Features — 18 November 2015 — by Sharon Marin-Lewis
Cleyon Marage, 11, bravely battling leukemia

BELIZE CITY, Tues. Nov. 17, 2015–While nationwide, many are gearing up for the November 19 celebrations, for some, celebrating is the furthest thing from their minds. Such is the case with Clovis Matura, 28, who has been a champion for her son, Cleyon Marage, 11, a leukemia patient diagnosed in April of 2014.

We first told you about the pair in September of last year, shortly after Cleyon had been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, also known as AML.

AML is a cancer of the myeloid line of blood cells, characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells that accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells. Symptoms are caused by replacement of normal bone marrow with leukemic cells, which cause a drop in red blood cells, platelets and normal white blood cells.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, easy bruising and bleeding as well as increased risk of infection. Those are major hurdles for any active child, and Cleyon is no exception. He would tire easily and slept all the time; ultimately, he had to take a whole year off from school.

But since we last spoke to the family, Cleyon has put up a fight with the help of his mother who has battled challenge after challenge. He is now back in school at St. John’s Vianney, enrolled in standard 4, but his instructors are saying he is operating at a higher level and should instead be skipped to standard V. Even though he had had to miss a year of school, his mother had home-schooled him during that period even while fighting for his life.

Cleyon is being treated in Merida at Hospital General Ohoran under the care of oncologist Dr. Pablo Gonzalez – he must go for chemo every 3 weeks.

It hasn’t been easy financially, even though 99% of his expenses are donated – that 1% is still hard to come by. Cleyon racked up a bill of $17,000 on his first session. According to Clovis, Dr. Gonzalez was able to put Cleyon into a program that pays for chemo and tests. Also, through an organization in Merida, he was able to get a gene test done for Cleyon, which shows that AML did not originate genetically – an expensive test costing $8,000.

Every 3 weeks, the family has had to come with $1,000 in order to travel for treatment. That money is needed to pay a hospital fee, and to cover food, transportation etc. If they have enough money, they also pay for a hotel while in Merida.

Clovis and Cleyon leave Belize in the afternoon on a regular bus and arrive in Corozal between 6 and 7 p.m. From there, they take a taxi to the border with Chetumal. Next they take a Mexican taxi to the bus terminal in Chetumal. They generally leave Chetumal around 11 p.m. and arrive in Merida the following day, approximately 5 hours later.

They have to wait around until 12 midday, when it is time for Cleyon to go to the hospital. If they have money, they rent a hotel room to rest while they wait.

At midday, Cleyon undergoes blood testing – a part of his preparation for chemo. He then checks into the hospital later at 3 p.m. Chemo is administered between 8 and 9 p.m. until around 10:30 the next night – IF the doctor is present.

If not, then it goes through until 1:30 and he is released. Then it’s back to Belize.

Chemo has serious side effects, and Cleyon has to battle those as well, on the long bus ride back home – fatigue, pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, just to name a few.

Clovis explained that coming up with that $1,000 every three weeks is tough, but with the assistance of some private citizens, and some help from the Cancer Society – they manage. She said she becomes very anxious as the time approaches for treatment, because she is always having to ask for assistance, and she worries that Cleyon would miss a treatment.

Missing a treatment is out of the question, however, because according to Clovis, missing a session could mean the reversal of remission.

Cleyon surprised his doctors and had gone into remission after the first treatment – generally, remission in patients is not seen until after 3 months.

While money is not the issue for the next impending trip, as it stands now, Clovis is waiting on advice from Cleyon’s doctor on whether it is safe for him to travel for treatment. She explained that for the past few days, he has been exhibiting symptoms of fatigue and when he is not doing well, she must consult his doctor for a decision to be made on whether it is safe to travel.

Life for Cleyon has changed dramatically; even while he is back in school, extra care must be given to his health. He cannot be in the sun for long, and cannot be around sick people because his immune system is fragile.

If someone is sick in his class, he must wear a mask over his nose and mouth.

When Cleyon returns from this treatment, he would have received his 16th chemo treatment – his last treatment is scheduled for March, 2016, which, coincidentally, is when he turns 12 years old.

After that, he will be required to go for check-ups to be scheduled by his doctor. Clovis Matura told us that the Cancer Society has pledged to assist more, financially.

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