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Oct 18, 2022

Beating Cancer – The Story of Six-Year-Old Jahziel Choj

Tonight, we bring you the success story of a six-year-old boy who, after battling cancer for over three years, can proudly say that he is cancer free. The story is one of inspiration, which gives hope to others who have been fighting the deadly disease.  Cancer continues to be one of the major causes of death in Belize and more often paediatric cases have been surfacing. While many have had to travel outside of Belize to either Guatemala or Mexico for oncology services, for the past thirteen years, the Dangriga Cancer Center has been working to provide these services in country. News Five’s Duane Moody was there when Jahziel Choj rang the bell, signalling that he has beaten cancer.


Duane Moody, Reporting

As the echoes of the ringing bell permeated the Dangriga Cancer Center and into the neighbourhood, it was a signal that yet another child had beaten one of the deadliest diseases in Belize – cancer. For six-year-old Jahziel Choj and his family, it is a hurdle that they’ve overcome and a reason to celebrate after two years of treatment and getting past the anxiety of whether or not he would survive.


Juan Carlos Choj, Father of Cancer Survivor

“I feel like my life is normalising because when it hits, everything changes. I had to quit my job, I couldn’t be regular again. So knowing we got to this stage – not only for him, but other children coming behind – I would always encourage them to keep on, not losing the fate because it is possible.”


…a miracle for the Choj family.  Jahziel started exhibiting symptoms at the age of two, but the COVID pandemic prevented them from getting a diagnosis and his health condition deteriorated.  After months of research, not being able to get out of the country due to travel restrictions, Juan Carlos Choj says he had to make the most difficult decision – leave his wife and other children behind in an attempt to save one of their sons.


Juan Carlos Choj

“We kept random visits to the hospital not knowing what he had – fever, fever, fever and infections, but there was never a diagnosis. The last diagnosis we got from Belize is that it was chronic anaemia. So they had asked us to look for an oncologist. So we did random visits to neighbouring Mexico where we didn’t get much luck. Then along came COVID, we are on a national lockdown. I see my child’s health deteriorating and I am not sure what to do. I applied for an emergency exit which came like a month after. By then, I was a bit worried because he kept bleeding out and we had to do transfusions. I could recall being at the Western Regional Hospital when I got the news that I was able to come out of the country.”


Within two days, the father rushed Jahziel to Merida where he was finally diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukaemia in June 2020. When he got there, his cancer was in an advance state and his chances of survival were slim. And as anyone would know, the battle was not an easy one.


Juan Carlos Choj

Juan Carlos Choj

“When he got there, he was in an advance state that even the doctors there did not really believe that he was strong enough to make it through the first phase. I can’t recall if he was already on a second [stage], but something like eighty-seven percent leukaemia in his body already cause this is a cancer of the white blood cells. He began bleeding and had a lot of symptoms similar to COVID and thankfully it wasn’t, but it was something worse. He got in a critical condition and we had to have him all hooked up and on twenty-four hours observation for almost three months; he couldn’t eat.”


Susan Choj

Susan Choj, Mother of Cancer Survivor

“It was hard cause I neva know if my husband will be back with me or he will bring me with in a coffin. It was so hard. And I still feel the hurt and I still can’t take it like it was yesterday.”


Jahziel completed his treatment at the Dangriga Cancer Center, which opened back on October first, 2008 through partnership between the Ministry of Health, the Belize Cancer Society and other support groups. With guidance from the oncologist in neighbouring Mexico, chemotherapy was given to the six-year-old up to this point.  The family relocated to Dangriga from San Ignacio, in order for Jahziel to receive his weekly treatment.


Dellone Pascascio

Dellone Pascascio, C.E.O., Dangriga Cancer Center

“Chemotherapy services, we offer referral for radiation services, we certainly do nutrition counselling. As you experienced today, part of our services is for paediatric oncology in collaboration with our partner in Merida, Doctor Pablo Gonzalez. And also we offer counselling. Many of our patients require nutritional counselling, they require depression counselling.”


Two-year-old Alizae Tillett was diagnosed with leukaemia just over a year ago. Inspired by Jahziel’s story, the family hopes that in the coming months, she too will be ringing her bell.


Leonelle Aldana

Leonelle Aldana, Mother of Alizae Tillett

“She had it now a year now. August eleventh of last year is when we find out. Right now, ih deh dah zero point zero one on the last bone marrow we did before we come back. She actually di recover fast and like the doctor says, now it is mainly to keep her blood up at all times.”


…and as Juan Carlos Choj puts it, these children give parents the strength they never knew they had.


Juan Carlos Choj

“He was always stronger than me. Even if he was really, really down and I would ask him, “Jahziel are you okay?” even if he couldn’t speak, he would do a thumbs up or when he wanted something, he would knock on the bed while I am sleeping so he could alert me that I wanted something. It was so emotional because I couldn’t believe that he would be even stronger than me. So I couldn’t make it without him. He made me realise how different I could see the world because he faced this situation even better than I did and he was the one going through it.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

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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