Faith lost in medical system

Dear Madam Premier, I have an important question for you. But first, I want you to know that I appreciate the work you do as a public servant to the people of B.C. and this letter is written with respect. Also, I agree we need an environmentally safe Northern Gateway pipeline which will no doubt bring helpful funding for just such situations as I write below.

My question is, if your doctor told you or one of your loved ones, that your annual test for colon cancer showed the presence of blood, would you be willing to wait 10-plus weeks just to receive a call telling you when your colonoscopy is booked, which would likely be a minimum two to three more months down the road, or would you go to the private clinic in Kelowna and pay $2,310 to have it performed immediately?

I can’t blame you if you chose the latter. But while you were paying for yours, would you be thinking of the hundreds of other B.C. residents who would not be able to afford that choice?

Cancer agencies everywhere educate people about cancer and how incredibly important early diagnoses are. Canadians go for our annual physicals as a free service, for which we are very grateful, including all the accompanying lab tests only to learn that if a particular test needs urgent follow-up we may wait six months or longer. How does this make any sense?

My husband’s fecal test for blood is positive, requiring a colonoscopy follow-up. If this procedure discovers a cancer in his colon, the six-month or longer wait could make the difference between metastasizing and catching it before that happens. The bottom line is that it could make the difference between life and a miserable death. What happened to urging an early diagnosis to save lives?

Can you imagine yourself waiting six months or more with such a huge question mark hanging over your head? Imagine the toll this is taking in stress and people’s lives having to be on hold. With a backlog this huge the numbers must be in the hundreds of your voters.

We are seniors and my husband is also a veteran. We are grateful for our medical system and have endured wait lists for joint replacement and repair, cataract surgery and yearlong waits to see certain specialists. We have taken it in stride knowing it is the price we pay for our social safety net and a belief that any emergency would see us looked after immediately.

On an even more personal level, my husband and I have realized that in order for us to maintain an independent existence, we have to rebuild our retirement funds decimated by the 2008 global economic crash and the following low interest rates. He has to go back to work in his seventh decade. The best income in a short amount of time is in northern B.C. or Alberta.

He isn’t able to do the physical work he did as a younger man, but he can perform other activities and earn the funds we need to see us in small, but comfortable living quarters and not dependent on government programs, perhaps a year or two from now when he will be in his mid-70s.

Now, we are in limbo. For six months, give or take, our questions are: does he have colon cancer, if so, how long before we know, how far advanced, what will be the treatment, what will the medications cost, what is the prognosis, will he live or die, have a colostomy, and so on and so on.

Additionally, does he apply for work now and go up north where he can’t be home on short notice, does he sit and wait and waste much valuable time, if he cannot go to work what happens with our future living conditions, and so on.

This creates incredible stress and a feeling of such powerlessness.

No one has any answers for us. We are told there is nothing anyone can do, to take our complaint to the health authority or if there are any symptoms to see our primary physician. How ludicrous. Once cancer is symptomatic, you know what the outcome is more than likely to be.

We feel abandoned, alone, scared and have lost our faith in our medical system just when we really need it. What is so very tragic is that there are many, many B.C. residents sitting in this very large boat.

Madam Premier, please be the leader the sick and senior citizens need you to be. Our lives are literally in your hands and the loonie stops at your desk.

Be the leader described in the following quote: “A good leader doesn’t say, ‘Follow me’, a good leader says, ‘I’ll go first.'"





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