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Last chance to give Cindy a miracle

Sunday, August 12, 2018
Turn on your heart light…

All James Montague wants is to see his daughter in church clapping, singing and, praising again, while her mother, Kathy-Ann, is longing to have grandchildren from her eldest daughter.

In a last plea, after several calls to the public to help cancer-stricken Cindy Montague get financial aid to have a bone marrow transplant done abroad, her family is begging the public one last time to help save her life.

Montague’s ‘fighter’ attitude has caused her to live past the three-month prognosis since diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma (cancer originating from white blood cells called lymphocytes) six and a half years ago. (See more info in side bar with Dr Kenneth Charles).

Now even at stage four she keeps fighting for her life. She is in need of a bone marrow transplant costing $300,000 (TT) to be done in Cuba or $1.2 million (TT) to have it done in the US, where doctors advised she should seek the medical service. But she is nowhere close to these figures even after years of trying to raise funds.

Montague’s story was highlighted four times by the GML newsroom between 2014 to now, with the most recent being published in the Sunday Guardian’s now concluded series on cancer awareness last month.

We were prompted to feature her story one last time after Montague suffered a massive stroke on July 25, 2018, just six days shy of her 29th birthday. The stroke left her with temporary memory loss, unable to speak and use her lower extremities. She is also unable to sleep well and suffers with daily migraines.

It was one day after completing her fifth cycle of chemotherapy treatment that she experienced the stroke. Her sister Jenelle, who was home at the time it happened, explained prior to the stroke Montague was informed by her doctor she would need an additional six cycles of chemo which caused her to become very depressed as each treatment leaves her feeling unbearably ill.

Montague was placed on an intense chemotherapy treatment as her body rejects radiation therapy, which was required to be done simultaneously.

At her home in Arima on Thursday, Montague was confined to a wheelchair and for the first time revealed a completely bald head—the loss of hair being a side effect of the chemotherapy treatment. She could only communicate with her hands and make murmuring sounds with her mouth. But every now and again she managed a smile.

A mother’s pain

Her mother, on the other hand, could not hold back the tears as she pleaded with the public one last time for financial assistance and shared with us the tiring and painful journey since her daughter was diagnosed.

“As a mother going through this with my daughter, it is really a lot of build up inside,” she says as tears well up in her eyes.

“I have been going through a lot of pain and it has been hurting ever since I found out my daughter has cancer… it has been eating me up on the inside. I am supportive as her mother, I cannot go out and do a job because I want to be there for my daughter and she and I are very close. I am just asking persons out there if there is any assistance they can give to us I will highly appreciate it.”

In 2014, during an interview Montague told the T&T Guardian “I don’t know if they think I am going to die anyway so they see no point in giving the money. Or they think I don’t look sick enough. I really don’t know what to think.”

Four years later, her mother reiterates this saying they have actually encountered people during fund-raising drives who would look at Montague and query her cancer status saying she looks well and they don’t believe she is ill.

“Most times I would go out there with a couple of tickets to sell, asking for help and the response I would get sometimes, I don’t know. As a mother knowing that you’re going out there being genuine, going to these people asking for help. Some people are like ‘you again,’ ‘she’s keeping another barbecue again.’ It’s really frustrating and if my daughter were not in this position, I would not have been going out there to ask people for help,” Kathy-Ann says.

Added to Montague’s existing medical woes, she now requires therapy following the stroke. However, therapy is carded to begin in October at the Mt Hope Hospital, a time period her mother said was too far away and the family has started weighing options.

While Montague’s father, a martial arts instructor, believes that his daughter should not question God and just believe Him for a miracle, her sister says, “I just want my sister to be cancer free, to be able to live a happy and normal life so she could have kids because she loves children.”


Hodgkin disease as described by is a type of lymphoma, which is a blood cancer that starts in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system helps the immune system get rid of waste and fight infections.

Hematologist and senior lecturer at UWI St Augustine Campus Dr Kenneth Charles explained there are two types of lymphoma—Hodgkin lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma—they happen when a lymphocyte-one type of white cell turns malignant or cancerous.

With Hodgkin lymphoma there is a certain cell type present in the tumour where as this same cell type is not present in Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

According to Charles, Hodgkin lymphoma is said to be more curable and it is treated by chemotherapy, radiation or radiotherapy, rather than its opposite, which is usually diagnosed at a more advanced stage. He said in cases where one does not respond to this treatment, an autologous stem cell transplant (bone marrow transplant) can be done which is taking stem cells from the patient and purifying them followed by very high doses of chemotherapy and then re-infusing the harvested purified cells.

He noted this type of transplant is fairly routinely done in developed countries and it is not difficult to get trained to do. Asked if it could be done locally, he said it can, but required the necessary back up service that guarantees blood transfusions that are readily available if needed, which is not available at our local blood bank.

This support service is imperative, Charles said, because when somebody receives very high doses of chemotherapy, they can remain dependent on daily blood transfusions of up to 20 units of platelets for up to two weeks, as extremely low platelet counts develop.

Very high doses of chemotherapy to treat Hodgkin lymphoma has its pros.

Regarding Montague’s seemingly external healthy appearance and increased weight, Charles said while one of the features of Hodgkin’s and lymphoma in particular is weight loss, after treatment one can regain one’s weight. He said a person might appear well once the mass is reduced or removed but it doesn’t mean the tumour isn’t still present somewhere.

Asked if treatment can cause someone to gain weight, he said that weight gain was one of the side effects of some chemotherapy treatment.

About Montague living beyond her three-month prognosis, Charles said it boils down to statistics and probability as it varies from person to person and how they respond to treatment.

According to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston Massachusetts, apart from Hodgkin lymphoma considered as one of the treatable type of cancers, 90 per cent of patients survive more than five years.

Look for the signs

Hodgkin lymphoma is said to affect the elderly, children, and young people. Some signs Charles said one should pay close attention to include, unexplained weight loss, unexplained fever, and itching of the skin, swelling and manifestations of drenching night sweats. He noted it was important that people know that Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a tissue diagnosis, which may require a biopsy after some monitoring. Hodgkin lymphoma is not heredity, Charles said.


Anyone wanting to help can contact 395-6499 or make a donation to the RBC account 100019172192618


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