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Teen’s cancer fight

Carol Martindale

Teen’s cancer fight

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SHAI GRIFFITH is your typical 18-year-old who enjoys football, horse racing, video games and watching television.But last December, this quiet and reserved young man was dealt a grim blow he simply didn’t see coming. Still he refuses to be floored.Shai was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that begins in cells of the immune system.Initially, Shai and his parents thought he just had a dental problem because the left side of his mouth was swollen. For about four to five months this youngster endured the pain, but soon had to seek solace in the chair of the dentist.“We really thought it was something wrong with a tooth; so we took him to the dentist. Then the dentist sent us to the ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist, who then sent us back to the dentist,” said his mother Kim Alleyne.She said it was after the dentist removed a nerve that the diagnosis was made.Further confirmation came in January – that shook Kim and Shai’s father Stephen. Shai, however, said he was not scared when he got the news. “I wasn’t too keen on telling people, but it was Stephen who actually helped me to open up and come forward and talk about Shai’s illness,” Kim revealed, when she spoke to the SUNDAY SUN on Thursday afternoon.Stephen was more practical.“I knew it was there. I spoke to people and researched it on the Internet, and then I approached the Cancer Society. I know it is something that can be fixed. It’s just a case of getting it done,” he said.The family, accompanied by Dr Dorothy Cooke-Johnson, honorary secretary of the Barbados Cancer Society, is now appealing to the kindness and charity of the public to help them through this ordeal.The reason is Shai’s condition requires the specific, but costly medication MabThera. Right now, while undergoing chemotheraphy, Shai is also on alternative medication that, according to the Cancer Society, will “hold the disease for a little while until he can be given the MabThera, the drug of choice for his lymphoma”.He visits the Queen Elizabeth Hospital every 21 days for chemotherapy. “After those treatments, my body feels weak and down. I only catch back myself after about eight to nine days.”Cooke-Johnson said the medication would cost over $45 000. As she explained, there would be about two treatments of 500mg doses of the drug, each costing $6 000, then another four at 700mg, estimated at $7 000 each.She noted that the modest incomes of the parents could not foot the bill for the medication.“The drug must be given in six cycles, one every 21 days in order to reinforce the biological effect on the cancer cells at precise intervals. Unless the six cycles of treatment are managed exactly, it will not be effective. “It is for this reason that his doctors insist that the total cost for the drugs is identified and available in order to ensure the timely issue of the drugs from the pharmacy every 21 days,” she further explained.Cooke-Johnson said while the Cancer Society had sent out letters to certain members of the public, including the beauty supply fraternity, of which Kim is a member, there was little success. Hence, she said, the step to take it to the wider public. Stephen has also enlisted the support of the Alleyne School Alumni and the Through The Years group at the school, which would be participating in fund-raisers for Shai.The family said they would like Shai to start on the treatment of MabThera in another month.Shai, who has five sisters and two brothers, said he was confident that he would lick this cancer.“I believe he can be healed in a spiritual way. I have the faith and I believe God can heal him. Sometimes you read and see things happening; but when it is at your door it is a different matter,” said Kim. Individuals interested in helping Shai may deposit cheque/cash to Account Number 100 1300 at any branch of FirstCaribbean International Bank. The Barbados Cancer Society is asking that a copy of the deposit slip be sent to it so it may respond and express its thanks