the piña coladas started kicking in) was getting to the washroom… With Janaya at near peak weight with overstretched, sweaty, slippery skin that has no squishy parts for me to grab on to and burning hot sand it made for a mad dash to get there before I couldn’t hold her any longer. It hurt her bones to walk and she could hardly hold her bladder. The poor girl dreaded having to go.

When we headed back to our room to get changed for dinner, we were greeted with another beautiful bed decoration and a lovely note from our housekeeper ♥. Once we were at dinner, we were kept company by an adorable kitty and Janaya’s sassy wit. Her favourite word at this point was ‘basic’ and never missed a beat asking Jay why he was so basic about basically everything, even ordering a coke! For desert, does Janaya want vanilla iced cream? “Ew, that’s basic”. This kid, I love her.

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Day 4 was spent much like the third, on the beach and relaxing with a drink in one hand and a book in the other. I tried convincing her to swim (for anyone who knows her, this was unheard of. Janaya was basically born swimming) but she just wasn’t feeling it this trip. We did get another visitor though! We started on the Harry Potter series a few weeks ago, she is such a good reader and I have audio recorded her multiple times!

Janaya was definitely feeling better overall on day 5. She felt like the swelling in her face was going down more and more everyday, she was smiling more and she even inquired about parasailing!! Considering Janaya is deathly afraid of heights, this was a huge development in her interests! As the day went on, she seemed more and more herself again. It was such a relief to see her personality shine through as staff would come by just to hear her read and be around her.  She read with such enthusiasm and grace ♥.

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An amazing couple from Saskatchewan had offered to give up their covered bed for us, which we were so thankful for given how hard it is to get a bed at the resort later in the morning so Janaya drew them a picture to thank them!

When we go places, we tip well always. You tip well, you get amazing service and they so greatly appreciate it! Well.. because we tip our waiters consistently, the resort received complaints that we were buying beds to reserve (which is against their policy) on the beach. This led to our poor servers having a conversation with their boss about resort etiquette and rules, even though they hadn’t done anything wrong. We continued to tip well for impeccable service anyways and brushed off the slight bump in our day, for there was piña coladas to be had and books to be read!

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Aside from the bumpy start, our final full day here was definitely one for the books! Janaya and I went parasailing! Mind you, she almost fell off the boat while getting strapped in due to some aggressive winds as I have a death grip on her arm, but aside from that she had a blast! “See you in space!” she screams as our feet leave the boats surface and we soar high above the water! Everyone below looked like ants as Janaya put it. The best part? She leans over as much as she can and whisper/yells “Mom, I gotta pee!” followed by “aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh” as trickles of a strongly scented liquid trickling to the sea below. You naaaaasty…. What does Janaya have to say about it?

“It’s fine. Some fish probably died, but what can you do?”

A downpour of rain took us back to our rooms not long after parasailing so we got a head start on our packing for the trip home. We were able to take some family photos once it cleared up, though I need to photoshop my eyes open in one and Janaya’s in the others haha! We had a quiet evening with dinner and some movies, finishing off with the ever loved mommy cuddles. We were sad to see the week end, however we were about ready to get home to our kitties and see the family. This trip was definitely an amazing kick off to our adventures, and I sure couldn’t wait to see what came next ♥

As always, thanks for following Janaya’s Journey. Until next time, stay safe and be well ♥

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