WPC with cancer needs $1.4m for life-saving surgery in India

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Zelia Christiana Castello suffered hairloss after chemotherapy for cancer. –

TIME is running out for 27-year-old cancer patient Zelia Christiana Castello of Hollywood, Point Fortin.

Castello’s dream is to live to see her seven-year-old son grow up and realise his potential.

Standing in her way of making this a reality is the TT$1.4 million (US$200,000) she must raise for a life-saving operation.

“If I don’t raise that sum, the worse case scenario is death,” she told the Sunday Newsday on Friday.

A municipal police officer – last assigned to the Siparia Regional Corporation – Castello said after chemotherapy three weeks ago, local doctors told her there was nothing more they could do to save her.

“Chemo puts the cancer to sleep. It stays in the body for one month. As soon as the chemo wears off, the cancer wakes back up. My last treatment was three weeks ago and doctors said there is nothing else they can do for me here.

“So, I am in the wilderness. It’s not like I am getting any kind of chemo here to help control the disease. No more treatment here and no money to go to where treatment can be provided.

“Bearing in mind that cancer is not something that stays in one place, but tends to grow and spread to other organs, I am facing death if I don’t get that treatment soon.”

In January 2021, Castello was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma – cancer of the lymphatic system which is part of the body’s germ-fighting immune system. She has been undergoing treatment at San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH) ever since.

The disease has limited her ability to work.

“I am unable to work, so I have been under some financial strain because cancer medication is expensive.”

She said her insurance did not provide coverage for cancer.

Municipal police officer Zelia Christiana Castello at SAPA, San Fernando before a cancer diagnosis in January 2021. –

Not all treatments are available at the SFGH and some have to be done privately like the PET CT scan she did recently which showed that the cancer had progressed from stage 3 to stage 4, requiring an urgent bone marrow transplant.

“I have reached out to facilities all over the world, and was given the opportunity to liaise with doctors at two different hospitals in India – Max Speciality and Apollo.”

Assistance was provided by the office of the Indian High Commission in TT.

“However, the procedure is very expensive.”

She said Apollo is the less expensive of the two and has agreed to accept a down payment and the outstanding balance a little later on, because her case is urgent.

She was scheduled to leave on September 5, but her limited funds caused her to postpone her travel.

“I need to leave sometime between September 12 to 15 and I am hoping the public would really respond and assist.”

“I am basically appealing for funds to live. To live for myself and to live for my son. I want to see him grow up.”

Through many fund-raising ventures, she said she was able to raise some $40,000 which was used to purchase medication and private treatment, plus a $15,000 down payment to undergo a high-dose salvage chemotherapy, which is not done at the Indian hospital but privately.

This aggressive form of chemo must take place, she explained, before an autologous bone marrow transplant can be done.

“God is on my side because I don’t need a donor. Doctors said my bone marrow was not compromised or damaged by the chemo treatment I underwent.

“What they will do is a procedure call autologous bone marrow transplant, where they remove your bone marrow, clear out the cancer cells and reimplant it. Then I will be on my way to recovery.”

Castello lamented that Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the most curable cancers and also the easiest to cure, “but we don’t have much avenues here in TT to treat Hodgkin’s.”

Research shows that advances in diagnosis and treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma have given patients the chance for a full recovery.

Anyone who wants to help Castello may make a donation to any First Citizens branch, account: 2283611. She can also be contacted at 329-1688.