Dr Leslie Samuels testifies of God’s grace and mercy
Leslie Samuels was destined for the health sector, following in the footsteps of his father, who is a doctor; his mother a registered nurse; and aunt, also a doctor.
The Mandeville-raised Samuels was in his third year of medical studies at The University of the West Indies when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, at the highest stage – four.
At the time of discovery, the cancer was all over his body, including in his spinal canal, which accounted for the excruciating pains he felt months before. Like most Jamaicans, he “watched it” until the unknown illness affected his sleep and rendered him motionless.
When a friend suggested he have a biopsy done, it was immediately rejected.
For, when you are 20 years old and studying to be a doctor, who wants to know that you have a cancer that affects the lymphatic system which is part of the body’s germ fighting immune system? Who wants to hear that your white blood cells are out of control and is the cause of the swollen lymph nodes and growths throughout your body? Not him. Not anyone.
Yet, that was what he eventually heard.
Before Samuels could process the diagnosis, he was preparing for surgery.
Today – May 15, 2022 – is 25 years to the date of his surgery, but for him, “It’s 25 years of testimony of God’s mercy, grace, miracle, love and being cancer-free.”
Now a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology, Samuels stands at the door to new life, having also stood at the opposite door in his practice.
Trained to trust in the sciences, he tells a compelling story to The Sunday Gleaner about The Greatest Scientist he knows and the standout blessings in his life – his parents Cecil and Valrie, his gorgeous wife Diana, his children Gabriel and Micaela, and the warriors of prayers, who he said have stormed the gates of Heaven on his behalf.
“Once you reach five years, certainly 10 years, that’s what we medically consider cured. So I have been cancer-free for 15 years. Cancer, recovery, on-time graduation from medical school, acceptance into postgraduate studies and finishing successfully have all been part of the journey,” he told The Sunday Gleaner during a sit-down interview.
When Samuels finished medical studies, he had no job, but within six months, three posts became available, one of which he successfully secured.
Since then, it has been a journey of praise and worship.
“I have had 25 years since my diagnosis of cancer. I have lived longer than many people, both before and after diagnosis. But I am going to pull an Abraham. When he was negotiating about Sodom and Gomorrah, him bawl God down, from 50 to five good men. My prayer was ‘Dear Lord, don’t be angry with me, I am pulling on Your grace. Well, that’s where I reach now. God, there is no question I am alive because of You, thank You. God, there is no question You already gave me a contractual extension of my life. Thank You, God’,” he testified.
“I do not understand how anyone, but a doctor in particular, cannot believe in God. You spend five years in medical school, and at the end of it, you know a lot, but even more than that, there is a lot more that you don’t know,” he noted, stating that God is The Greatest Scientist he knows.
“There has to be one Supreme Being who makes our intelligence look like absolutely nothing, who has designed us and who maintains us and who maintains everything. It couldn’t work any other way. And medicine is where we have the greatest amount of evidence that we don’t know a lot.”
Grace, love, giving back
Samuels heaped praises on many who assisted along the way, including Dr Nigel Gibbs, then dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, and Professor Ivor Crandon, one of the doctors who did his surgery; physiotherapists; and his prayer warriors.
There is a special place in his heart for the love of his life, Diana, who was “just a friend” while he was studying and she was at high school in Mandeville. He recalled how she endured several taxi and bus trips in one day just to see him after surgery. That was extraordinary for this young doctor, who was not spared the rigours of the 18-month internship. He knew then that she was Mrs Samuels in the making.
Their union became official some years later, and today share an unbreakable bond with their children, who he describes as his angels and chief among God’s blessings to him. They watch over him, as much as he over them.
His son Gabriel prayed for his little sister every day until she was born. Now he, too, watches over her.
“I have been the recipient of grace – spiritual, medical and scholastic, and all kinds of examples. I should now be paying that forward to people in my life in general, but especially to patients,” Samuels said.
Samuels has tested negative for COVID-19 eight times, although he has doctored maternity patients who are positive.
He has also been giving back through his reactivated charity Friends of Labour and Delivery – now renamed Disciples of Christ – which was started with a close friend, attorney-at-law Stuart Stimpson, and his wife. It received a $10 million grant in 2000 and was able to donate several pieces of equipment to the labour ward at the University Hospital of the West Indies.
“Stuart is interested in making sure bright children have the finances they need to excel and my wife’s charity feeds at least 100 homeless persons every Saturday. A neighbour, Andrew, distributes the food downtown. So we have a core group of people who are trying to let their light so shine among men that they may see our goods works and give glory to our Father in Heaven,” said Samuels.
Wisdom is the principal thing, but in all thy getting, get understanding, according to Proverbs 4:7. Samuels has added his own twist to that, urging individuals in the prime of their lives to not only get wisdom and understanding, but also get God.
“I have never heard a deathbed story where people say, ‘Bring my bank book. Log on to the Internet let me check my account. Carry some money come’. In contrast, you hear deathbed accounts over and over of ‘Lord, I wish I had more time. Lord, I wish I could go back and spend some more time with my family. Lord, I wish I knew You before so me coulda do something for You as opposed to just now because fraid ketch me’,” he said.
Describing himself as still a work in progress, Samuels knows his weaknesses and is working on them, reminding those with whom he works that God has not made a perfect man; he, too, like all, has come short of God’s glory.