A mother seeks cancer treatment for her son during Venezuela’s health crisis

Searching for answers

Marilyn, Angel’s mother, through the curtains in her house in San Cristóbal, Venezuela, close to the Colombian border. (Photo: Fabiola Ferrero)

Angel in Caracas

Angel plays while he eats jelly in his temporary home in Caracas. (Photo: Fabiola Ferrero)

Hiding from injection

Marilyn plays with Angel, who hides every time he knows he will get a shot. They stay at a different family or friend’s house every time they travel to Caracas. (Photo: Fabiola Ferrero)

Traveling medicine

Marilyn keeps the medicine in a box that she carries with her on every trip. She tries to find as much as she can due to the medicine’s shortage. “If another mom can’t find it and I have it, I give it to her. We’re here to support each other”, she says. (Photo: Fabiola Ferrero)

Angel screams

Marilyn injects Angel every day for 5 days after each chemo treatment that he’s received since he was diagnosed in 2015. Angel yells and punches everyone around him because he says he can’t take the shots anymore. (Photo: Fabiola Ferrero)

Peeping through

Angel, (5) looks through the door of the chemo section of a public hospital in Caracas. His family decided to take him there because of the strong medicine shortage in their home town. Now he travels every 2 weeks to receive chemo. (Photo: Fabiola Ferrero)

Angel gets chemo

Marilyn cries in the hospital while Angel plays and receives chemo in Caracas. (Photo: Fabiola Ferrero)

The treatment journal

Marilyn’s journal of Angel’s treatment. She considers Angel a lucky kid, because he has “only missed one chemo” due to lack of medicine. (Photo: Fabiola Ferrero)

Chemo drip

Angel in the chemo room in a public hospital in Caracas. (Photo: Fabiola Ferrero)

14 hour ride

Marilyn and Angel look though the window during their 14 hour trip by bus from Caracas to San Cristóbal. “Sometimes I think I should stay in San Cristóbal, but I can’t find a pill for alergies here, how am I going to find his cancer medicine?”, she asks. (Photo: Fabiola Ferrero)

Birthday hug

Marilyn hugs Angel during his birthday celebration. (Photo: Fabiola Ferrero)

Birthday party

Angel tries to stay warm while his cousins play in the pool during his birthday. He received chemo the day before. (Photo: Fabiola Ferrero)

Pool toy

A ball floats in the pool where Angel and his cousins played during his birthday celebration in his home town San Cristóbal. (Photo: Fabiola Ferrero)

Angel in the light

Angel in his home town. “The doctor are used to these diagnoses. But we, the moms, can’t just accept them. We have to fight until the end to save our children”, she says. (Photo: Fabiola Ferrero)

Distraught mom

Angel’s family has been waiting since last year for a reagent not available in Venezuela (Iodine-131) to continue the tests he needs to have his second surgery. He still has the cancer cells in his body. (Photo: Fabiola Ferrero)

Angel, 5, was diagnosed with a stage 4 neuroblastoma in September 2015. Every two weeks since then, he and his mother, Marilyn, have made the 14-hour bus trip from their hometown of San Cristóbal, near the Colombian border, to the capital of Caracas, where he receives chemotherapy. The Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation estimates that the country is lacking roughly 80 percent of basic medical supplies, so Marilyn must rely on the help of family, friends, and nongovernmental organizations to find medicine for her son. When she does, she stores as much as she can in a box.

“If another mom needs one, I give it to her,” she says. “We’re here to help each other through this.”

Since last year, Marilyn and Angel have been waiting for a reagent (Iodine-131) that is not available in Venezuela but is necessary for the tests Angel needs to have before his second surgery. In the meantime, Marilyn continues traveling, calling friends, and borrowing rooms in Caracas, determined to make sure her son survives cancer in a country wracked by a health crisis.

Text and photography by Fabiola Ferrero


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