My dear father never disappointed me. He was exceptionally tough throughout his last three years, enduring pain and discomfort with an open heart until the end.
Rabat – I will never forget the day when a doctor had to tell my father the results of his prostate biopsy, a painful and necessary procedure he underwent to determine if he had cancer. The doctor gave me the news in private, but he hesitated to tell my father.
It is common in Morocco for families and medical staff to tiptoe around the word “cancer” because of the fear surrounding the word. Instead, they use terms like tumor, mass, illness, or other medical terms in French.
Knowing my father, I thought he needed to hear the diagnosis from his doctor directly. He was not used to going to the hospital, even when it is necessary, so I needed him to get the seriousness of his case to follow through on treatment.
And my dear father never disappointed me. He was exceptionally tough throughout his last three years, enduring all the pain and the discomfort with an open heart until his last day.
The latest online campaign by cancer patients in December 2019 brought up all my memories of my father’s experience fighting cancer and all the other patients I met. They campaigned to draw attention to their suffering, crying out, “We don’t want to die of cancer!”
Rajaa Bouziane, one of the activists who launched the online movement and campaigned fervently to save her life and thousands of other Moroccans in urgent need of treatments and struggling to buy medication, died last month of cancer.
It is no secret that the catastrophic situation of health services in Morocco is one of its citizens’ most urgent concerns. The struggles of cancer patients in Morocco, in particular, highlight the whole situation of the health sector in all its complexities.
Most patients feel out of control because they cannot afford the high cost of treatments and endure delays from mismanagement and staff shortages.
All the dysfunctions affecting patients, the stories and experiences of pain, and the feeling of being left to die, has turned cancer into a communal fear.
Is there any way out? Is there any hope?
For sure there is hope, not just because we cannot go on without it, but, honestly, even after painting this melancholic image, there is a certain political will to improve the life of patients. The Lalla Salma Foundation, for one, has managed to move things in the right direction.
However, taking into account the growing numbers of cancer patients and expectations of better care, it is unlikely in the short-term for Morocco to be able to afford decent care for everyone, or for poor patients to be more specific, without adequate funding, more involvement of the private sector, and better data management.
After the launch of the online campaign, Omar Cherkaoui, a university professor and an online influencer, launched an initiative gathering thousands of signatures to ask Parliament to debate a bill funding the cost of cancer treatments for all citizens. The move has been praised by thousands of Moroccans and can be considered a practical civil solution to help impoverished patients.
Cancer patients are running out of time. A missed chemotherapy session, a delayed surgery, or an out of stock medicine is a nightmare.
There is a pressing need for the health ministry to step up and create more cooperation between the public and the private sector to help more poor patients.
Cancer patients should be treated like hemodialysis patients, who cannot wait for a long time in a public facility. In this case, the medical team should examine the option of sending the patient to a private hospital, using an appropriate funding system. People cannot wait for new hospitals to be built or new policies to be debated to save their lives, so all possibilities must be considered.
In the same vein, collecting reliable digital data about cancer patients, though a challenging process, is essential to monitor cancer in the country and will contribute to better management of resources. Data collection should start from the process of screening and continue during treatment.
Cancer patients are already enduring too much physical and social pain. Let’s avoid, as much as possible, adding insult to injury. Let’s give them hope for a more fair and decent life.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial views.
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