RIELLE FAHEY-CADIZ has eight weeks to raise approximately US$200,000 for life-saving surgery at a Miami hospital to remove tumours from her pelvic area.
The 28-year-old single mother of one was diagnosed in April with a rare form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma.
The Mayo Clinic online says although it is rare, osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer, which begins in cells that form bones.
Although she was diagnosed only three months ago, Arielle had been seeking treatment for pain in her back for over a year and was misdiagnosed several times by doctors at the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH.)
In an interview with Newsday at her San Fernando home yesterday, Arielle spoke of the hardships of living with osteosarcoma.
In March, she noticed a “tiny bump” on her left butt cheek with excessive swelling in the area.
Within weeks, the bump grew much larger and another soon appeared. Both stick out of her side like overgrown lemons – obvious even though she was wearing a loose dress and a cardigan during the interview.
Despite the grim nature of the conversation, she was friendly and good-natured as her mother Lydia Fahey and her ten-year-old son Renaldo Fahey-Cadiz drifted through the living room from time to time, she called out to them and included them in her conversation.
However, her discomfort at sitting on the plush sofa was quite obvious as she sat with her left side barely touching the cushions, leaning her weight on her right side.
“I kept going to the hospital to find out why I was getting all this pain, why my back hurting, why my foot swelling it used to be real painful, sometimes I would go on 20 days sick leave when it acts up.
“They told me it is sciatica – which is nerve damage– and this year when I started feeling a little bump I went back to the hospital and they said, ‘You just have a muscle spasm’. When I came home I told my mother this thing is getting bigger, it could never be a muscle spasm.”
Frustrated with the public health sector, Arielle turned to private medical clinics.
“That doctor sent me for CT scans, a magnetic resonance imaging scan and some other tests, and all this time the bump was getting bigger and bigger. Then he did a biopsy to see if it was cancerous or not. I got that done in Mt Hope and that is where I got the diagnosis.”
She said she had to leave her job at a private nursing home because she could not stand or sit for longer than ten minutes at a time. Without a steady income and with growing medical bills, Fahey-Cadiz had to depend on her mother to provide for her son.
“It is difficult for me as someone who used to be the life of the party to be reduced to this person who can’t sit or stand, who can barely walk most days and who spends most of her nights crying in pain.”
She has been offered surgery at the SFGH, but Arielle says she believes if she accepts, the doctors doing the operation will make her condition worse.
“I don’t want to sound as though I am bashing the hospital, but they are the same ones who told me I have nerve damage and muscle spasms.”
She said in addition to the misdiagnosis, the doctors have told her they will only know how to remove the tumour when they cut her.
“That is why I paid thousands of dollars to do all those scans so you could see what is where, and you are telling me you have to wait till you open me up to find out? How am I supposed to feel about that?”
She believes her best chance at a complete recovery would be to have the surgery done abroad.
“The thing is, this cancer is so rare that they don’t know how to treat it here. I was told we don’t have the specialists here and the orthopaedic doctors would do the surgery. I don’t want to be a guinea pig for them.”
The surgery must be done in eight weeks, after she has completed a first round of chemotherapy and done a new set of scans.
“I just want to raise my funds and get this over with, so I can take care of myself and my son and live a comfortable life again.”
She has raised TT$20,000 so far.
If you would like to assist Fahey-Cadiz, she can be contacted at 293-8870 or via her Facebook page Fit to Fight Cancer.