Layne excels at UTech despite cancer diagnosis
At age 24, in 2008, during her second year of study at the University of Technology, Jamaica, Melissa Layne discovered that she had Stage IIA Nodular Sclerosing Hodgkinâs Lymphoma, a cancer originating from white cells.
Upon diagnosis her question was: “Why me?â Formerly a student of St Maryâs Roman Catholic Primary School and St Josephâs Convent, Kingstown, this young lady obtained 10 subjects in her CXC exams and was recognized as one of the top students of her cohort. She was recognized for best performance in Caribbean History, Biology and Religious Education and received the award for Most Disciplined Student in 2000. Melissa was also a leader during her years at high school. She was a prefect and vice-captain of Our Ladyâs House and among others, a member of the RBTT Young Leaders team.
Melissa excelled throughout her time at the University of Technology. Her decision to study Medical Technology was motivated by the desire she had to help others and the fascination she had for the workings of the human body. After completing studies at the St Vincent and Grenadines Community College, she worked at the Milton Cato Memorial Pathological Laboratory, placed there by the Youth Empowerment Service (YES). After a month on the YES program, she was permanently employed as a laboratory assistant at the Caribbean Reference Laboratory, where she gained valuable work experience.
While at university, her brilliance was noted by her peers and lecturers and what was even more captivating was her resilience and perseverance. Melissa had also continued her impact as a leader, as she served in several capacities in her school and also on her dormitory. As an overseas student, she quickly shed her timidity and made friends with those with whom she interacted, winning them over with her jovial disposition and beautiful smile.
After being diagnosed, Melissa took a leave of absence from her study for a year to focus on treatment. She returned home to St. Vincent, due to the unavailability of the drugs in Jamaica. In 2009, Melissa completed treatment, which included chemotherapy, and was scheduled for radiotherapy. She was now at a crossroads to decide whether to go back to Jamaica to her studies or continue to do further treatment. Both options were costly. Her prayers were answered when, after seeking funding, she received a scholarship to complete her degree (she accepted this as a sign to go back). She completed her scans and was reassured that her cancer was in remission and so she returned to Jamaica, focused and determined. In her final years of study, Melissa worked assiduously and was credited with the following:
- Graduated with First Class Honours from the University of Technology, Jamaica.
- Promoted to Deanâs list
- Most Outstanding 3rd year Medical Technology student
- Â Best performances in:
i. Medical Microbiology
ii. Clinical Chemistry
3. March 2008, UTECH
- Â Most Outstanding 2nd year Medical Technology student
- Â Best performance in Orientation to Medical Technology
Melissa was also recognized for community involvement. She had, during her time, successfully balanced studies while integrating with the ladies of her dormitory, fellow students in her faculty and those who were also from overseas.
- UTECH Halls of Residence Award for Outstanding Leadership as Resident Assistant.
- UTECH Halls of Residence, Resident Managersâ Award for Excellence.
- Member of the UTECH school choir.
Melissa recently learned that after 3 years of remission the cancer is back. She recalls her questioning her situation after her first diagnosis, while crying in her dorm room back in Jamaica. She is now comforted by the thought: “Everything happens for a reasonâ. Her faith in God propels her to adopt a positive outlook, even at this time when again she experiences bouts of weakness and fatigue. She believes that despite not understanding how God works, in everything He loves us. She reflects on how she overcame before and believes she will beat cancer again.
Melissaâs hope is to inspire the youth of her country and other persons battling cancer. Her plea/desire is for the country to have a resident oncologist. She notes that there is a need for a cancer centre in St Vincent. There are many cancer patients in the island and the treatment is expensive and most times has to be executed externally. Many agencies try to provide funding but they also are burdened. She hopes more private businesses will aid patients and their families and contribute to making citizens more aware of cancer.
As she steps into the ring once more, she gratefully leans on the support she receives from her family, friends and co-workers. Her opening shot: “You canât determine what is going to happen; what you can determine is how you are going to face each situation.â She is confident that God will continue to provide for her during her sickness and that she will have the strength to overcome once more.