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Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Skin cancer teen referred to US for treatment

Doctors in Trinidad have done all they can for skin cancer patient, Lynear Johnson, whose cancer has reached the third stage. They have told her mother Vanessa Bellamy that the teen could be treated in the US where the technology is much more advanced.

Bellamy told Stabroek News on Sunday that the doctors promised to give her letters to take to the US Embassy in an effort to secure a visa.

When the doctors did their initial examination of Johnson they found that the cancer had not reached the bone and were optimistic that they could treat her.

A tearful Bellamy said on Sunday that the doctors told her the cancer had reached the third stage and there was not much they could do.

"Girl, like I just give up, I don't know what more to do...," Bellamy said from Trinidad on Sunday. She said two of the doctors did a head scan and biopsy on her daughter while the other cleaned her face and had spoken about her having plastic surgery to fill the hole that the cancer has left in the right side of her face.

She said the doctors also gave her daughter some antibiotics and painkillers and were forced to give her some injections to stop her from vomiting. Bellamy said she was not sure why her daughter was vomiting and surmised that it could have been the food. She said the teenager was still in pain and had to drink pain tablets in order to get some relief.

The woman said one of the doctors told her he was afraid to do any grafting on her daughter since there was a high possibility that the cancer may spread and take over her entire face including her neck.

"I don't know what more to do... I get up this morning I can't even drink tea. To know I reach till here...," the woman said.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Region Ten Welfare Committee, Valerie Sharpe, whose committee was very instrumental in Johnson acquiring funds to travel to Trinidad after a massive telethon was held, has pledged to continue to help the teenager.

Sharpe told Stabroek News yesterday that a medical team headed by a Dr Cully Oudkerk from the US, which has conducted health clinics in Region 10 and Georgetown, had brought Johnson's plight to her attention. She said the doctor had indicated that there were hospitals that would treat the girl for free in the US and that they would have worked towards getting her there. But that was since last November. However, according to Sharpe, Dr Oudkerk contacted her over the weekend informing that he had read about Johnson's travel to Trinidad but his team was still willing to help.

Sharpe said she would contact the doctor and hope the team could facilitate the treatment. However, she noted that Johnson and her mother would need to secure visas for the US, which could sometimes be difficult. She said she hoped the Ministry of Health would help them to get the visas quickly.

Bellamy said she hoped to know the way forward today as she was thinking about expenses they were incurring, the longer they remained in Trinidad. She expected to receive the letters from the doctors yesterday.

The mother and daughter left for Trinidad on January 26, 18 months after the girl started battling the cancer.

Her treatment in Trinidad was expected to cost US$7,200; the government contributed US$5,000 and the remainder, along with money for airfare and accommodation, was donated by public-spirited citizens. Yesterday Bellamy was questioning whether all that money should still go to the hospital, as it was not clear how much was the cost for the service Johnson had received so far.

The hospital is to bill the ministry at the end of the treatment.

Stabroek News was unable to get a comment from the ministry on the new development.

Bellamy is appealing to persons to continue to support her daughter by making contributions to the National Bank of Industry and Commerce (NBIC) 516-773-9 account number as she is not sure how much more money they would need for their impending travel to the US.

Johnson is an albino, which means her skin has no protection from the sun.

For further information persons can call Sharpe on telephone numbers 444-6058 or 444-3048

Stabroek News