Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Hope

I am writing today about one of the breast cancer patients, who we'll call Hope. She is 38 years old and was diagnosed with breast cancer last year in September. She came with a large tumor and she was also pregnant. The Cuban oncologist and surgeon wanted to abort the baby right away to save the mother. She already has 3 other children, and they thought that it would be better for the other 3 children to have a healthy mother. You see, the same hormones that are high during pregnancy, also feed the breast cancer and make it grow and spread. So, we had a meeting with the oncologist, surgeons, and gynecologists at the government hospital. The gynecologists did not want to abort the baby, mainly because it is against the law in Swaziland and they did not want to have to plead her case with government. They didn’t believe that it was a matter of life or death for the mother, which is the only way the government would allow an abortion. The oncologist and surgeons did believe that it was a matter of life or death for the mother. We decided to get a second opinion from an oncologist in South Africa.
The oncologist in South Africa said that she could give her chemotherapy since she was in her second trimester of pregnancy. So, the mastectomy was done first on September 10th, and the paperwork for getting her to South Africa was started. During this time, the oncologist in South Africa had stopped taking patients from Swaziland because the government hadn’t payed her in 5 months. It was becoming very expensive for her to continue buying the chemotherapy without reimbursement. So there were many patients waiting to go to South Africa for treatment by the time things were settled between the oncologist and the Swaziland government. The hospital transport was really busy and patients had to wait a long time for the appointment for transport. Patients need to start chemo within six weeks after the mastectomy. Many of them were way over that time frame. Hope was one of these, but the doctor said to send her anyway and she would see her. By the time she got to the doctor in South Africa, on the 2nd of December, she already had metastatic disease, which means that the disease had spread to her lungs and to a lymph node in her left clavicle area, above her chest.
The doctor was planning to start treating her before Christmas. She was scheduled to take hospital transport on the 21st of December. She traveled across the country to the hospital, ready to go, and there was no transport (the driver never showed up). Then she was scheduled again for the 4th of January, again, no transport (same story). By the time we saw her in clinic again on the 14th of January, she was very weak and short of breath. Also, we found something suspicious in her other breast. When we checked with the hospital transport, the next available date was the 26th of January. She was so afraid, weak, and crying. By this time, she was 32 weeks pregnant.
We (oncologist, nurses, and surgeon) all sat and felt like crying ourselves! What do we do now? Then I remembered that Daran (my husband) was going to South Africa the next day to pick up friends from the airport. I decided that I would go with him, and take the patient. I called the oncologist in South Africa, who was on leave, but had been corresponding with me via email. She told me to bring her and she would make the arrangements with her partner.
So, we started our trip to Johannesburg, South Africa the next day. I was able to talk to her about the Lord, a little bit, enough to understand that she does know Jesus and to tell her that we have people all over praying for her and her baby! That brought a big smile to her face. She was also complaining of sharp pains in the area of her mastectomy. At the border, she was so weak, I had to help her walk, and she couldn’t stand in line for very long. By the time we made it through the border, she was exhausted, especially since she had already made a 2 hour trip with public transport that same morning just to get back to Mbabane. She slept in the car. About an hour into the trip we had car trouble, but praise the Lord, we finally made it! She was admitted to the maternity ward, and I had to leave her soon after arriving to the hospital. We still had to go get our friends and get back to Mbabane before the border closed at 10pm and it was getting late. She didn’t want me to leave, but I told her that we were praying and that I would call and check on her. She is in good hands, the Lord and the doctors there!
Please keep Hope and her baby in your prayers! I believe that the Lord will protect this baby and bring healing to this mother, in the Name of Jesus! I will keep you posted on the progress of these two who are both very precious in the eyes of our Savior!
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