Cancer in remission, but policewoman still needs help

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THANK YOU TT: Policewoman Zelia Castello in Fortis Memorial Research Institute, India where she is recovering from her cancer surgery. –

A GRATEFUL Zelia Castello, who was battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer which affects the lymphatic system, is thanking God and the people who donated towards her successful surgery.

“I am in remission,” Castello told Newsday from her ICU bed at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon, India where she spent a very quiet Christmas.

Castello left Trinidad in October for a bone marrow transplant, courtesy generous donors who helped her to acquire part of the $1.4 million for the procedure and patient care.

Now that the surgery is completed, the Municipal Police Officer is looking forward to returning to her Point Fortin home at the end of January. She can’t wait to be reunited with her six-year-old son Kermani, who spent a first Christmas without her.

WPC Zelia Castello in her niform at SAPA, San Fernando in 2021. –

However, it is not all plain sailing for Castello.

“It was now brought to my attention that after doing the transplant, I have to undergo chemo for an entire year to ensure I do not have a relapse.

“The next 12 months will be critical to my full recovery. The problem is that one of the chemo cycles cost US$7,000 and I have to do 17 such sessions over the next year.”

Knowing that many Good Samaritans have reached out to help her prior to her trip to India, Castello says she is hoping that the love and goodwill shown to her can continue as she now focuses on raising US$119,000 for the chemo drugs which she said are not available locally.

“I cannot get it on consignment,” she said reminding the public of a First Citizens bank account: 2283611, where funds can be deposited.

Although she does not have the cash to cover the cost of her procedure and stay for the past three months, Castello said the hospital never denied her care.

“They are continuing to treat me even though I do not have the money to pay them. Right now, I don’t know what my bill looks like because for ICU is 19,000 rupees per night.”

The hospital said the cost provided initially was tentative as the final sum will be calculated at the end of her stay.

“That is my major concern right now. I am not stressing about my hospital bill because they are still accommodating me, but it is critical that I come back with the drugs.”

She expressed gratitude to everyone who has assisted her thus far.

“The help was greatly appreciated. I cannot stop saying thanks. I could not do it on my own. I would have still been at home without the help I got. I am eternally grateful.”

Castello was first diagnosed with cancer of the lymphatic system, a part of the body’s germ-fighting immune system, and was being treated at the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH).

However, her cancer progressed to stage four, requiring urgent bone marrow transplant, which was not available in TT. After she got ill, she learned her insurance policy did not cover cancer and has been under financial strain since.