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May 23, 2019

Healthy Living with the Belize Cancer Center

Over a decade ago, the Belize Cancer Center opened its doors on the first of October 2008. It was the first and still remains the only center providing cancer treatment in the country in the culture capital Dangriga Town. Earlier this week, I stopped in to get an update for tonight’s healthy living.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
Without the sign, number eleven Pine Street in the southern town of Dangriga would look like any other home in the neighborhood.  In fact, up to 2008 it was… until cousins Dellone Pascascio and Ellsworth Grant turned their old family home into Belize’s first cancer treatment center.


Ellsworth Grant

Dr. Ellsworth Grant, Medical Director, B.C.C.

“Ten years later, going on eleven now, we are definitely a busier place.”


…so busy that the waiting room overflowed with patients and loved ones that even the front yard is used as an additional waiting area. All waiting their turn to check in with the doctor or to receive treatment. The center is a hub for Belizeans from all over the country, different ages and different stages of their cancer battle.

Some patients are at the start of their battle, like twenty-seven-year-old Carolina Ordaz who has stage-three breast cancer.  She travelled from Orange Walk for what was second treatment of chemotherapy.

Others like forty-seven-year-old Denroy Palacio are nearing the end of the battle. He lives in Dangriga and has only one more chemo session left in his treatment for Hodgkins Disease.

Belize City resident, Tara Morgan, is starting a second round of treatment for stage-four breast cancer. She’s only thirty-five.

And retired couple Jane and Henry Locario travelled from Punta Gorda Town. Seventy-one-year-old Henry is following up with the doctor after having completed a year of treatment for stage-three prostate cancer.


Jane Locario

Jane Locario, Wife of Patient

“The update that his PSA have gone down significantly and he doesn’t have to come monthly anymore. His next appointment if for the twenty second of August and I am so happy about that.”


Henry Locario, Prostate Cancer Patient

“I say I never come here to turn rock stone. I wah dead anyway but I listened to this nurses and the doctor and God help me I di come round better.”


Henry Locario

Dr. Ellsworth Grant

“I’m please to say that the areas where I thought we could make a difference which was to make sure that people who had curable cancers that they could at least get a shot at getting cured and we have accomplished that mission.”


Doctor Grant routinely returns to the country from his practice in California to meet patients and to create their treatments plans. For the patients, seeing an experienced oncologist and accessing care through qualified nurses is one part of the appeal. All noted though that proximity and even more so the cost makes it the best option for them.


Jane Locario
“If we had to go anywhere else it would have been more besides the treatment hero is heavily subsidized. We are so grateful.”


Tara Morgan

Tara Morgan, Breast Cancer Patient
“Here they make it very easy for people who have financial struggles like myself who don’t have insurance that will be able to cover a bill like this.”


Marleni Cuellar

“How do you manage?”


Tara Morgan

“Girl, it is hard, we try to fundraise and I have friends who try to when they can they donate. They try to find sources for other people to donate as well and right now getting to ready to have another fundraiser next week Friday to cover my chemo payments.”


Carolina Ordaz

Carolina Ordaz, Cancer Patient

“Everyone advised Merida or Guatemala but the cost of Merida and Guatemala it is very expensive when you go to these places you have to stay. If you don’t have how to travel you have to pay all of that. It was too expense then I got in contact with Miss Baja at the cancer center and she said we had one here in Dangriga and I had no idea.  The nurses here are very attentive and the price I’m paying here, it would be triple the price in Merida.”


Denroy Palacio, Hodgkins Disease Patient
“When I had asked about it, it was a donation. It was a donation from someone who was here before and passed away and passed on whatever donation they had to me.”


Marleni Cuellar

“Would you have been able to afford it?”


Denroy Palacio

Denroy Palacio

“I no sure. I no think so.”


Dr. Ellsworth Grant

“To keep going whether it is medication or helping people access radiation its money that keeps its ll going. We’re a nonprofit we don’t do things to make money off anything so we won’t say we’ll charge people an absurd amount of money to do that. We look for the generosity of the public of companies to donate to us and we will be good stewards of their money and put it to good use and directed towards patient care.”


While all these patients have their own unique battle, they share one common belief: a positive outlook matters in treatment.


Denroy Palacio

“I know lotta people weh fight cancer and win cancer. Mek I be one of the fighter wen win.”


Tara Morgan

“When you have a family you can’t say that’s it I give up. I can’t do that in this situation because my youngest is only four and about to start primary school. You just keep an open mind and keep God at the center of it and just trying to take it one day at a time basically.”


Carolina Ordaz

“When it comes to cancer you have to have a positive mind. You think positive you are going to beat this. No negative thinking and pray faith moves mountains.”


…and similarly, they advised other Belizeans to take care of their health.


Carolina Ordaz

“Don’t let the fear get to you like it did to me. You need to get your check up monthly. Do your preventive and females and males…we all have to. Cancer doesn’t choose age or gender.”


Dr. Ellsworth Grant
“Can’t not say. People please. Get a mammogram. Get a pap smear. Get a colonoscopy. But please do the preventative things because they’re called prevention because if you do it then you won’t have to see us.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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