A year later, two of her peripheral lung lymph nodes showed signs of having been invaded by a (very) few metastasing cells that had somehow avoided prior detection. Consequently, she swiftly underwent a regime of radiotherapy (targeted at her two problematic lymph nodes) coupled to a regime of chemotherapy - if only to make sure that any and all of these few metastasing cancer cells were wiped out once and for all. Of course, she ended up at the time losing all her hair, along with the additional digestive, skin sensitivity, fatigue and nausea problems that inevitably come with chemotherapy.
At least, she could immediately return home after each radio- and chemotherapy treatment.
To cheer her up, her silly elder son (i.e. moi) kept calling her Lieutenant Llia (you know - from ST: The Motion Picture. Hey - my parents happen to love ST as much as their kids, so what can I tell ya?).
Then came a complication from her radiotherapy - of all things. The skin where the rad beams had to pass through in order to attack the cancer cells in the two lymph nodes began to inflamme badly and "burn". At the same time, her lower esophagus began to swell from inflammation to the point of closing up almost completely. So my mother had to have a gastroenterologist "open up" her esophagus again with some contraption, along with a prescription of anti-inflammatory meds. Her radiologist also prescribed her an anti-inflammatory/healing cream for her skin burns.
But in the end, the combined radio- and chemotherapy did their work and she managed to come through it well enough, all things considered. Including the return of her hair.
Of course, she would still have to undergo regular monitoring tests (yet again: PET scans, CEA blood levels, etc.) every six months.
And so it went, without any further problems or complications.
Until three years ago.
That's when my mother caught a bad case of pneumonia in her (remaining) right lung, consequently hampering seriously her lung's ability to take in oxygen. She had to be hospitalized for some three weeks under critical care, being pumped up with antibiotics while having to lie under an oxygen tent (for about a week) and thereafter having to breathe under a ventilation mask (for the other two weeks).
Unfortunately, she ended up contracting C. difficile during her hospital stay, which meant more antibiotics - not counting the pain and diarrhea.
But again, she pulled through and all ended well, nevertheless.
Until two years ago, that is, when blood began appearing in her urine, along with recurring pain in her bladder area. As it turned out, my mother happened to be one of the very rare cases where lung cancer occurs at the same time with bladder cancer - so, the "good news" was that this tumor did not result from metastases of her former lung tumor. Unfortunately, bladder cancer is very difficult to be spotted by PET scans, because the bladder always lights up brightly under this diagnostic procedure (you see, the non-metabolising, radiolabelled sugar analogue used for PET scans is taken up by cancer cells and not normal ones - hence, the bulk of what is ingested by a patient ends up quickly in the bladder ... this applies somewhat similarly as to why her past chemo did little to kill her bladder cancer cells). After further tests and biopsies, it was revealed that this bladder tumor was already big and invasive enough as to require the removal of the whole bladder. Just to make sure, all peripheral bladder lymph nodes were also removed, even if they did not lit up under PET scans. Also, this meant at the same time "rewiring" surgery in order to hook up her kidneys to a small piece of her own ileum, so that she would hook up urine collection bags to her side - in lieu of a bladder. She ended up staying about two weeks and a half at the hospital.
From there, she would have to continue her regular monitoring tests (yet again: PET scans, CEA blood levels, etc.) every six months, in addition to also seeing her urologist to monitor the well-being and well-functionning of her urine evacuation. Also, she would have from then on a specialized nurse available on call (to speak to or to come over) should any little problems occur with her urine collection bags.
And thus again, my mother pulled through it all and is now rather used to her small urine collection bags (for the day), as well as to the "big bag" she has to hook herself up with, for when she sleeps at night.
In between and through it all, my father had undergone his regular annual check-ups, including monitoring his prostate. Sure enough, the prostate reached a "minimum critical size" last year. After undergoing tests (PET scans, biopsies), he was diagnosed with prostate cancer - albeit at a very, very, very early stage. His oncologist discussed options with him: either have the prostate removed - which seemed like a too radical treatment considering how early the cancer was caught - or undergo a rather new procedure which involved inserting small radioactive beads into the prostate, leaving them there to do "their thing" for a year, at which point they would have completely disintegrated. In other words: harmless and painless. Oh - and with a 90+% success rate, at that.
So after a mere three months following the original "hmmm, it looks like your prostate has reached a minimum critical size, here" announcement, my father's prostate was inserted with them radioactive beads.
Of course, his mischievous, ingrate elder son (i.e. moi) spent the better part of the following year dispensing jibes and taunts such as "Hey, look! It's Radioactive Man to the rescue!", or "Let's shut the lights out and see Radioactive Man glow in the dark!" or "Here comes the Six Million Rads Man!" along with making the famous "bionic" sound whenever he would walk or move (disclosure: my father cheerily went along with that last one, purposely moving in slow-motion as in the tv series, especially when he would come at me for a pretend slap-up-the-head for my annoying naughtiness. You see, when I was a kid, him and I would never miss an episode of Steve Austin's exploits). In any case, my father will also have to undergo regular exams (PET scans, CEA levels, etc.) every six months to monitor the regression of his cancer - just like my mother.
Hence, in the end, everything ended rather well for both my mother and father, after all...
Not so fast. I forgot to mention that through every step of the way of their treatments and/or compications, there were undue delays because the treating physicians had to get approval from bureaucrats at the Régie de l'Assurance Maladie du Québec (our provincial government-run health care). But I suppose one gets used to this enough. However, just this past summer, my parents got a visit from one of these bureaucrats, one who was "in charge, in handling" their health care files. As it turned out, my mother had not only maxed out her "health care quota", she had in fact overshot it due to bureaucratic error. Nonetheless, either she had to get private insurance to reimburse the government (which was impossible, considering all of her "pre-existing conditions"), or she and my father had to pay out of their pockets (I won't tell you how much - let's say that the amount ended up in the mid six figures). But because this was a bureaucratic error, an alternative was offered: that my father, and/or me and/or my brother, "give up" some of our health care quotas in order to balance everything out. So all three of us did, and even more - because we had to make sure that my mother would continue to have her regular monitoring exams, while at the same time making sure she would get more care should she need it, and while making sure that my father did not end up short-changed for his possible, eventual needs. I was not there during the initial visit from that government bureaucrat, but my father told me that she even went as far as to mention that my parents, especially my mother, should begin to think about doing the "right thing" for our family and society in general, so as to help preserve health care quotas for everyone. It wasn't hard to understand what the "right thing" was. In any case, my brother and I ended up letting go of a sizeable portion of our respective health care quotas, for the well being of our parents - especially our mother. I guess I will have to have kids someday, so that they may do the same thing for me, eh? Well, that's our government-run, universal health care system for ya!
And to make sure: no, never a single bureaucrat ever got involved in the medical decisions made by physicians regarding the treatments of my parents, and there certainly was never a "visit" from a government bureaucrat regarding non-existent "health care quotas" and other such nonesense.
And to drive the point home: all my parents ever had to pay out of their pockets were the rented, private hospital rooms. Medicines (or urine collection bags)? All either fully reimbursed or, at least, have sizeable portions reimbursed - by that very same government-run, universal health care system.
I concede that I should've written a post as this one a long while ago, especially when the health care debate was raging hot in the US last summer - a debate that inevitably spills on over to our country, because those idiots who seek to dismantle our universal health care system invariably jump eagerly into the fray in order to further muddy the debate and make it somehow a "valid one" in Canada as well. Furthermore, every once in a blue moon, some Canadian decides to go to the US for treatment - for whatever reasons, either personal or, rarely, actually valid medically - which in turn reignites the bogus debate about the efficiency and quality of our Canadian universal health care system ... which also in turn is giddily used as canon fodder by those on both sides of the border who wish fervently for no universal health care system.
This happened again recently.
Hence, the present post.
Also, because the "public option" has been essentially abandonned once and for all by President Barack Obama, and considering the sham that is the current so-called "health care summit" as well as the further scaling-back of whatever health care bill that is to be someday voted into law, I decided to illustrate what my parents have gone through medically over the past eight years in order to make plain and simple the following final points:
A) in a private health care system, my mother would have been denied coverage and/or dropped a long time ago - most probably during her pneumonia because having the one lung left constituted a "pre-existing condition" or somesuch, or even more likely following the diagnosis of her bladder cancer (here's a similar example here). Or, her rates would have been hiked insanely. Hell, anything goes in this regard where the insurance companies are concerned - so there.
B) it is a certainty that my father would have had to have his prostate surgically removed, as opposed to the radioactive beads treatment, because the former procedure is much simpler and cheaper than the latter. As it regularly happens in the US.
C) even in the unlikelyhood that my mother would not have been dropped already, chances are that whatever private insurance my parents would have purchased would've fallen far short of covering/paying everything (co-pays, maximum coverage, loopholes and whatnot, anyone?) - thus leaving them either drowning in debt, with my brother and I along with them, or outright bankrupt and forced into poverty. As it happens regularly in the US.
and D) every treatment, every exam, every everything, performed by physicians in the treatment of my parents would have had to get approval by private insurance bureaucrats - including disputing/denying of procedures for more cheaper ones, if not outright denial of treatment. As it happens every day in the US.
If that is not enough to close this bogus debate once and for all, then how about this:
Thanks to our universal health care system, my parents got state-of-the-art, high quality care whenever they needed, all the while continuing to live comfortably, and affluently, in their retirement years.As a matter of fact, my parents went to Europe for 2 weeks last summer, as they try to do every two years (which they haven't been able to lately, considering my mother's complications of two and three years ago. The previous time they went over there was the following year after my mother's radio- and chemotherapy).
So just go back to point C) above to finally get the whole point.
And if you still don't want universal health care, then fine by me - because if you are that much stupid, then you just don't deserve it.
And good luck with your private health care insurance anyways, eh?
(Cross-posted at The Peace Tree and DKos)