“It is just hard for me to see myself like this and the New Year is coming, and things are not getting better. I am just hoping that the doctors can do something, and I get the surgery. I thank God that I am still alive but just lying on my bed in pain day and night sometimes is too much,” she said.
I could hear her laboured breathing through the telephone line. It was obvious that she was in a lot of pain. Each sentence came with some amount of effort and I felt guilty talking to her but when I tried to end the conversation, she insisted that she wanted to talk.
She has been a breast cancer survivor for the past eight years but earlier this year it was discovered that she had cancer of the spine. It has been a downward spiral ever since but the worst of it all is being unable to take care of herself and having to depend on her children. She is 51 and has been almost helpless since October last.
“Most days I am in pain. It is pain and more pain and sometimes there is nothing I can do to ease the pain. I really can’t explain the feeling I does be getting sometimes, to be honest. Let me tell you girl, it is does be hard at times,” she said.
I tried to find words of comfort, but none came; I wondered what words would cheer a woman in her plight.
“Sometimes it is very painful and stressful. Oh my, when I can’t do anything for myself, when I can’t move by myself, that is hard because I am accustomed to doing things for myself, helping myself but…” she trailed off and for a while all I heard was her laboured breathing.
“It was back in March when I start to feel this pain in my lower back. I didn’t know what was causing it, but I was in a lot of pain and I had to go to the hospital and they did an x-ray and they tell me how it show some kind a blockage but they didn’t know what was causing it,” she continued.
“They were checking me for gas in my body but nothing. But the pain continue and it didn’t stopping. Because of it, they do another x-ray and it show…, there was a blockage and it was puzzling me all the time that I was feeling so much pain and the doctors could not find what was wrong with me, that was the hardest part.
“I keep going back because I not getting no ease and they send me for a third x-ray and is then they find that my T11 was damaged. The doctor never explain to me how my T11 get damage. All he tell me was that he had to do a surgery to fix it, but he had to put in a screw but it not in Guyana right now. He keep telling me this for months that he can’t do the surgery because there was no screw and I just in pain running back and forth,” she said, and the frustration was evident in her tone.
The T11 vertebra is the second lowest of the 12 thoracic vertebrae of the human torso making up the central part of the spine.
“After he keep telling me that all the time, I ask for a CT scan because I did want know directly what was wrong with me. When I do the CT scan it show that my T11was damaged and my left pelvis was having multiple malignant cysts. I had to ask myself what this was all about. You see, I am a breast cancer survivor for eight years. And I thought I was cancer free and to hear that, it was bad. And then the doctor still keep telling me how I have to do the surgery, but he couldn’t do right away…,” she shared.
“Every time I go to the clinic – I had to go three times a week – it was the same message I keep getting every time: I have to wait on the surgery.
“I then decided to go back to the Oncology Department [of the Georgetown Public Hospital] and I show them all the papers from the doctor and they started to treat me with an injection to shrink the cysts… But I keep going and coming for five months, the injection was not really helping and the doctor still saying he can’t do the surgery.
“I decided to take further steps and speak to someone at the Ministry of [Public] Health and when I tell them they send me back to the doctor to get a paper saying that he can’t do the surgery right now. I get the paper but to get a quotation for the surgery was another push around. I keep going to the Oncology Department and then it all get too much and in October I get bed ridden, can’t do nothing for myself.”
She once again paused, and I asked her if she was okay and in a small voice, she asked me to give her a few minutes.
“You see, I normally do things for myself. I use to sell my icicles and do little things to get money but now I can’t do anything,” she lamented.
I asked her about being diagnosed with breast cancer ten years ago. I wanted to get her to talk about something else.
“Oh that, one day I just get up and there was a slight redness on one of my breast, no lump no pain nothing just this slight redness. But I decided to get it checked because my mom died from breast cancer. When I checked they found that cancer was in all two me breast but luckily it was in the early stage. I had surgery, but they didn’t remove my breasts they just take out the cancerous part. Since then I going to clinic to make sure that everything was okay, and I never had any problem, so it was a surprise for me that the cancer meet till to me spine,” she answered.
“I get four children, two of them working and now I have to depend on them to not only mine me, but to do everything for me. And that is very difficult because I never want to be a burden to my children. My family also help out from time to time but is mostly me children.
“Thankfully I don’t have to pay rent because I live in my sister house, but it does still be hard,” she added.
“And so, my dear, my days are just spent in bed. At times I does be frighten because you know sometimes, I does feel I can’t make it I does feel that I would…” she trailed off and did not say the word.
“But when I feel so, I does ask God to help me and heal me. I try to get rid of the negative thoughts, but when my children come and sit with me and start crying it does break me. So sometimes I does tell them don’t come and talk to me because they breaking me down. It does really be stressful because I know what they thinking and I can’t tell them it would be okay,” she said.
I knew at that point she was crying, and I allowed her some time.
After a while she stopped, and I asked her why she decided to speak to me. She was recommended to me by an acquaintance and when I called her, she agreed for us to speak.
“Me ain’t even know why,” she answered.
“You know how much time people would come and say for me to go on TV and so and talk about breast cancer, but I never like them things. Sometimes I would say yes but then I would don’t go. Only the Father knows why I decided to speak to you today, only He knows. It must be because you not putting my name and photograph in the papers,” she added.
“This pain coming on strong now I have to go,” she said.
I told her goodbye and to be strong and keep trusting in God.
“Yes. I trust him,” she answered before the phone line went dead.
I sat for a while with myriad thoughts running through my mind. I will call her again and I hope she gets better.
(Unfortunately this patient passed away on Friday)