Amanda Francisca Armijos


At her home in La Andina, Amanda stands in front of a photo of herself and husband Saul Apolo, who died of stomach cancer.

Testimonial of Amanda Francisca Armijos of La Andina

We came here to the Amazon in 1982 from El Oro Province. When we arrived, there was nothing here, just wilderness. Texaco came shortly after we arrived, and dug oil wells #1, 6, 7, and 11 near here.

There are 10 oil wells near here now, and all of them are upriver. Before, no one knew that oil was bad for you. Our entire community got our drinking water from this river, we washed our clothes in it too. Sometimes we’d see crude in the river, but they told us that it wasn’t contamination.

About a mile and a half from here, near the Ramirez house is a big toxic waste pit; it was finally covered. The mother of the Ramirez boys died of cancer.

My husband, Saúl Apolo Ramírez, died of stomach cancer when he was 49, after suffering for almost 4 years.  He grew coffee and yuca, and gradually we were able to open a small store. He was very energetic; he didn’t like to sit around the house. Later on, when he was too sick to cut wood, he used to buy it here and sell it in the cities. Oh, yes, he was in pain, but he went anyway. He was a hard worker.

His first symptom was stomach pain. He couldn’t drink sodas or eat acidic foods. He suffered like that for almost two years. He couldn’t believe that his condition was so bad. He’d say, “Take me, maybe I’ll get better,” but he never did. We saw doctors in Coca, in Lago, in Shushufindi. They didn’t find anything wrong, they’d give him medicine, which helped a little, but then he’d get really sick again. Near the end, when he grew really thin, we went to Solca Cancer Hospital in Quito.

In Solca, they told him that he should have come six months earlier, because by then it was too late. They operated six weeks later, but they didn’t remove the tumor, they only opened and closed him because the tumor was malignant. They removed some tissue, and then he got better. He even gained weight.

But eight months later, he became sick again. We spent four months in Santo Domingo but the doctors said there was nothing they could do, then in Solca they said the same thing. He was in the last stage, so we decided to come back home to the Amazon, and two weeks later he died.

Our six children were our salvation because they cut wood to pay our medical bills. I sold 12 cows and paid $12,000 to the Santo Domingo hospital. I still owe Solca.

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