Life on the List for Lyall, Part I
In June 2009, we visit my in-laws on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. They are avid golfers who enjoy playing the game daily. So my husband and I don’t think much about it when his father Lyall is experiencing indigestion and has trouble swallowing his food. He tells us that his doctor is treating him for acid reflux. In July, we learn that he has left a camping and golfing trip with his brothers after taking a newly prescribed medication for acid reflux and becoming ill. He heads back home for another visit to his doctor.
Life continues on, as does the treatment for acid reflux, until August when Lyall’s rapid weight loss can no longer be ignored. He has lost about 25lbs over the last few months. During this time Lyall’s youngest son is busy planning for October wedding celebrations in two provinces.
On September 29th Lyall undergoes an endoscopy and biopsy. The procedure involves snaking a lighted flexible tube with a small camera through the esophagus and taking a tissue sample for analysis. He is determined to attend his son’s upcoming marriage. On October 3rd despite the paleness and gauntness and illness he is a proud father sitting at the wedding ceremony. He leaves the reception early to return to his hotel room and lie down.
We find out that he is not feeling well enough to attend the next celebration being held the following weekend and is staying home to wait for the results of his biopsy. My husband and I express our desire to travel to British Columbia to be near him and wife Sandra but they urge us to represent the family and attend the celebration down east. Lyall waits for the results of his biopsy and my husband calls him for a daily update. It is not until we are in the airport preparing to fly home from the most recent wedding celebration that we receive the news. The biopsy result is positive for cancer; esophageal cancer.
Lyall’s name is added to a waiting list for a CT scan to see if the cancer has spread. A week passes and my husband and I become frantic as he has no date for the CT scan. British Columbia has a number of private clinics offering CT and MRI scans. We ask him to consider leaving the waiting list and paying to have the scan done. We find out that a doctor’s referral is required before a scan can be purchased at a private clinic. Lyall mentions to his doctor that he might like to pay to have a scan done privately, but the doctor assures him that he is scheduled for October 19th which is now only a couple of days away. Lyall remains on the waiting list.
On the morning of October 19th as he and Sandra prepare to travel to the appointment they receive a call informing them that the CT scanner is broken and there is also not enough staff to operate it. The hospital will reschedule his appointment for the following week. Lyall’s youngest son hears the news and calls the hospital telling them that his father’s condition is becoming worse and he needs to have the scan sooner. They schedule him at another hospital and give him an appointment for two days later.
On October 21st Lyall finally gets a CT scan. The results are not good. He is told that the esophageal cancer has spread to his stomach and surrounding lymph nodes as well as two spots on his liver. He is also told that the cancer is in Stage IV, inoperable and terminal. Lyall’s name is on a waiting list for an Oncologist (cancer specialist).
My husband flies to British Columbia to visit his ailing father. We know the shortcomings of our health care system. My husband starts compiling Lyall’s medical records in preparation for leaving the Canadian health care system and its death-sentencing queues. I search the Internet and compile information on esophageal cancer, its treatment and top hospitals.
Lyall continues to wait on a list…