‘Preparing for disfigurement’: Waiting for BC cancer surgery allows time for nurse’s tumor to grow

A BC woman who has been waiting months for a cancer treatment plan finally has a December 1 surgery date.

However, due to the delay in obtaining that date and a treatment plan, Fayra Krueger now faces the loss of her right ear and permanent disfigurement.

Krueger, a registered nurse, had a grape-sized tumor removed from her ear in June.

“They told me we had clear margins, so about five weeks after that… I noticed my lymph nodes on the same side were quite swollen, so I went to my GP,” he told Global News. “That was the first week of August and the process of what had become metastatic skin cancer began.”

There is still a week and a half left until the date of his surgery.

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“From the time I was diagnosed with stage 3 metastatic cancer to the time I had surgery, it was four months,” Krueger said.

Click to play video: 'British Columbia cancer patient frustrated by delays in healthcare system'

BC cancer patient frustrated by delays in the health care system

“The cancer grew and advanced so much during those four months that what they initially told me would be an overnight hospital stay and fairly simple surgery has now turned into a three to five day stay,” he added. ”

“I have a chance of losing my entire ear, maybe part of my jaw. Ten days ago I had four of my teeth extracted because of radiation. I may also lose function of my facial nerves, which would be my sense of smell, sense of taste, and movement. I can lose my smile, my ability to smile.

“And the pain is quite significant now, it’s continuous pain.”

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Krueger said he’s still trying to come to terms with what could happen.

“Especially because it could have been prevented,” he said. “That’s the key and that’s the message I want people to hear, it wasn’t necessary, you know. If they had offered me the treatment within a reasonable time.”

Krueger said that, to her knowledge, referrals to BC Cancer usually take about two weeks, and she waited a few months.

“I work in the system, so I know there are significant systemic delays across the board in healthcare right now,” he said. “But to be honest with you, stage 3 cancer, I thought it would be a higher priority.

“I thought that even with the lack of resources, I would still get some kind of fast track because I will now be facing significant disfigurement, not to mention the complications of having such extensive surgery.”

In a statement to Global News on Monday, Dr. Kim Nguyen Chi, BC Cancer’s chief medical officer, said he cannot discuss the specific details of any case due to patient privacy.

“The regional health authorities perform most cancer-related surgeries, with the exception of BC Cancer – Vancouver, which performs a limited number of breast cancer surgeries, minor oncology and gynecology surgeries,” it said in a statement. “The operating room also performs brachytherapy, endoscopies and bronchoscopies.

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“Patients referred to BC Cancer for PET/CT are categorized based on a number of factors. These factors may include: type of cancer, location of disease, clinical stage, impact on clinical management.

He said waits for PET/CT scan results can vary, but most people wait 28 days or less, and urgent cases wait less than 14 days on average.

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Health Minister Adrian Dix said on Monday the way to address the backlog in cancer surgeries will be to hire more oncologists, add more surgeries and add more staff to the team.

“So in the last two budgets there have been significant new investments in cancer, which we are going to build on with a 10-year cancer plan,” he said.

Dix said more staff have also been hired.

“Also, on the subject of scans, we have added a new PET/CT scan capability, which was previously only in Metro Vancouver, in Kamloops and Victoria,” he said.

But for Krueger, now he has to think about what will happen on December 1.

“We are failing. We are failing the public,” she said.

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“It is difficult, I have a daughter who is quite young, so I am trying to prepare her.

“I’m just preparing for that disfigurement and hopefully when it comes out I can literally still be smiling.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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