The pancreas of Dane Jah Ras

Dane Gibbs believes Rastafarianism is the future. - Mark Lyndersay
Dane Gibbs believes Rastafarianism is the future. - Mark Lyndersay


My name is Dane Gibbs and I was shocked to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few weeks ago.

Dane Jah Ras is the name I appreciate more than Dane Gibbs.

At Hillview College, I used to do poetry with the pen name of Dane Jah Ras. I was into Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Those guys influenced my thinking as it relates to the higher power. Their message was about setting the captives free, liberating people from mental slavery, the shackles we bear, psychologically and otherwise.

Early friends still refer to me as Dane Jah.

My police pardners, when they heard that name, got it wrong and called me “Dangerous!”

Boy days in Leonville, St Joseph, between the Eastern Main Road and the mountains were great. Being the only son to a mother with five girls, I had to run away a lot. To shoot bird, catch crab, go in the quarry and play gun-shooting.

When I had to stay home, I was always asking questions to the extent that they used to say, “All right, go out and play!”

My mother put Anglican on my birth certificate, but I grew up going to her church. Which was Baptist. All my sisters and I went to Curepe AC.

I was fortunate enough to pass the 11-plus for my first choice.

I saw the Hillview first-day uniform, maroon pinstriped tie and maroon blazer with the gold monogram on the pocket.White shirt and pants under that and I say, “That is the school I’m going to!”

My best friend from Hillview, Panther, lives near me and we keep in touch.

I met a few Hillview boys in the police service.

Rastafarianism is the future. If three-quarters of us adopted half of what they preach and teach, we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in today.

We wouldn’t be having cancers. Grass-fed and organic is something we learn about now that they were living ever since! Not no processed food in a plastic bag with a lot of additives and preservatives.

Rasta had the right vision.

The first step is to educate yourself. Is a sin when ain’t adding nothing to what God or your parents gave you.

My mom’s death, I was anguished beyond words. I ended up going up into the hills of Caura Valley and going dread because I thought that would be the answer.

No meat. A healthy, rich, powerful food we call yabba, provision with coconut milk cooked down with dasheen bush. I transitioned to raw, uncooked food.

I was just living, praying, sleeping on the ground outside in the open air in the bush.

Dane Gibbs says the worst part of the cancer diagnosis is the uncertainty. - Mark Lyndersay

One day, I left the bush and happened to pass where I used to live and my father saw me.

And he broke down. It was the first time I ever saw my father cry.

He said, “If your mother was alive, I
know you wouldn’t be looking like this!”

So I promised to step off that path.

I’ve spent 35 years in the police service. It has given me almost every material possession I have.

I was sent to Northern Division after about 11 and a half years in Narcotics.

(Northern had a) very affable, approachable superintendent. I walked into his office and said I’d been transferred to his division.

He said, “Welcome.”

I said, “I don’t want to come. You know it’s a pleasure to work with you, air, but I prefer to go to Mounted Branch.”

He looked at me and then picked up a paperweight from his desk, like a crystal ball, and said, “Look at the picture inside of that!”

I saw a photograph of a police officer on horseback.

He said, “That was my father! When you want to go to Mounted?”

I haven’t told my 16-year-old daughter about my diagnosis yet. She knows I’m not well, but I haven’t used the word “cancer.”

She has ideas her dad is sick. I lost 64 pounds in five months. It was refreshing, in this horror story, to know I could find the resilience to care about my daughter, that I wasn’t even taking on that it is I who have the cancer. I’m studying how it would hurt her.

If people say I’m a big man, I say “big” is a relative term.

Because I used to be 267 pounds. And now I’m 192 lbs.

And I stopped alcohol and tobacco in 1996!

They refer to these things as terminal illnesses, and the stigma wouldn’t go away from these diagnoses.

I chalk it up to be an experience that will prove my strength.

Sometimes you question yourself as to how and why. If I stopped smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol for 26 years… Why me? I have friends who still drinking and smoking and it’s not on them. So why me?

At 62, come on, I’ve lived so many lifetimes already! I’ve reinvented myself so many times. If I go now, I ain’t complaining!

I wouldn’t wish cancer on my worst enemy. It’s a very thin line where you could walk on the wild side or break down altogether.

And I’m glad my friends who’re still smoking and drinking don’t have it.

But I wish they would stop drinking and smoking.

Chemo. The mental aspect, I didn’t know what to expect, and I thought it would have been so much more.

Cancer is a taboo subject. Based on the little you hear, you construct something in your head. And I realise it’s a serious thing, but not as bad as what I constructed in my head.

It’s doable. You have to man up and take your bitter medicine.

I feel we might survive this. We might become ambassadors for this cause. And try to help those who were unsure, like me.

The worst part of the cancer diagnosis is the uncertainty.

As I go along, I’m learning and understanding what is to be done and what I need to do. And I’m taking it in strides.

I realise it had so much good to come out of it. I wasn’t so self-centred to become depressed. Studying my daughter’s pain made my own anguish diminish.

Once you can help someone along the way, that is what you do. This is the rental you pay while you’re on Earth. God’s creation and his creatures, once you show compassion to them, you get your blessing. Trust me.

I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t grow up in a house of love.

No matter where you go in the world, it have a Trini there already. Or several of us.

I think we have touched the globe. From Japan to the US, persons have formed musical groups with our steelpan. A lot of our street party culture is being practised all over the world.

To me, being a Trini is finding something to celebrate. My foot hurting me, I need a drink. My foot stop hurting? I go take a drink for that!

A Trini is an upbeat timer, always looking for something to celebrate.

To me, Trinidad and Tobago is home. No matter how far you roam, you must come home. Most of us only appreciate the gem we have when we travel.

And we does help tarnish the gem if we never come to that realisation. It’s good for us to travel and find out how cold and sad it is out there. We stay a fun-loving and a loving people.

Read the full version of this feature on Friday evening at


"The pancreas of Dane Jah Ras"

More in this section