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Category: Health Care 25 Jan 09

 

“In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given; it must be earned. “Our journey has never been one of short cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted—for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility.” —President Barack Obama’s inaugural remarks on January, 20.

When I read an e-mail sent to me by a cancer patient, President Obama’s inaugural speech resonated. Below is a heart-breaking story of a citizen of this country (a story echoed by hundreds of others) who is a victim of people—those who failed her, who accepted “duties grudgingly, of those who seek only riches and fame.” “Dear Ira, “Your last commentary brought me to tears, as I am a cancer patient struggling with treatment in Trinidad. “I cannot tell you how hurt I felt that the Prime Minister took care of himself by going to Cuba and left the rest of us to take what is available here. This is my story: “I was 49 years old and the mother of four children ( three boys—24, 16, 11—and one girl, 7) when I was rushed to a nursing home with severe abdominal pain last May. A CT scan showed two large ovarian masses, and surgery was done almost immediately at enormous financial cost.

“They did a total abdominal hysterectomy and removed the ovaries and momentum. The tissue was sent to pathology services for a report. “I was told I had ovarian cancer. I was referred to a doctor for treatment who recommended the standard treatment for ovarian, ie, six cycles of taxol/carboplatin. “The masses did not puncture the ovarian capsules, and so it was felt that I had a fairly good prognosis. “The doctor who did the surgery was supposed to check neighbouring tissue and take samples of lymph nodes, etc, for biopsy, but did not do that. “Without that, it was impossible to state with certainty what stage I was at.

“I transferred to the National Radiotherapy Centre in St James for chemo, when I realised how high the cost was for chemo privately. I was paying $10,000 per session. “After having five cycles of chemotherapy, I had a CT scan on September 10, 2008, at a private medical centre. This scan showed new liver nodules (lesions indicating cancer) that were not there before and a normal colon. “My oncologist was puzzled over how it spread to the liver, despite the chemo. “Five days later, on September 15, I collapsed and was rushed to a private nursing home, only to be told that I had a colon blockage. “Non-surgical techniques to unblock the colon failed, and so surgery was performed, revealing a mass/tumour in the colon!

“Note the inaccuracy of the radiologist who read that CT scan just five days before! “Because of this, my oncologist indicated that we should send the original tissue from the first surgery (ie, ovaries, etc) for re-testing abroad at the Mayo Clinic. “This cost me $10,000! “Guess what, Ira? I never had ovarian cancer, but colon cancer, which had spread to the ovaries. “If the pathology was done adequately in the first place, I would have been given the correct treatment/chemo for colon cancer since May, 2008, and would not have all the spread (to the liver, etc) that I now had. “I am now one of those given the most terrible prognosis (stage four like your brother).

“I was so afraid of the public health system; I spent a lot of money in the private health system, thinking I was getting good health care, but that failed as well. “Please, warn people that even the private hospitals and specialists are not up to scratch, and that it is important they get a second opinion on their pathology reports. “Many radiologists are not reading even CT scans accurately! “When I reported the Mayo Clinic’s findings to the staff at the National Radiotherapy Centre, they informed me that such errors in pathology reports were common. No one ever tells patients these things. “So I am continuing on chemotherapy at St James. I get there about 8 am for chemo, and never get to see the doctor, who puts in the IV, until about 11 am, or later.

“Last session, they did not have one of the drugs, and so, many patients were not given their chemo as scheduled, or some, like me, did without.
“In a country with such wealth, why are we building mega structures while leaving citizens to suffer? “Surely, the best care available to our Prime Minister should be available to the rest of us.” As told to Ira Mathur. Ultimately, the letter above is not about cancer, but the disease that affects people with the power to heal and nurture, be they politicians or doctors. Its symptoms are pride, apathy, indifference and self-interest. President Obama is being hailed as the new Messiah, because every message of his is about neighbourliness.

I close with his words, hoping they will help the woman with stage four cancer encounter such people among us every day of her life to help her along, to encourage her. “It is, ultimately, the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. “It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break; the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. “It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child that finally decides our fate.”

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur