I sat there today in our clinic somewhat astounded that I was even astounded by what I heard. The story is so old that it sounds almost boring. Is there a point where no matter how awful something is, we can become complacent because we hear it so often?
One more woman with cervical cancer. And her story was EXACTLY the same as all the others. The world likes to tell us that women get this cancer because women are just too ignorant to get pap smears. But that is not at all what I hear in Guatemala. Margarita's story was not one of ignorance but one of tremendous neglect and abuse of women.
Just like so many others, Margarita actually did have a pap 2 years ago. After a great effort to get the result, she was told she had "inflammation". This is the result they give when they really can't figure out what they're doing and they somehow want to blame it on the "inflamed mess" inside the woman's cervix. It's as though just in case there is a cancer, they want everyone to know that it wasn't the "system's" fault - it was the woman's fault for having some nonsensical "inflammation"!!
Then, last year, Margarita started having some slight bleeding. Worried, she went to three different places for another pap smear. And guess what she was told???? "Please return when your spotting stops because we can't do a pap when you are bleeding!!"
And now, despite all her efforts to NOT be ignorant and to do the right thing, she now has a cancer that is practically incurable in this country. One more family without a mom.
I could see the helpless anger in her face as she tearfully told us the story. Trying to control my own rage, I wondered how a person controls themselves when they may have to face an untimely death because of a broken and corrupt system.
She told us that she heard we were "good" and so she came to us for that reason. Yes, maybe we're "good" but it wasn't enough for this woman. I pray there will be a day that we won't have to hear this story over and over.