Retired primary school teacher Mary Phillip survived her fight with pancreatic cancer almost two years ago.
Today, she remains concerned that her battle is not yet over.
In September 2014, Phillip began experiencing an itching sensation deep under her skin and what she thought then was acid reflux.
After the symptoms persisted for about three weeks, she went to her doctor who diagnosed her condition as the mosquito-borne disease, Chikungunya, and treated her for it.
A week later, there was no improvement and Phillip visited the pharmacist who suggested her condition may be as a result of an allergy and recommended medication for it which, after five days, also did not work.
The 64-year-old woman eventually went to a private hospital to have some tests run to try to figure out what was wrong. A blood test pointed to an issue with her liver, which was later confirmed with an ultrasound.
Mary was then referred to gastroenterologist Maria Bartholomew.
“In December of that same year (2014) I did an endoscopy and she (Bartholomew) said that there was tissue blocking my bile duct…because the bile was seeping out, I had to get something—they called it a stent—that they would put in that would divert the bile back into the intestines so that I would no longer have the itching and the jaundice—and it worked,” she said.
Several other tests were run such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scan, which still did not reveal what Bartholomew wanted to see.
“So she asked me if I can go to Venezuela to do what they call an endoscopic ultrasound (ESU) because we have no machines in Trinidad.”
In May of 2015, Phillip headed for Venezuela where the ESU was done and “the doctor said they are doing the biopsy but whatever the result, I need to do surgery.”
“He said, listen you all need to move quickly on this and if you want, I can organise for you to do the surgery right here in Venezuela because my good friend is a doctor in that area and he’s very good. So we did,” she said.
On her return to Trinidad, she did eight more tests and sent over the results to the Venezuelan doctor. She returned to Venezuela in July for the surgery where she spent five weeks recuperating. Back home, she had to undergo eight cycles of chemotherapy in October 2015 and after nine months, she was cleared of cancer.
She continues to visit the hospital and undergo tests. To her horror, cancer was detected again late last year.
“They recommended right away that I do chemotherapy to blank out whatever it is. I started back but it wasn’t going well so right now I’m on a break…my body was not reacting well to the chemo,” she said.
Phillip attributes all her successes while fighting the disease to God and puts her fate in his hands.
“I depend on God and he is not letting me down. I depend on him for finance, I depend on him for proper attention by the doctors and whomever. So he is leading and guiding everything I am doing.”