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.