This is a chronological timeframe of my husband, Markus’s skin cancer journey. I have been blogging about it and have been treating my husband for stress using reflexology and diet for calming inflammation. Now that we have surpassed the surgery, we still have unfinished business to deal with and I wanted to voice our concern with how things are playing out.
July 7, 2019 – Markus sees a walk in clinic to get checked for a suspicious spot has emerged on left cheek and not subsided. It has become a small open wound that has started to bleed. Dr suspects skin cancer and refers Markus to a specialist. Markus waits for specialist appointment.
July 2019 (mid month) – Markus sees dermatologist who suspects Basal carcinoma. Biopsy taken, stitched up, and told to wait 2 months for results. This is much too long for a diagnosis. Markus’s uncle removes stitching while we are in Italy.
September 2019 – Markus sees dermatologist (different from first) for follow up. Biopsy results confirming Basal carcinoma, and is recommended for Mohs surgery as it’s the most effective in removing the cancer as other removal processes have required additional surgeries as it is not as successful in removing all cancer at site. Warning of long wait times. Placed on cancellation list. Told to go to walk in clinic for referral if need to see dermatologist again. Once a patient is in the system with a clinic especially when dealing with cancer, why should they have to get a referral? This is yet another unnecessary step within our healthcare system.
November 2019 – Markus gets surgery date for Oct 26, 2020, and is put on cancellation list as this is very far away. We are very concerned. This will be a 1.5 years wait in total.
Winter of 2019-2020 – Cancer site goes dormant, virtually disappearing. We feel some relief and relax knowing that nothing serious is happening.
March 2020 – Cancer site begins to wake up. See the walk in clinic Dr as referral is required to see dermatologist again. Clinics are closed due to Covid. We wait.
April 2020 – Cancer site appears to grows larger, bleed and fester. Markus experiences burning sensation at site. Another suspicious area on opposite (right) side of cheek emerges. Markus as a frontline worker endures high stress levels possibly worsening the cancer. He covers cancer with bandaids and orders specialized face gaiters and strong UV protective clothing from Australia but is delayed due to Covid. We order additional back ups from Amazon.
May 2020 – Early May, send updated photos to dermatologist with festering cancer and new spot on other (right) side of cheek but no response. Contact walk in clinic Dr for urgent phone consultation and referral to dermatologist as clinics are now consulting via phone only, not in person. Dr forwards urgent referral. Receive phone message for a phone consultation for June 10, 2020. This is a months wait, not soon enough. Markus contacts walk in clinic Dr again by phone, Dr agrees it’s urgent and sees it as very serious but there is nothing he can do. Markus continues to send more photos to dermatologist office of cancer changes. Apt gets bumped to June 1, 2020. Still too long of a wait. This causes panic, talk to people in Ontario about how to proceed out of province.
June 1, 2020 – Phone consultation with (a different) dermatologist is very short – a couple of minutes. Dermatologist says that cancer is about the same, is not urgent from what he can see and this doesn’t result in any pressure of moving a surgery date closer as we were hoping. Dermatologist makes off record comment that he’s waited this long, he can wait longer. Markus is told to make an appointment to come in person in a few weeks time if he wants to have the other side examined. Gets hung up on before talking to receptionist to make appointment. Markus calls back to make appointment for a few days later – not a few weeks later.
June 5, 2020 – An opening for surgery is offered (called from the surgeons office) and accepted for June 9 in Vancouver.
June 8, 2020 – Markus picks up ferry pass at dermatologist office the morning of and informs of his surgery and to cancel apt later in the week. Office has no recollection or documentation of the original surgery date for end of Oct, makes phone call to surgeon’s office in Vancouver, about it. That morning the dermatologist sees Markus briefly and sprays a solution on the new spot to bring it to surface as seen most likely as precancerous.
June 9, 2020 – On surgery day in Vancouver, surgeon is surprised to see how large and serious the cancer is. Says that had he waited for original surgery date that the cancer would have further disfigured his face. Surgeon also wished the dermatologist had not sprayed the other side as now the surgeon is unable to diagnose and treat on surgical day. Approximately 2.2 cm by 1.8 cm of cheek is removed and is pitted deep. Flap approach is used to minimize disfigurement based on the large impact zone. Procedure lasts from 11am – 4:30pm. Markus is left with a very large scar from the corner of eye in a Z shape down to the mouth. Healing will take up to 18 months and scar cannot be exposed to UV rays.
Markus is off work for 3 weeks and is very uncomfortable. Most bothersome is the impacted eye; red itchy and burns as face heals. We are now waiting for his short term disability to kick in. Fingers crossed.
June 15, 2020 This coming week – We will contact dermatologist (and send photos of surgical site) about other side of face and be aggressive about a strategy so that it doesn’t result in what happened to the left side of face. Update: apt is made for 3 months away in September to review new spot.
July 1, 2020 – We begin facial massage therapy in 2 weeks time and continue this for 3 months or longer. Markus can resume more of a typical life at that point if all goes well. I am enrolled in facial reflexology to help with the facial therapy process. I am also consulting Dien Chan experts about approaching the scar with a specific reflexology technique from a non invasive method.
In conclusion, there were too many problems with this process and we cannot afford to have this happen again. Had Markus waited for his original surgery of Oct 26, 2020 and there not been a cancellation, the situation would have become much more dire, further disfiguring his face and possibly his nose. The local dermatologist failed to identify this, putting Markus’s health in greater danger. We don’t trust our healthcare system now as Markus is at risk for more cancer in the future (other side of face not resolved). We have decided to move to the mainland hopefully in the fall where he can be closer to the expert who performed his surgery and who is requesting to have him follow up with him routinely by email until we can see him in person.
Where do we go from here?
This process has taken far too long and has been unreliable. There should be shorter biopsy wait times, a stronger examination process to determine severity of cancer, removal of referrals and a more timely approach for urgent matters. The cancer grew aggressive during the Covid pandemic when clinics were closed. I undertook a short course at Pacific Rim College to help with diet to calm any inflammation within Markus’s body. This seemed to help at bit as the new spot retreated and the larger cancer site stopped burning.
We have endured a great level of stress and now there’s the ongoing mental toll this is having on my husband. His face will never look the same again and tragically this could have been minimized had it been dealt with in a more timely manner, not a year and a half later. When explained to relatives in Europe, they expressed how unacceptable this is and this would have been taken care of in weeks where they live. This is very hard to swallow and yet Canada is rated as one of the best places to live? The toll this has taken on our lives is another level all together. I plan to take this information to VIHA to see what can be done so this doesn’t happen again to Markus or anyone else.
I want to point out that I am grateful to the Dr. who rallied behind Markus and the surgeon who somehow fell out of the sky when we lost all hope. We don’t know exactly how it happened but we suspect a cancelation due to Covid played in our favour. But it should not have come to this. We are traumatized by the outcome and want to seek compensation for laser scar removal. Our healthcare system desperately needs to be reevaluated and overhauled. I’ll have more to say later…
My case studies are on hold until July while I focus on my husbands health.