Hello October!

By Enid Westerlund 05 October 2023, 12:00PM

Is the town clock going to be pink again? Okay, maybe it’s too early in the month to ask. If you don’t have a family member that has passed on or been affected by cancer, then keep counting your blessings and pray for those who are fighting and living with cancer. It’s Pinktober month which means Christmas is weeks away, but it also reminds us to be aware of the signs and to check ourselves.

Early detection saves lives. My youngest sister has cancer and thankfully she received treatment early. It also pays to have dual citizenship as not everyone here has a fighting chance or the finances to get treatment overseas. For that I am thankful, what about the rest of us?

Cancer is no respecter of age, person or status. More and more young people are diagnosed with cancer today, especially brain tumors. Having a doctor in the family who escorts these patients to New Zealand for chemotherapy is a reminder that cancer is taking the youngest among us. Most cancer patients end up dying due to many factors.

Cancer treatment is expensive and because we do not have the proper facilities on island for early detection and treatment, by the time the cancer is confirmed, patients are already at stages three or four.

Terminal. Even if they are at stage two, the process of going on the overseas treatment scheme might take a while and not everyone is approved to go. It is not guaranteed and even then, there is no cure. By the time you get through flights, specialist appointments and treatment, it is already too late.

I remember a young patient whose father was so desperate to alleviate his son’s pain and trying to save him, he resorted to baking soda injections because he read somewhere that it might help him. That was heartbreaking for me. I can’t imagine losing a child. At least an adult has lived their life, but a child carries hopes and dreams for the future.

Awareness is important and screening, early detection can save many lives. There are so many of our people in the rural areas who resort to traditional healers, suffer through and eventually pass away without ever seeing a doctor or seeking help at the hospital. For those who are privileged to have dual citizenship, we have a higher chance of survival compared to all our people who go through the system only to be turned away and there is only so much that the government can do.

At this point, Medicare for cancer patients is not automatic. Even in developed countries, most people cannot afford chemotherapy and other expensive medication. Cancer is expensive. Pharmaceuticals make millions from cancer. You stop working, you become dependent on your loved ones for daily needs, and it can be a long and painful road to death.

I’ve cared for relatives who’ve had cancer and it’s not something you’d wish on anyone. While we enjoy the rest of our week, remember to get yourself checked and if you are not comfortable going alone, take someone you trust for support. Ask questions and go to a doctor that really listens to your queries. Believe me, I’ve come across some dismissive doctors who do not consider the concern of patients only to be proven wrong down the line.

If your instinct tells you that something is wrong, get a second opinion. 

By Enid Westerlund 05 October 2023, 12:00PM
Samoa Observer

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