Dr. Erin is our usual cancer doc at Kudjip. And when she isn't here, Dr. Bill is the go to guy. When both of them were scheduled to be on home assignment at the same time, Dr. Susan asked if anyone would be willing to take over until their return. Well, I was happy to do whatever needed to be done. Thus taking care of cancer patients became my responsibility.
Every week, a handful of patients show up to my door for their check-ups and chemotherapy--or "poison medicine" as we translate it to Pidgin. There is a one time fee of 200 kina (about $100) which covers the cost of monthly labs and medicines. So far I have taken care of patients with CML, lymphoma, ovanian cancer, breast cancer, and of course my usual cervical cancer patients. I wanted to share a few of their stories with you...
This is Brian and his precious daughter. I wish I could remember her name, but it has already left me. Brian has CML, a type of leukemia. There is a program in PNG that provides a special medicine for our patients with CML. Glivec has been very successful in managing this type of cancer. Brian developed some complications, from the illness or the medicine we are not really sure. His hemoglobin (blood count) has been quite low, and he has been admitted to the hospital on more than one occasion for blood transfusion. Recently, his previously sky high white blood cell count also began to fall. It dropped so low that I had to stop the medicine all together. Now we are just praying and waiting to see what will happen. I worry that he doesn't have much time left in this life.
Andrew is 9 years old. The swelling in his neck began some months ago. Dr. Jim did a lymph node biopsy, and the pathology came back as lymphoma. This week I started him on four drug chemo. The usually jolly little guy just couldn't conjure up a smile for the picture. He wasn't very happy with Sister Florence for starting an IV, or with me for ordering one. Poor little guy... I promise, it will get easier.
Kelly came in to the outpatient clinic, one of the last patients at the end of a busy day. His chief complaint was a nasty sore that started under his tongue and grown through his cheek. I sighed to myself when I examined him--cancer. And it was quite advanced. Probably not much to do about it. When I explained the diagnosis, Kelly already knew. He didn't come to Kudjip that day for a diagnosis or with the hope of a cure. He came because he knew the doctors prayed with the patients. WOW. Kelly had been a Christian, and had even been involved in ministry. But at some point on his journey he had left God behind. He was ready to give his life back to Jesus. We prayed, and he did. That is exactly why we are here.
As a missionary doctor, I have done lots of things that I never would have dreamed of--take care of tiny premature babies, sew up chop-chops, reduce fractures, do a symphysiotomy, deliver a breech baby the natural way on purpose, put an ear back on, run a pharmacy. Just to name a few. But I never EVER thought I would be the [temporary] resident oncologist. I do use that term rather loosely... as I have lots and lots of help from my colleagues both here and back in America. I am so very thankful for the email consults that have gone back and forth around the world. And I thank the Lord for helping me to do the many things that this job requires--things I could never figure out on my own.
"This is God's Message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as God: 'Call to me and I will answer you. I'll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.'"
~ Jeremiah 33:2-3