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A few years ago I was doing an annual physical on ‘Marie,’ a very pleasant 80-year-old woman who was born and raised in Montreal. Her father had died of colon cancer in his early 60s, but she hadn’t had a colonoscopy for several years. They had always been fine, and she was getting older, and she just hadn’t done one for a while. I suggested we recheck, she said she was too old and not in the mood, so we compromised with a Cologuard (a home stool sample that is moderately good at picking up colon cancer). It came back positive.
I immediately referred her to GI, who said they could see her in three weeks. I said that wasn’t good enough, explained the situation, and they scoped her the following Monday. They found colon cancer, I called a surgeon, and had the cancer removed (along with eight inches of her colon) later that week. Total time from stool sample results to cancer surgery: Eight days. Pretty good, but still, one of the 12 lymph nodes they biopsied was positive for cancer. Crap. Metastatic cancer in an 80-year-old woman. What can you do?
Well, in this day and age, you can do a lot. So she undergoes four rounds of chemo. Modern chemo has come a long way, and she didn’t feel sick at all. Although she got tired of driving back and forth to the infusion center 20 minutes away. It resulted in clean scans and apparent resolution of her cancer. That was three years ago. She turns 84 next month. She feels great, and all subsequent testing has shown no evidence of recurrence. All cancer patients are not so fortunate. But sometimes modern medicine really can work miracles. Yahoo! Except.
When I called her after the stool sample to tell her that it was positive and she had a colonoscopy scheduled in three days, I asked if she had any siblings. She said she had a younger brother. I told her to call him, and tell him that now he’s got a father and a sister with colon cancer. He needs to get a colonoscopy done. And if it’s been a while, he needs it to be done right now. Which brings up the ‘except’ part of all this: He still lives close to where they grew up – just outside of Montreal.
He called his doctor, and left a message. The following week they called back and made him an appointment. That took some more time. Then they sent him to a GI doc. I’ve forgotten how long each step took, but it took over a year to actually find the cancer and get it out. By that time, he had widely metastatic disease. They tried chemo, but they use older stuff, and he got very sick on it. And it didn’t work as well. So they tried some other things, that made him sicker, and also didn’t work. He died after a very difficult seven months of treatment, at the age of 81.
Now, to be fair, Marie pays extra to be a member of a concierge practice. Going from a suspicious test result to definitive cancer treatment in eight days is pretty good, even in America, but that’s the advantage of this type of practice.
But first of all, the only way I could move that fast is because I have the resources of the American health care system available to me. And secondly, even in a more typical practice, there’s no way that would take a freakin’ year. In America, when we find a positive cancer marker in a patient with a family history of that very type of cancer, we get on it. Now. Her brother might have survived if he had been in the states. Any state. Anywhere.
I saw Marie today for a recheck, and she told me that her brother had died recently, and told me the story I relayed above. I wasn’t sure what to say. I just said, “I’m really sorry.” Or something like that. What can you say?
She said, “I’m so glad Justin Trudeau won. We need someone to make the Canadian health care system more efficient. It’s already one of the best in the world, but sometimes it’s not as responsive as it could be. You know, all the care my brother got, even the chemo – it didn’t cost him a dime.”
I wanted to respond, “Yeah, but it did cost him his life. Screw the dimes.”
But I didn’t. I still wasn’t sure what to say.
What an odd response. First, she tells me that her brother recently died. Then, she discusses the results of a recent election. Then, she compliments the health care system that killed him.
Dead brother. Politics. Nice job. Huh?
Wow. That just seems like a really odd conversation to me.
This is just another illustration of a phenomenon often discussed here on Ricochet. The basic problem of attempting to convince a leftist of, well, of anything at all. They’ve made up their mind. Or heart. Or something. And reality no longer matters.
With Marie, I didn’t even try. First of all, her brother just died, and to me, it seems disrespectful to discuss politics. Even though, in a socialized medicine system, matters of life and death are more dependent on politics than they are science or ethics. But, still, her brother is dead, and I can’t quite make the jump to politics. It just sounds dirty, to my ear.
And secondly, because if the death of her brother won’t convince her that perhaps socialized medicine is dangerous, then there is certainly nothing I can say that would convince her.
So I just nodded my head sympathetically. What else could I do?
There is a reason that conservatives lose a lot of arguments with leftists. What can you do?
With metastatic cancer in an 80-year-old, there is a lot you can do. Marie is living proof. But leftism is a metastatic disease with no known treatment. It just spreads and spreads, killing its hosts as it goes. And there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Marie is living proof. She still believes in leftism. So would her brother, if he were still living. But he’s not.
This no longer matters, of course, now that non-leftist opinions are categorized as hate speech. We couldn’t debate ideas now even if we wanted to.
But even when we were allowed to discuss ideas and ethics, we often didn’t. Because, well, why? What can you do?Published in