Two Pained Limericks (by myself, Colette B.)
It’s such a challenge to try and be strong
for the patient who may not live long
hope for some dignity
and a death that’s pain-free
and through loved ones their memory lives on.
When someone we love is enduring such pain
and there’s so little difference we can make
one’s left feeling so helpless
and shamefully selfish
for our very own grief and heartbreak.
Today is World Cancer Day and this year’s theme is ‘We can. I can.’ It’s all about raising awareness, encouraging prevention, detection and treatment. Cancer touches all our lives and statistically, is on the increase. Most people will know, or have known someone with cancer, and at least one in three people will have cancer at some time in their life. We can’t really ‘see’ someone’s illness with cancer (usually), until it reaches the later stages of illness or until they’re having treatment such as chemotherapy.
In many parts of the world even clean water, adequate food and sanitation are yet to be secured for all and even basic healthcare and medicine are lacking.
In our so-called ‘developed societies’, as much as we’re told to be alert for symptoms ourselves, so much depends on the vigilance of our doctors – their ability to listen and actually hear and discern from what their patient is telling them and the signs and symptoms they’re presenting. Even in countries such as the UK, diagnosis and treatment is so often delayed by the failure of doctors to recognise the signs of cancer early enough to make a difference. Of course, many patients might postpone going to the doctor and put up with their symptoms, maybe because they’re in denial or ignorant of warning signs or maybe because their doctor doesn’t listen and does nothing. Many cancers develop over many years, decades even and so are said to be ‘silent killers’. Cancer in old age is often considered a natural occurence of aging.
NHS cost-cutting and even welfare reform strategies put doctors under pressure to follow policies that divert their attention away from individual patient care and away from basic health care principles. We hear so much ‘spin’ about preventative healthcare and preventative medicine but I’m left to wonder if it means preventing health, rather than preventing ill health, especially under the current hard-line government. So for many of us, especially lower classes / underclass, we can go without until we’re dying. Some of us simply haven’t contributed enough to tax and National Insurance to receive healthcare entitlement above accident, emergency and maternity. Healthcare for all is an expensive myth. Cancer outcomes are much improved dependant on social class. Prompt diagnosis and treatments are much more likely the more able to afford legal action the patient and their family are.
For months my best friend was told there was nothing at all wrong with her because she asked her doctor if she might have an illness like M.E. because her symptoms and exhaustion were so like my illness. My friend was only diagnosed with a brain tumour when another friend insisted on taking her to A&E. Cancer spread to her lungs and in spite of treatment she died less than six months later, aged 35 years.
Shortly after a diagnosis of skin cancer in 2014, my mother became very ill and early in 2015 was found to have ovarian cancer. Following surgery and chemotherapy, and a very brief spell of remission, my mother’s cancer has spread to her liver and bowel and is ‘aggressive’. Her current treatment may buy her a little more extra time although of course we hope for a better outcome. She’s 68, which could be considered a long enough lifetime and already longer than many. I wish I could do anything at all for her, be there to help care for her, but I can barely care for myself (ill with M.E.) and we live so far apart.
My Dad died of bowel and liver cancer aged 60; his brother died of skin cancer aged 53; my father-in-law (an ex-miner) died of lung cancer aged 83; my best-friend died of lung cancer and a brain tumour aged 35; the child of a family friend died of leukaemia aged 7.
I also know of two people in the long-term who are so far surviving their cancer after treatment following early diagnosis.
I hope my post doesn’t cause any offence, especially if you are ill yourself or recently bereaved. I am also aware that many healthcare professionals are committed and dedicated to their vocation of caring and supporting the sick and needy and do their absolute best for their patients.
I welcome feedback, discussion and comments – Do you know of anything of better help/worth a mostly bed-bound and ill person can do for this? #WeCanICan