Barbadian Cancer Survivor Rises ‘Out of the Ashes’ in New Book

NEW YORK, New York – A Barbados-based cancer survivor in Brooklyn, New York has written a book, “Out of the Ashes I Rise,” hoping to educate, enlighten and encourage readers with her testimony of “life’s challenges, storms and roadblocks, storms, valleys and mountains.

ErnestineErnestine Walkes (CMC Photo)“Hopefully, every reader will utilize my experience as a guiding light in preparation for the battle they’re about to conquer, as they venture the life God has given to them,” Ernestine Walkes, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) as America celebrates Breast Cancer Survivors Month.

“’Out of the Ashes I Rise’ depicts a narrative of my life as I transitioned from a teenager, with aspiring goals and visions, relocating from Barbados to America May 25, 1965 in pursuit of a nursing career, which was curtailed due to unforeseen circumstances,” she added.

As a result, Walkes, who was born on June 9, 1947, said her academic studies changed from nursing to business administration.

She said she, however, attended classes at the Brooklyn colleges of St. Francis College and Medgar Evers, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1988. In 2006, she earned a Master of Theology from International Theological Seminary of California.

But Walkes said the biggest hurdle she encountered in her life was breast cancer, stage 3.5, diagnosed, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Center in Manhattan, on November 28, 2004.

She said the cancer “invaded” her body a year after she retired from the gas company, Brooklyn Union Gas, renamed National Grid, after 27 years.

Walkes said she had accepted early retirement in anticipation of returning to Barbados to assist in caring for her then 96-year-old mother, “who had succumbed to the last stages of diabetes.

“Cancer shook my world, creating fear and doubt. However, my faith in God and reassurance from the staff at Memorial Sloan Kettering Medical Center, under the auspices of Jeanne Pectrect (oncologist), I was ready to confront and weather the storms of life.”

Walkes said her body was “subjected to rigorous treatment,” including six weeks of chemotherapy, followed by another six weeks of radiation.

“During my journey, I overcame life’s hurdles and challenges by utilizing the spiritual foundation laid by my best friend and chief mentor, my mother, Mrs. Florence C. Waterman,” she said.

With breast cancer diagnosis, Wilkes said she enrolled at Sunny Downstate Medical Center and University Hospital of Brooklyn in becoming a “Peer Navigator” and “an advocate for the cause.”

Over the years, she said she has also joined several cancer organizations, such as Share, American Cancer Society and the National Breast Cancer Coalition.

“How does one cope, given a possible life sentence (with breast cancer diagnosis)?” Walkes asked. “The Bible states, ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not see.

“I’m stronger than I think I’m. Having the faith of a mustard seed, I envision seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Life curve ball doesn’t determine our destiny since we serve a God of restoration. I firmly believe every individual must fulfill their purpose here on Earth before we take our exit.

“We serve a God of restoration, who showers blessings upon us beyond our expectations,” Walkes added.

Despite her setbacks, she said she was still able to write “Out of the ashes I Rise”.

“Basically, the book was designed to encourage readers to be strong by exercising their faith, whatever curb balls we encounter on our journey through life,” Walkes said. “It strengthens our enthusiasm, motivating us as we come to realize there’s no testimony without a test.”

As a result of the “great reviews” of her book, she said her second book will be published next year.

“The sky is the limit. Thanks to all my mentors, especially my mom, deceased 1/9/2006, who laid the foundation, encouraging me to reach for the stars Praise God for His unmerited favor of healing,” Walkes said, adding that she has been cancer-free for over 17 years.