Dangriga’s Vital Role in Belize’s Health Care System
Garifuna drumming and culture is one of the first things that comes to mind when people think about Dangriga. This city which is the capital of the Stann Creek district is also home to a very important place that very few people know exists, the Belize Cancer Centre Dangriga (BCCD).
The BCCD plays a vital role in Belize’s health care system and offers a lifeline for those diagnosed with cancer. The charitable, donation-based organization opened its doors in 2008 and it is the only hematology-oncology center in the country. The cancer center accepts patients from anywhere in Belize and they also work with patients countrywide who want to return home but need to continue chemotherapy treatments.
The center staff consists of three full-time employees, occasional volunteer physicians and is overseen by an oncologist from Los Angeles who comes down every two-three months.
Three C’s = A++
Clean, Competent and Caring these 3 C’s earn the Belize Cancer Center Dangriga an A++.
Their philosophy is to administer compassionate care to those in need and provide excellent customer service. They see every patient as special, regardless of age, ethnicity, social or economic status.
The BCCD welcomes all patients with a cancer diagnosis regardless of their financial situation. They truly believe in providing the best care possible care from their modest clinic. The staff is genuinely concerned with relieving suffering and improving opportunities for healthy lifestyles for their patients.
They also provide consultation and treatment for a growing number of sickle cell patients, most of them being children and young adults.
The center is doing the best they can with what they have, but everything is used and worn and they make due with very little. Most of their drugs come from the U.S. and they are either donated or discounted by big pharmaceutical companies. The only Lidocaine (numbing cream for shots) they have was donated by my friend Cheryl.
If you would like to help the Belize Cancer Center with basic resources, please consider a small donation of general office supplies or multivitamins – email me at tacogirlbelize[at]gmail.com
Road Trip to Belize Cancer Center Dangriga
Part of the beauty of Belize is that it is relatively easy to go spend a day in another part of the country and come back fast. So when my friend Cheryl (my friend Aimee’s Mom) needed to take a trip to Dangriga for chemotherapy, I decided to be her “go with girl” since her daughter was away.
Cheryl lives in Belize City and was planning to catch the early morning express bus, so I hopped a Tropic flight out from San Pedro the day before. She met me at the airport and for $7 our driver Lincoln Webster (626-5022) dropped us off at Chon Saan for dinner with instructions to come back in an hour. After a short bit of kitchen table talk and time with her 3 dogs, it was time to call it a night – our ride was due to arrive at 5:00 am.
Our early morning taxi cab, Myron Dougal (604-4465) was on time and cost $10. We caught the 5:30 am James Express bus from Belize City to Dangriga – $7 BZD each.
The trip took about 3 hours, with a five minute stop in Belmopan along the way. Cheryl had a driver set up a for $5 ride. Elwin (620-7049) met us at the bus station and took us to Alexies Snack Shop for a tasty $10 breakfast. His son Manuel picked us up and dropped us off at the Cancer Center.
I stayed with Cheryl while they did intake, waited till she was set up in the back room and given an eta on her treatment time.
The center was one street over from the main road so I set out for a nice walk around Dangriga town. I was immediately drawn to the bridge for a photo op. I also wanted to photograph water and the shoreline. For personal fun and since I had limited time, I did a hardware and grocery store tour. I always like seeing what is available in other places and what pricing is like. The day was a scorcher and I took shade along the way on a park bench. Then I walked a bit in the opposite direction. I had noticed an A&R store on our way into town and I thought I would go in and cool off and also see what treasures they had that was different from San Pedro. As I neared the store I saw that the doors were open and knew instantly it was going to be a fast pass through. A health pit-stop came next, I bought some Gloriusruis Belize coconut water to recharge and headed back to the center to meet up with Cheryl.
It turned out Elwin was busy when she was done so they called us a cab. We made it to the bus station with seconds to spare. Thankfully once everyone opened their windows we got some breeze happening. The bus ride was fairly packed and we both enjoyed the mountain view along the way. I joked with Cheryl that she was only allowed to fall asleep and knock me over if it was into a cute guy – of course, it never happened. Unlike last time, the before-treatment medication did not make her as drowsy.
Before long we were back in Belize City and because we were getting off at Cemetery Road, Cheryl made La Popular Bakery our last stop before we caught a ride with Lincoln (626-5022). He dropped Cheryl at home and then took me to Municipal Airport to catch the 4:30 pm Tropic Air flight back to San Pedro.
Cancer Treatment Pricing
I know some of you are wondering about the costs of Belize Medical.
Cheryl’s treatments cost her about $400 (Belize dollars) per visit. That is much less than in Texas where she used to live, even with insurance. Another benefit is that she is happy she can stay at her Belize City home and be relatively close to her daughter Aimee and granddaughter Tori who live on Ambergris Caye.
In addition to chemo, Cheryl is on a hefty supplement program given to her by doctors at Memorial Hermann in Houston. The center hopes their patients can and will do daily multivitamins. Unfortunately, there are few subsidies and supplements are out of the question for disadvantaged folks. Travel costs can also be an issue preventing even subsidized treatments for those who live in other parts of the country.
Every Road Trip is an Adventure
Every road trip holds the potential for adventure and you need to be able to roll with the unexpected side of life that comes along with travel.
My unexpected most adventurous road trip moment came with a 4:00 am wake up call. A Belize City backyard hose shower; Cheryl had warned me that her house was a bit like glamping but saved that juicy detail of garden hose shower for after I had arrived.
As I was passing back through the kitchen wrapped in my fresh white towel, she laughed and remarked, even she would not brave it so early. It was polar bear cold.
When I got home that night and showered off the hot and sweaty residue from my day in Dangriga, I took a moment to appreciate the situation of indoor running water.
Great travel always reminds us to be grateful for the little things in life.
Chicken Bus Video
Enjoy a bit of our three-hour chicken bus ride from Dangriga to Belize City. Thankfully, going from Belize City to Dangriga we were on a comfortable air-conditioned express bus. I will say however that the chicken bus won for best music of the two rides – they started playing some great popular music and then transitioned into 80’s music and back to alternative. Both buses we took were James Busline. Our friend Adolph says they are the best.
I will leave you with a few pictures of our super fun road trip. Click and see what other travelers recommend for the best things to do in Dangriga.