‘I’d be dead if I had state hospital care’

2017-06-22 13:45
Patient Murray Alva-Wright talks about his struggles with cancer, the battle with state treatment and how important a good support system is at Wednesday’s Cancer Survivor Day hosted by CANSA at Northdale’s TPA Hall.

Patient Murray Alva-Wright talks about his struggles with cancer, the battle with state treatment and how important a good support system is at Wednesday’s Cancer Survivor Day hosted by CANSA at Northdale’s TPA Hall. (Ian Carbutt)

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“If I had continued to go to the state for treatment, I would be dead.”

These were the words of Pietermaritzburg cancer patient Murray Alva-Wright (41), who has been fighting cancer for the last two-and-a-half years.

He was speaking after the release last week of the damning South African Human Rights Commission report against the KZN Health Department, which found the department had failed its cancer patients.

The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) held a small cancer survivors’ day celebration on Wednesday morning at the TPA Hall in Northdale where people shared their stories, triumphs and struggles.

Alva-Wright was diagnosed with stage-three prostate cancer two-and-a-half years ago, however, it soon spread to his lymph nodes and lower spine.

“I am still on treatment. I am not going for chemo or radiation. I am on chemo pills because I had two heart attacks and a stroke while on radiation treatment,” said Alva-Wright.

“I take it day by day but I am not going to give up.”

He said he began treatment at a private facility in late 2015 as the waiting lists for state treatment were too long and the pain medication the state had given him was then replaced with Panado and Brufen, in what he believes was a cost-cutting exercise.

“I am sad and angry because the state puts so many other things above this issue. I think the country needs to look at cancer the way it looks at TB and HIV and include cancer as a priority.

“If I had continued to go to the state for treatment, I would be dead.

“I want to see more survivors and more people raising awareness,” he said.

Alva-Wright said the support group, which meets at the TPA hall every fortnight, has had a far-reaching impact on the community.

“CANSA and this group have an amazing impact on patients and their families’ lives.

“Social workers and places like Hospice are there for us but we know they have limited resources and this group really reaches out to people in the community,” he said.

Cancer survivor and founder of the support group Aneetha Moodley said on Wednesday that she had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer nine years ago.

She said she worked for six years after being diagnosed and when she stopped working, she began volunteering for CANSA.

“I saw the need for a group and started it three years ago.

“It has really grown. People who do not have cancer or who have not suffered from cancer do not understand but in this group, we have all been through the same processes and we are able to share the different ways we cope.”

Moodley goes to Grey’s Hospital oncology unit once a week to give hope and share her experience with other cancer patients who have just started the process of being diagnosed and going for treatment.

“Giving back also helps us to heal,” she said.

Moodley said it was “an absolute disgrace” the way the Department of Health had dealt with cancer patients in the province.

“I think they have failed patients and survivors in a big way.

“I know they have limited resources but it has not been managed properly.

“I had been visiting a woman who died two months after starting treatment.

“The department needs to know that these are real people with real families.”

CANSA social worker Nxolo Mnyaka said the Survivor Day was to show appreciation towards cancer survivors and the work they did as volunteers.

She said it was a small way to say thank you to the group.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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