Tuesday 16th December, 2008

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day i met with the pM to Talk cancer treatment

It was just three years ago that I found myself sitting in front of Prime Minister Patrick Manning in his San Fernando constituency office. 

My mother had recently passed away after a 16-month battle with cancer. My aunt, who was a registered nurse and worked on a cancer ward for many years in one of the most renowned hospitals in the US, accompanied me to the meeting.

She was pivotal in making my mother’s long fight and eventual passing as painless and peaceful as possible.

We had gone to present a proposal and to seek assistance or guidance from the Prime Minister. The proposal was a simple one: to set up a non-profit organisation to supply much needed drugs, equipment and professional services for anyone in need of cancer treatment or who was in the last stages of life.

At the time of my mother’s diagnosis—she had Stage 3C ovarian cancer—the doctors said frankly that if we keep her in Trinidad “she may last three months for the most.” They also stated that the survival rate for stage three cancer in Trinidad is zero.

My family and I were fortunate to be in a position to send my mother abroad for treatment, in part because she had major medical insurance. But even with the insurance my brother and I were still left with over half a million dollars in loan debt.

When my mother returned to Trinidad to continue her chemo-therapy we couldn’t find the drugs; we had to bring them in from abroad. When we had to administer her treatment, my aunt had to show the doctors how to hook up her port-o-cath because in Trinidad we still administer through the skin.

When the pain became too much, we had to import the transdermal patches for her pain management. When we finally got a prescription for IV morphine for her pain, we were subjected to a half-hour interrogation by the suppliers while my mother was lying home in pain. 

When she slipped into a coma my aunt stayed awake almost 20 hours a day because we couldn’t find a registered nurse that knew how to use a port-o-cath. When we had to put her on oxygen, she almost suffocated one day because there is no medical supplier of oxygen tanks and regulators for such an occasion.

During this whole ordeal, my family and I realised one very sobering point: getting cancer treatment and being able to afford it was something very few people in Trinidad could do. And to add insult to injury, after you’ve wiped out your finances trying to give your loved ones a longer and better quality of life before they pass on, you can barely afford or even find the facilities to allow them to die with dignity, in peace and with no pain.

Back to the meeting with Prime Minister Manning. In response to our proposal which had the support of many prominent doctors, specialists and surgeons in Trinidad, as well as the assistance of my mother’s specialist from the US, the Prime Minister suggested that we partner with a hospice in the US to open a facility in Trinidad.

My mouth dropped, my heart stopped and my eyes looked down at the floor. We had just explained how expensive treatment was in the private institutions (nursing homes) and how lacking the facilities, drugs and services were and we were being told to try a hospice that is even more expensive than anything offered in Trinidad at the time.

I honestly cannot say if anything with regard to cancer treatment has changed in Trinidad since that faithful day and I suspect not, since the Prime Minister himself has had to travel to Cuba for his treatment. I wish him a speedy recovery; this dreadful disease is something I wish no one should ever have to go through or see their loved one go through. 

But to this day, I am astounded that our Government, past and present, cannot give the health sector the attention it so desperately needs. Sometimes you either can’t understand or refuse to understand the reality of certain situations until it hits home.

PM Manning, if there is ever a legacy you want to leave, let it be that you revolutionised the health sector in Trinidad.

Suzette Ramsden, via e-mail

MND, DPTT need to focus on building

I have no issue with the leaders of either the MND or the DPTT but their recent letters in the Guardian reek of insignificance and irrelevance.

If either of these gentlemen believe that their political movements can make a significant impact on the politics of T&T, then they need to focus attention on building their party’s infrastructure and craft a suitable image (or ethos) that can command popular support.

Political battles take place on the ground in the trenches, not in lofty rhetoric and finger-pointing.

The COP has been in existence for a relatively short period of time but managed to secure almost 23 per cent of electoral votes just one year after its formation.

What have these men done to grow their group from a paper party to a national movement?

Selwyn Samaroo


Mother Earth Is Dying

Mother Earth is orbiting in peril

her children are causing pain

She is taking a beating, she’s overheating

She’s weeping acid rain.

Mother Earth gave us all she


but alas! alas! alas!

We still drill her oil, smelt ore from her soil

now she’s passin’ greenhouse gas.

Our planet is in peril and that’s a fact

mankind has sealed her fate

Religion and politics are creating fanatics

Mother Earth is in a terrible


Man’s isms and schism exude toxic fumes

that are contaminating our


Causing tsunamis of warfare everywhere

and just hopelessness to be


Mother Earth is ailing from climate change

she’s tottering on the brink

Yet man creates weapons of mass destruction

to end is sooner than we think.

Man is using and abusing our planet Earth

at her needs we steups an’


The signs are clear, amargeddon is near

stop the world leh mih get off.

Vic Dolan Clarke

Diego Martin

Citizens must now protect themselves

With the number of murders for this year now reaching 522, it is quite clear that the Govern-ment never had any solutions to the escalating rate of these crimes.

There is no doubt that other serious crimes, such as fraud, theft and assault, are also rising. However, the reporting of these crimes has become unimportant as murders keep taking the leading role in the statistics and head-lines.

It is now obvious that all that can be done is for honest citizens to resort to whatever means necessary to protect themselves and their families.

It is pointless pleading to the Government anymore.

GA Marques

Via e-mail

Gabrielle fabulous and outstanding

Congratulations to local beauty Gabrielle Walcott on placing second runner-up in the Miss World 2008 contest.

Like our representative last year, Valene Maharaj, Gabrielle was outstanding and fabulous. Both Valene and Gabrielle just missed out but they have done our beleaguered nation proud.

Perhaps more important than wining the Miss World title is that Gabrielle coped the “Beauty with a Purpose” title for her amazing work with the Paediatric Ward at the Mt Hope Hospital. There is no doubt that Gabby is a remarkable person and I know she will continue to work hard for the betterment of herself and her country.

Stay beautiful and strong, Gabrielle, because our nation needs more people like you. You (and Valene and Ayana Ayoung Chee and Priya Chandrabally) are the epitome of true beauty and the perfect role models for all the young women of our country. Thank you for the inspiration.

Shivana Dipnarine

[email protected]

Priceless publicity for T&T at contest

I’m still savouring T&T’s tremendous success at Miss World 2008. It’s great seeing the front pages of the local dailies graced with a beaming smile that made our nation proud.

From the moment the announcer named Miss T&T as the winner of the “Beauty with a Purpose” award, it was apparent our troubled nation would have a moment in the sun.

This award was the most prestigious in relation to four other fast-track events and was bestowed on T&T’s Gabrielle Walcott for working with children afflicted with cancer.

Her good deeds included raising $100,000 to refurbish a dilapidated and neglected ward at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex.

What occurred next, as a result of that achievement, was truly a gift from beyond. Two billion viewers saw a four-minute video clip that featured T&T in the context of Gabrielle humanitarian nature.

Now what is the price tag on that kind of positive advertising and exposure, reaching so many in 187 countries around the world? Priceless! As if copping that award was not enough, Miss T&T’s gown, designed by our own Bobby Ackbarali, was among the best three creations of the competition, and so the sweet words “Miss T&T” were heard again.

By the time the pageant was over, with Gabrielle finishing an envious and credible third place, the name T&T was heard considerably more than any other country, with the exception of host country South Africa.

So T&T featured prominently in the living rooms of billions of people the world over. And this is the perfect example of the kind of publicity, pride and admiration that ample preparation for beauty pageants brings to T&T.

It follows that adequate and timely funding by Government must no longer be an issue. It means that every January we can look forward to the smooth disbursement of $1 million for the promotion of T&T via beauty.

Maybe then Miss Universe and Miss World franchise holder Peter Elias will reverse his position and continue to help mould our young women for glory.

Meanwhile, congratulations to all officials of the Pageant Company, and especially to Gabrielle, who has given so many of us a reason to wine and cheer and to be proud again.

Dexter Rigsby

Mt Lambert    


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