THESE days, Trinidadian Maria Corneal has a hard time keeping up with her two-year-old son. But it was always like this.
Some months ago the boy was diagnosed with stage four Hepatoblastoma — the most common type of liver cancer in children. He had a tumour ten centimetres in diameter in his liver and 17 smaller ones on his lungs.
A lengthy and rigorous course of chemotherapy allowed the family a two-week window of opportunity to get him an operation that could save his life. The hospital, located in London, required a deposit of TT$250,000 but the family’s medical insurance was not enough to cover it monies raised from barbecues, dinners and donations were just a drop in the bucket.
“I was in dire straits,” says Corneal. “A two-week window of eligibility…stage four cancer — the final stage — and I needed a quarter- million dollars to access the surgery that would save my son’s life.” Call it fate, destiny or divine intervention, but somehow, Corneal’s family was directed to RBTT which, in partnership with its parent company RBC, administer the RBC/RBTT Caribbean Children’s Cancer Fund.
The bank paid for the surgery.
“It was a traumatic time… My husband and I were living in the hospital with my son and RBTT took the weight off of our shoulders and reassured us that everything would be okay. And they did it in record time! My biggest, biggest joy was the peace of mind they gave to me. RBTT fought tooth and nail and did a lot of work to expedite things. We got a cheque in hand at the airport before we boarded our plane to London,” Corneal says.
Today, not only is Corneal’s son cancer free, he is full of energy. “I have to drink coffee and Coke to keep up with him!” she exclaims.
Her son is one of three child cancer patients across the region who have so far benefitted from the Fund. The others are a 16-year-old boy from Grenada diagnosed with lymphoma — a cancer that begins in the lymphatic cells of the immune system and makes it difficult to fight infections, and a seven-year-old Bahamian girl who has been diagnosed with Osteogenic Sarcoma — one of the most common types of bone cancer in children.
She will undergo surgery later this month, with the help of the fund.
The regional fund was launched in June 2009. It assists persons 16 years and under who are diagnosed with cancer by providing the necessary treatment necessary to overcome the disease. To this end, RBC/RBTT has partnered with the Cancer Treatment Foundation (CTF) of Trinidad & Tobago and has committed to an annual contribution of $1.2 million up to 2013.
Apart from its own contributions, RBTT is committed to raising additional funds to fighting paediatric cancer. RBTT employees across the region host fund-raisers to support the fund which, when coupled with donations from the public, amounted to TT$494,000 as at March 31st, 2010.
“The emotional and financial burden of paediatric cancer is enormous,” says Suresh Sookoo, CEO of the RBTT Financial Group. “It is imperative that a child receives prompt and specific treatment, which can be complex and costly. The greater the donations to the fund, the more children we can rescue from this dreadful affliction.”
Throughout the months of April and May, RBTT will be taking its Ribbons of Hope fund-raising and awareness campaign to various locations throughout the twin-island republic. During Childhood Cancer Awareness month in September, the bank will launch a regional Children’s Art Competition. Winning submissions will be used to create RBTT 2010 Christmas Cards, which will be sold in aid of the Cancer Fund.