Oncologist denies blame in woman’s cancer death

– grieving mom upset with treatment given

Shenelle Orlanna Chance

The grieving mother of a 31-year-old woman who passed away recently from cervical cancer believes that the treatment she received at the Cancer Institute of Guyana caused her death, but the attending physician says all was done to save the young woman’s life.

Shenelle Orlanna Chance died on March 2, exactly one year after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and while her mother Maxine Wilson stated that she was diagnosed with stage one cancer, Dr Sayan Chakraborty, Medical Director and Consultant Oncologist at the institute said she was diagnosed in stage 2 B, meaning the cancer was progressing to stage 3.

“There is a hole in my heart, it could never be filled. It is still hard on me as a mother to see my young vibrant daughter deteriorate in such a short period,” the mother told the Sunday Stabroek in a recent interview.

She contended that after receiving the treatment, which included chemotherapy, internal and external radiation, her daughter should not have died and accused Dr Chakraborty of lying to the family and causing her daughter’s death.

According to the mother, the doctor told her daughter that he gave her a “strong” dosage of chemotherapy and that she was the first person to whom he had administered such a dosage.

“To me, he just use my daughter as a guinea pig. He used her to see how the chemo would have worked and it damaged her kidneys and killed her. I want to tell my story to save some young girl or any other person’s life to not just listen to one doctor but to get second opinion. My daughter believed in Dr Sayan,” the mother said.

The woman’s biggest bone of contention is her claim that the doctor told her daughter she was cancer free after the treatment even though she was slipping away right in front of their eyes. In the end she died writhing in pain in the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH). According to her mom the final hours of her daughter’s life were so agonizing that she begged for it to end telling her mom she ‘can’t go on no more.’

The family spent over $1 million on Chance’s treatment and her mother cannot reconcile that she is now dead.

“He [the doctor] would tell you that is not God, but in the long run this is what he did to my daughter. I want the whole Guyana to know what he did. I am not pleased with his work, I am a mother who is just crying out in pain and really hurt. I know she cannot come back but I could help save someone else,” the mother said.

‘Nothing like strong chemo’

However, according to Dr Chakraborty there is nothing like “strong” chemotherapy; as is the normal protocol worldwide the young woman was administered the treatment according to her body weight and height. He also pointed out that the chemotherapy was administered at the oncology department of GPH and only the radiation was done at the Cancer Institute.

“She was not a guinea pig. Everything was explained to her,” the doctor said explaining that the young woman was diagnosed with bulky disease better known locally as advanced disease.

The doctor said he did not want to “fight” with Wilson since he understands that she is a grieving mother but pointed out that if the information is not corrected and the true facts given then it could affect many persons as it may lead to misconceptions.

He denied that he told the young woman she was cancer free but had indicated that the first treatments were successful, and the cancer was not seen for a period. However, he did explain that there are cases when the cancer would return and more aggressively as happens in 10 in every 100 persons worldwide.

“It increases when the stage is advanc-ed. I cannot guarantee anybody that the cancer is gone,” he maintained.

A few months after the treatment and after her daughter had returned to her job at the Marriott Hotel she began to suffer from chronic back pain and this led to her being sent home for a month. But pain got to a point where she had to be taken to the Woodlands Hospital where injections for the pain were administered on a regular basis.

At that time, Wilson said, Dr Chakraborty was out of the country and on his return her daughter saw him nine times. She claimed that during none of those visits did he tell her that the cancer had returned.

“Is one day I at the Woodlands Hospital and I seeing my daughter in so much pain that I ask to see the doctor and tell he to tell me what really going on. And is he tell me that the cancer was back, and I was shocked,” she said.

In response to this claim, Dr Chakraborty said the young woman had reported that the doctor had indicated that the cancer had spread to her spine and that was causing the pain, but when he looked at the CT scan that was done this was not the case. He said he told her the cancer had not spread to her backbone, but he did state that it had returned, and it was affecting the functions of her kidneys.

While Wilson believes that her daughter’s kidneys failed because of the “strong” chemotherapy that was administered to her, the oncologist said that it was as a result of the cancer returning aggressively.

He recommended that she be admitted at GPH where a procedure should have been done that would have seen two tubes inserted into her kidneys to help with the draining. This could not be done at the hospital and he then recommended that she be taken to the Woodlands Hospital for the procedure.

Her mother said the doctor informed that the procedure only had a 20% chance of working and they decided not to have it done.

Dr Chakraborty said while he was unsure as to what transpired and why the treatment was not done it was needed so that further chemotherapy could have been administered for the cancer, but this could not be done if the kidney function was not normal.

“She was sent for the procedure with good faith… chemotherapy would have been administered [after the procedure],” the doctor said.

“I understand her daughter died and she is grieving. My heart goes out to her, but I think the facts should be corrected. The misconceptions can harm hundreds of others…,” Dr Chakraborty said.

He said such misconceptions could have huge irrefutable negative impacts if not corrected, while adding that grieving relatives always tend to blame the doctor.

But he maintained that cancer treatment has guidelines which are international and which he, just like every other doctor, must follow. “I have no authority to go against those guidelines,” he said.

Loving child

Wilson described her daughter as “loving and always giving of her best.”

She recalled that it was heavy bleeding that resulted in her daughter’s gynaecologist recommending a biopsy and it was this that showed the young woman had cervical cancer.

The doctor was prepared to remove her daughter’s womb, but a friend told her about Dr Chakraborty and she instead turned to the institute for treatment.

“She believed in Dr Sayan…,” the woman said almost in tears, adding that she should have gotten a second opinion.

“It is not easy to watch your child in pain and for her to die like that. They were just giving her morphine for the pain, it was horrible. My daughter should not have died within a year,” the mother said.