Hard to believe all that's happened in the last 2 days. Sunday morning we drove out to see Flori's family. As we pulled in front of her sister's home, the tears just rolled down my face. There was the porch where we had the big "fiesta" celebrating Flori's recovery just a few short months ago. It was bare and so forlorn looking. Where were the balloons, the cake, the huge plates of food and where was Flori? At that time, we had all laughed and thanked God and shared stories and hugged. How did it all end like this? One by one, her family came and we all hugged and cried and they all told me to thank each and every one of you for all that you did to try to save her life. They told me that you will all be remembered in their hearts forever and that there will be a place in heaven where we will be together one day. I told them so many stories about Flori's incredible fortitude, courage and strength in the most difficult of times.
Then, after our time together, they brought me over to the little clinic near their house. 20 women were lined up on that Sunday morning eagerly waiting for a pap smear. Everyone there and in the surrounding communities are terrified of getting this cancer. In a neighboring village is another woman age 35 with almost the same story. They had me go visit her. When she went for a routine exam a few months ago, she was told that things didn't look right. So, she was sent to Guatemala City where she had a biopsy that confirmed cervical cancer. They told her that it was too advanced for surgery and that she needed chemo and radiation. So her family has used all their resources to start her on the chemo but in reality, there is no radiation program here so she will really never get that and she will be one more statistic in a short time......
But the only good news in the midst of this is that we seem to really on a path to seeing a full scale cervical cancer prevention program here in Guatemala. it would take a book to explain how we got here but after all these years of trying and huge obstacles and trials, we have somehow made wonderful connections. Sara and I have had meetings with the director of APROFAM (Planned Parenthood of Guatemala) and with incredible women associated with Rotary International and with Isabel DeBosch's foundation. Strong connections are being made with a group through the National Institute of Health and it honestly seems that real changes are possible. Our research proposal for February seems to have ignited a flurry of possibilities and we can only pray that real change will happen. Best of all, we have found so many wonderful Guatemalan health promoters who are so eager to participate.
In the midst of all this administrative activity, we've been able to still connect with these wonderful Guatemalan women in the clinic. Their stories continue to shock us and compel us to continue moving forward. Of the 20 women we saw on Sunday morning, at least 12 told us about their children dying. The main reason for their children's death was the "eclipse" of the moon. They described to me that the doctors told them that there was an eclipse that cut off the oxygen supply to the moon. Then the sun was able to burn their babies heads and so the babies died within them. They told me this story as if you would be recounting any account of a child's death. The mythology that has been encouraged by the medical community here is shocking to me. It permits a culture where no one has to be accountable to anyone.
On a lighter note, Sara and I went out to dinner tonight. We were done around 9:30 and found out that there were no cabs available in Guatemala City so we couldn't figure out how we'd get back to the hotel. So we walked about 10 feet and mentioned to a man working in a different restaurant that we couldn't find a taxi. So he said, "no problem, I'll just drive you"! So off we went and here we are! It is indeed surreal here in Guatemala!