By Aabigayle McIntosh
Radiation treatment for various types of cancer in Antigua and Barbuda has now become another hurdle to overcome since the closure of the Cancer Centre Eastern Caribbean.
This is according to a 22-year breast cancer survivor Desiree Edwards who joins a long list of people who are lamenting the closure of the facility and hoping for a speedy resolution on the part of the government.
She was speaking on local radio on Monday lamenting a myriad of challenges associated with the unavailability of the crucial treatment following the April 30th closure of the cancer center.
“It is not just the radiation treatment, it’s everything surrounding it. You have to travel, and airfare, and you are worried about the finances. It is six weeks every day, in the same place, same time, and the same process,” she said during an Observer radio interview.
“There is also the anxiety of being away from your loved ones, your family, your support system and not having the full support of that system,” she added.
While the government has indicated that measures will be put in place to accommodate patients who will require treatment overseas. This will be done on a needs basis and only those who cannot afford to pay out of pocket will be catered for.
It is also not yet clear whether monies paid out by the Medical Benefits Scheme (MBS) will cover the cost of accommodations, meals, and family members of the affected patient in addition to the cost of care or surgery.
Meanwhile, Edwards who was speaking following Sunday’s observation of National Cancer Survivors Day, also chronicled her journey from diagnosis to treatment over 20 years ago.
She recalled receiving the “distressing news” in February 2001 which came at the age of 38 years.
Having never done a mammogram and living a vibrant life full of activity breast cancer was the last thing on her mind.
In addition to this, the discovery came after her partner found that something was wrong.
“It was a rocky road it was not easy. My care at the time was kind of disjointed because I went into full denial. I actually wanted a second and third opinion because I just could not believe that anyone under 40 at the time would be diagnosed with breast cancer”.
“I had a lot of myths in my head thinking that breast cancer was something that affected older women, women who were heavy with big busts, it just did not match the profile that I had in my mind,” she added.
After the sad news started to sink in, Edwards said she thrust herself into survival mode and started reading everything she could find on the subject, and with the support of family and friends, she has survived the ordeal 22 years later.
Her medical journey included a lumpectomy- breast-conserving surgery, Chemo-therapy, radiation for a six weeks period and 7 years of hormone therapy.
“When you think about the length of time you spend in active its not just a year or two, it’s a wider span. You have to stay on top of it by doing your monthly check-ups and your clinical exams,” Edwards said.
Edwards says keeping a strong faith and a positive mind got her through the process.