Mon | Apr 19, 2021

Boy’s tragic death sparks cancer fightback

Published:Wednesday | January 20, 2021 | 12:17 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Kenroy Ramsay shows memorabilia of his son Joshua who died from cancer in 2019 after battling the scourge for almost five years.
Kenroy Ramsay shows memorabilia of his son Joshua who died from cancer in 2019 after battling the scourge for almost five years.
Joshua Ramsay, in bed, with dad Kenroy, mom Melissa, and brother Joshawn.
Joshua Ramsay, in bed, with dad Kenroy, mom Melissa, and brother Joshawn.

For more than half of his life, nine-year-old Joshua Ramsay battled with acute myeloid leukaemia, a cancer of the blood cells.

Today, his family holds on to handprints, photos depicting his fighting spirit and a bundle of hair from 2017 when he underwent a bone marrow transplant and began going bald, among other items.

His father, Kenroy Ramsay, has also launched the Joshua Ramsay Cure and Conquer Foundation in his honour, which aims to raise awareness about childhood cancer in Jamaica and offer moral support to patients and families.

In early 2014, when Joshua was three, he was very sickly – flulike symptoms, fever, runny nose – and he was treated for pneumonia. By June, he developed lumps on his arms and legs that raised an alarm. Initial testing revealed that his white-blood cell count was high, and in July, his diagnosis was confirmed.

Joshua’s battle with cancer was long and hard - five years. He started chemotherapy in August 2014 at the Bustamante Hospital for Children.

“After the first two cycles of chemotherapy, we had the outbreak of the chikungunya virus in Jamaica and he caught it, so it wasn’t until January 2015 that he went into remission,” his father told The Gleaner on Tuesday.

In December 2016, he had a relapse and a bone marrow transplant was recommended.

Kenroy travelled with Joshua to NYU Langone Hospital in the United States for treatment where Joshua was involved with various cancer foundations.

He had to be assigned a tutor from one of the foundations as his learning capacity was compromised. At eight, he forgot how to say the days of week, the months of the year, and basic sight words.

Those initiatives in New York inspired Kenroy to start a foundation.

“He (Joshua) did a tour with the NYPD; he got his badge, did the swearing-in ceremony,” he recalled.

After staying in the US for two years, the family returned home on March 30, 2019. Joshua had undergone chemotherapy and received the bone marrow transplant on September 1, 2017.

The transplant had a withering effect on his health – bringing “back to baby stage”, said Kenroy, as Joshua’s immune system was compromised, forcing him to resubmit to earlier immunisation.

Just two weeks after returning home, Joshua went back to school at Southborough Primary, but contracted chickenpox four days later. Again, his health took a turn for the worse.


By May that year, a blood test confirmed that he had a second relapse.

Following another round of chemotherapy, Joshua developed congestive heart failure and his lungs began collapsing.

On September 1, 2019, at 1:35 p.m., he lost the battle at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

“My mom, my wife, and our younger son, Joshawn, were at his bedside, so we were able to get handprints shortly after he passed and we have kept those,” Ramsay told The Gleaner.

Joshua had been hospitalised more than a dozen times and had numerous blood and platelet transfusions, eight of which were done in the last week of his life.

Registered in January 2020, the foundation will be hosting its first blood drive on February 13 in recognition of International Childhood Cancer Day, which is observed on the 15th.

Ramsay said while at Bustamante Hospital for Children, he had one encounter where blood was in short supply and only six patients, including his late son, were able to get transfusions.

He is hoping for a turnout of at least 50-70 people.

More than 70 children in Jamaica are diagnosed with cancer annually.

“The fight against childhood cancer rests not only on the child who is diagnosed but also the parents, relatives, friends and a host of other people,” he reasoned.

Kenroy’s son’s death also spurred a change in career from his 15-year stint in the warehousing industry to phlebotomy.

Ramsay has completed all the courses as well as rotations and is awaiting certification.

However, the job hunt will be delayed, as he had two seizures last year and an MRI confirmed in December that he has a brain tumour and will require surgery in late February.

Joshua Ramsay Cure

and Conquer

Foundation Blood Drive

. Saturday, February 13, 2021

. National Chest Hospital

. 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

. A valid government photo ID is required.

. All donors must make an appointment