Monday, 19 July 2010

Light medicine

A few months ago, I wrote a story about my least favorite disease:  cervical cancer.  For many years this was a fatal diagnosis in PNG.  There was no hope for a woman with cervical cancer.  She was going to die from her disease.  And it is a pretty bad way to die... usually from kidney failure or slowly bleeding to death.  I know, because I have already seen too many.

A spark of hope ignited last year with the re-opening of the PNG Cancer Treatment Centre in Lae.  The Cancer Centre offers radiation therapy which slows the progression and sometimes even cures cervical cancer.  When I identify a patient who might be a candidate, I do my best to explain the treatment.  How exactly do you describe radiation to someone who lives without electricity or running water?  I call it "light medicine."  

We have now have 6 or 7 patients who have finished the course of "light medicine."  Do you remember Kuni?  She is one of them.  I see the ladies in clinic for follow up every month or so.  Most are doing quite well.  It is an incredible blessing to see how God is working in their lives!

At the end of April, the spark flickered when radiation treatment was put on hold.  Dr. Niblett, the only radiation oncologist in the country, left for holiday.  He was scheduled to return the beginning of June.  Every week we call with new referrals, but the Cancer Centre has no idea when he will be coming back to PNG.  We have been told there are visa issues, or maybe delays due to contract negotiation.  Who knows for sure.

Meanwhile, time is ticking for our patients who are in need of radiation therapy.  Here is a picture of Kant and her husband Bakre.  Kant has already been waiting several months to be able to go to Lae.  I only hope that she will be able to go before her disease is too advanced.
I am writing this blog today to share about the situation, but more importantly... to ask you to pray for the cervical cancer program.  Here are a few prayer points:
  • the HPV vaccine will available in PNG
  • women will hear about the services that we offer and come
  • Pauline as she screens patients with pap smears
  • Meripath, for Judi and Joanne and those who have so invested themselves into the program
  • Dr. Becky and I as we follow patients with abnormal pap smears
  • more health care providers to be trained in colposcopy and treatments for cervical dysplasia
  • Dr. Jim as he does surgery on our patients with early cancer
  • Dr. Niblett, that he will be able to return to PNG and soon
  • someone to be trained to continue radiation therapy when Dr. Niblett someday retires
  • our patients

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'"
~ John 8:12


  1. Steph, this breaks my heart. If Jon was qualified to do this, I would seriously consider uprooting us.
    I searched it on the internet and read more about it. I have to admit my naive self was pretty surprised to see that papua new guinea had a publication ....

  2. Stephanie, are you still in contact with Jacklyn? You mentioned her a few months ago, saying she was only 21 years old and inoperable.

  3. Jaclyn did go down to Lae for radiation. I saw her once when she was admitted to the hospital for some sort of complication. I don't think she is coming back to Kudjip for her follow-ups unless she is seeing one of the other docs.