Three years had passed since Elena Islanda had performed medical tests on her breasts. The economic crisis that worsened in 2017 in the country, prevented her from continuing to pay for studies in private healthcare centers and she was left “at the mercy of God” until 2020, when she was able to resume her routine check-ups.
Rosimar Sánchez // Correspondent lapatilla.com
That year, the exams showed a small irregularity in one of her breasts. However, the medical oncologist who evaluated her informed her that there was no need to be alarmed. “I went to that doctor in 2020, he said that it seemed to be a nodule and that it was small, but you had to pay close attention to it. They did two biopsies and they came out negative,” commented Elena.
Months passed and she felt fine, she continued to carry out her day-to-day activities and, apparently, everything was normal.
In 2021 she began to feel like “a lump” in her breast, so she went back for check-ups and decided to seek a second opinion with another specialist. The oncologist ordered a biopsy and they were able to confirm that it was a malignant tumor.
“She told me that doing things on time was good. She said they would perform surgery and nothing much was going to happen. I felt good and that was small. Since I didn’t have the resources for an operation, I told myself I had to keep ahead with it.”
Ever since Elena got the diagnosis, she kind of went into a phase of denial. She did not understand how she could have cancer if her body did not feel discomfort.
“I did not accept that they wanted to do this to me. When someone receives news like this, one doesn’t accept it, and since I didn’t feel any discomfort in any part of my body, nothing enough to scare me away, I rejected the subject. There were people who were talking to me, telling me that when things are done on time they turn out well. All I answered was: ‘I have to do the things I have to do’ and that’s when I went back to the hospital and the oncologist told me that the tumor had spread, because I had not received treatment.”
After undergoing another series of tests this year, doctors at the “Padre Machado” Oncology Hospital in Caracas evaluated Elena and their response was blunt: she should receive chemotherapies as soon as possible to prevent the disease from advancing more.
The news shocked her emotionally, but her faith in God and the support of her family kept her going. “This is strong, it is something that nobody wants to go through. First of all, I am trusting in God that things are going to work out. For the family they are things that were not expected, they have an impact, because suddenly everything is fine, but suddenly some things moved and everything is out of control, but one has to find a way to make everything go in order.”
Elena, who lives in Miranda State and is 62 years old, must receive four chemotherapy sessions every 21 days: the first is scheduled for next week. There are six medicines that they have to apply, and in the Domingo Luciani Hospital in Caracas they have three that are very expensive; the rest must be bought by the relatives.
They estimate that the investment in the three medications is approximately 500 bolivars for each application of chemotherapy. To this is added the purchase of food, because the patient requires a special diet adapted to the treatment, so the total cost could reach about 1,000 bolívares.
In each chemotherapy session, the patient must bring breakfast, lunch, snack, water, soap and toilet paper.
Obtaining the economic resources to pay for tests and medications has not been an easy task for Elena and her family. Resorting to the support of friends, acquaintances and public services through social networks has become an option.
Despite the uncertainty and fear, Elena and her loved ones remain optimistic.
Never Neglect the Body
After receiving the diagnosis of breast cancer that shook her physically and emotionally, Elena has become more aware of the importance of taking care of her body, for which she invited women to prioritize themselves and not leave medical examinations in the background.
“Sometimes you don’t pay attention to it, but I call on women not to neglect themselves, pay attention to their bodies, touch themselves, have their exams done annually. Sometimes in the middle of the same situation, one stops getting tested because the money is not there at the moment. Then one becomes careless, and if one feels good, one also becomes careless, but that’s not the idea, you have to pay a lot of attention to your own body and health. We focus on daily life, work, children, family, but we have to pay close attention to the body, because there are times when one forgets and it shouldn’t be like that,” she said.
Elena is beginning her path to healing. After each chemotherapy, she must undergo an evaluation, and at the end of the schedule, she will have another check-up in which she hopes to have good news. “This is strong, sometimes the moment comes and one says ‘My God, what is going to happen?’, but you have to have faith and trust in God.”
If someone or an institution wants to provide support, they can do so through the Banco de Venezuela current account 0102-0256670000067250, telephone: 04141374618 and CI: 2760679.
A Timely Diagnosis
In a press release, the general manager of the Venezuelan Anticancer Society, Dr. Juan Saavedra, pointed out that screening for breast cancer among Venezuelan women is low.
He said that according to a study by the Global Cancer Observatory and the World Health Organization, in Latin America (including Venezuela) early diagnosis reaches 20% of women, while in developed countries that figure is greater than 80%, and that is why their healing percentages are much higher.
“Early diagnosis facilitates timely treatment and ensures a survival greater than 90%. Cancer is curable if diagnosed early,” he asserted.
He reported that, according to the latest study published by the Venezuelan Anticancer Society, in 2021, 3,128 Venezuelan women died from breast cancer, a rate of 19.01 per 100,000 inhabitants. That same year, 7,885 new cases were also registered, a rate of 47.91.
For her part, the president of Funcamama, Luisa Rodríguez, reported that this year they manage a data of 33 new daily cases in the country, while last year the figure was 17. She stated that the shortage of specialists in public healthcare centers, equipment failures and lack of medicines are some of the problems faced by patients with breast cancer.
“There are not enough mastology specialists in hospitals, not all hospitals have mammography equipment. After performing the mammogram, you have to perform the breast echo and then visit the mastologist doctor. This is made very complicated by the number of people who demand the service,” explained the President of Funcamama.
She indicated that in case of going to a private healthcare center, the patient would need approximately 2,000 dollars for surgery, added to the purchase of the chemotherapy drugs because the IVSS (Venezuelan Social Security Administration) has not delivered the complete scheme since 2016.