POINT Fortine policewoman Zelia Cristina Castello, 27, of cancer, is scheduled to fly to India on October 2 for a potentially life-saving operation.
Despite arrangements to begin the procedure with Apollo Hospital in India, Castello told Newsday over the weekend that she is still short of funds.
The authority is much less than the 1.4 million dollars needed to cover the medical expenses, but despite this, Castello has to leave because the chemotherapy that lasts for a month is not effective.
This municipal police officer, who works in the Siparia Regional Corporation, has been seven weeks since her last chemo treatment and the symptoms of Hodgkin’s lymphoma have completely returned.
“I have three weeks of chemo. All the symptoms are back: body aches, muscle spasms. I can’t even hold my spoon to eat. My hands are shaking like leaves.
“My lymph nodes are swollen, my neck, it’s starting to swell everywhere. I can’t hold it much longer, I have to go for treatment,” she said. She said she had to cancel plans to leave in early September due to lack of funds. “There are indications that I could die without the treatment.”
Castello’s plight was first reported by Newsday on September 4, when the mother of a seven-year-old boy said the response to her complaint had been positive.
Funds received so far include US$70,000 in First Citizens bank account: 2283611, and US$3,000 in GoFundMe account – this is just enough to start the process. Her airline ticket to India was also sponsored.
The disease means that she could not work. “I had some financial problems because cancer medicine is very expensive.” Her insurance policy does not cover cancer.
She revealed in an earlier interview that she was diagnosed with cancer of the lymphatic system in January 2021. She was first treated at the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH).
“The chemo puts the cancer to sleep. It stays in the body for a month. When the chemo is over, the cancer comes back. My last treatment was seven weeks ago and the doctors said there was nothing they could do for me here.”
Castello said the cancer has progressed to stage 4, which means he needs an urgent bone marrow transplant.
After arriving in India, the first procedure she needs is high-dose salvage chemotherapy, which is done privately, not in an Indian hospital.
Before the transplant, he had to pay a US$15,000 advance for this aggressive form of chemo. This involves removing the patient’s bone marrow, cleaning out the cancer cells, and reimplanting it.
“After this, I will go to rehab and live to see my son grow up,” she said.