Thursday, 12 May 2011

Happy ending

I took over the cervical cancer screening program at Kudjip Hospital about a year and a half ago.  There have been some real joys.  I have taken care of many patients with cervical dysplasia or pre-cancer of the cervix.  It only takes a simple procedure to finish the disease before it becomes cancer.  Every one of those procedures saves a life.

Unfortunately, I see many patients who already have cervical cancer that is too far advanced treatment at Kudjip.  The only hope for these women is radiation.  Referring them for radiotherapy is quite a process...  The patient is evaluated to see if she might be a candidate:   exam, ultrasound, chest x-ray, blood tests, biopsy.  I have a long discussion which is usually repeated with family on what is "light medicine," the side effects, the chance of cure vs. risk of death.  Once the patient and her family agree to go, they collect money and make arrangements for travel.  I contact Dr. Niblett at the Cancer Centre in Lae who needs to give the OK before he sees the patient.  It may take several attempts before I can get through.  Our phone is out, the phone in Lae is out, or the doctor is on vacation.  Or perhaps the hospital is closed or the radiotherapy machine is out of service.  Get the picture?  There are lots of hoops to jump through.  Sometimes I wonder if I am getting anywhere.

But every once in a while, the whole crazy process actually works.  There is an occasional patient who actually gets to Lae, completes (and survives) a course of radiotherapy, and is cured of her disease.  When I see those few patients back in clinic, I realize that every bit of hoop jumping was so worth it.

Today was one of those days when I was reminded why I do what I do.  Necka is one of my cervical cancer patients.  She is now more than one year out from radiotherapy.  She came to see me for a check up, and continues to be cancer free.  Praise the Lord!  We finished our visit with a big hug.  Her smile (and mine) says it all.

Thank you for praying for the cervical cancer screening program and our cervical cancer patients!

"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."
~ Romas 5:3-4