Year of cancer

NO, NOT ME. And not quite a year either.

Last January, a nephew discovered he had cancer. The problem began when testicular cancer was misdiagnosed as a cyst.

The testicular cancer, untreated, spread to his lungs, and that’s when the problem was discovered. The cyst diagnosis had come from a doctor practicing at a generic drugstore.

Mexico is chockablock with doctors, and many find work at drugstores, charging about 20 pesos a diagnosis. While this may not be a bad option for minor, routine ailments, I wouldn’t count on it for anything potentially serious.

The drugstore option is used primarily by folks who are financially challenged. That would be our nephew.

He is 31 years old, married, two great kids, 10 and 6, and few real occupational skills. His father — my wife’s brother — was murdered by a lunatic when our nephew was a toddler.

His mother died a decade later due to diabetes, which she simply ignored until it killed her.

The nephew was 14, and his brother was 16 when mom died. They have been on their own ever since.

The testicular cancer has been removed. The lung cancer is more stubborn, but test results have been going in the right direction. By sheer luck, he had health insurance from a job driving a wrecker on the autopista near here.

He has been receiving chemotherapy at a government hospital in the nearby state capital. This has been going on for the past year. At first, we were part of a group of friends and relatives who ferried him to these sessions.

He has no car.

But, in time, the others have dropped out. Now it’s just us. Once a week. Some weeks on, some weeks off.

* * * *

Alternative medicine

In addition to this traditional treatment, he is also going to a witch doctor. At least, that’s what I call him. Others call him a practitioner of alternative medicine.

The witch doctor was recommended by another aunt and, unfortunately, he is not located in the nearby state capital but hours away in the City of Querétaro.

Once a month, the nephew travels to Querétaro by bus, leaving early in the morning, and returning late at night. The witch doctor is not cheap, and he prescribes all manner of medicines, none of which is covered by the health insurance.

My wife and other aunts pay the witch doctor.

The nephew has more faith in the witch doctor than he does in the oncologist at the government hospital.

The test results have shown a good bit of improvement over the year, but the lung cancer is not in remission.

I hope for the best while thinking of Steve McQueen.

12 thoughts on “Year of cancer”

  1. Steve McQueen sought treatment for cancer with Laetrile in Mexico sometime in the early 70’s. He was a heavy smoker and died anyway. Cancer can affect anybody. It can be treated. The trick is early detection. That’s something witch doctors cannot do.

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    1. Carlos: The early detection issue is already out of the barn. It did not happen. There’s no going back on that one.

      As mentioned, nephew’s condition has improved, but it’s not in remission, just at a more reduced level. Time will tell, as they say.

      The witch doctor’s (even my wife agrees he’s a charlatan though she helps pay for the visits) primary treatment is some blue liquid he allegedly gets from the Cuban healthcare system. He also has the lad on all manner of diet rules which seem absolute nonsense that have nothing to do with cancer. No chili peppers, for instance.

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  2. I have a friend, one my age and a former smoker, who had a lung tumor found early and had not spread. The treatment she received was new in that it was targeted at the tumor. Six weeks of chemo, several more of radiation targeted to the spot, and cancer free at her first scan after the treatment. Tumor gone.

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      1. She didn’t feel so fortunate when it was diagnosed but for certain cancers, this is a good time to be in need of treatment. I wonder about countries like Mexico and its ability to source the expensive chemo drugs. She had a good outcome.

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        1. Carole: I’m betting that pretty much whatever drug is available in the U.S. — not all but the great majority — is available here and often for much less cash.

          And when something is not available here, you’ll find a viable substitute. We get ill here just like people everywhere, and it gets treated.

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  3. The curandero sells hope. The medical establishment is more realistic. Make sure your wills are in places. Clean up your personal life; get rid of those orphan socks. Their mates will never show up. Those dingy undershirts and drawers need to go. Get rid of old pictures of old lovers and love letters.
    We all die eventually. Todos van a la misma pila de huesos. Be ready.
    Next question is who will take care of his kids?

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    1. Señor Gill: Of course, the witch doctor sells hope, and one in a bad situation grabs at all passing straws.

      As for wills, my wife has one, but I do not because I own nothing. Everything is in her name. Cars, houses. And my personal life is as cleaned up as I can get it. For more cleansing, you’ll need to get in touch with my sister and daughter. Good luck with that.

      I get rid of orphan socks when they become orphans. I am cruel in that respect. The dingy undershirts — well, T-shirts because I don’t use undershirts — and drawers will stay because my child bride uses them as dust cloths. There may be some photos of old lovers in the Miscellaneous File. Not sure. A love letter or two too. Cannot bring myself to toss them. Or it. I think there is just one. Maybe two.

      Who will take care of his kids? Well, we hope it will be him.

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  4. Out of desperation, people often try treatments that cannot possibly do them any good. Fortunately, the body has a marvelous recuperative power. Maybe the hope that the blue liquid will work will be its true power.

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  5. Life is a spiritual journey and I am my own curandero, however, I buy my potions at the Farmacia Guadalajara. They tend to be more efficacious.

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