Friday, July 27, 2012


I have been in Guatemala for many years, yet this is the first time I have had the opportunity to be more aware and present for the care and treatment of a cancer patient. It is very important to me since I spent ten years in ONCOLOGY NURSING in the United States.

Maria is 44 years old and has Breast Cancer.  She has a large gaping wound in her breast that is draining. She has six children, including a 10 year old daughter, Manuela, who is blind and has hydrocephalus.  They are poor but do have more luxury than the majority of the most poor in the mountainous village,  about three miles from the Clinic. Maria is an only child and lives in a home provided by her parents. Her father owns coffee land. They have a small storefront in their home where Maria's husband, Manuel, sells pop, sugar, tortrix, and a few other items of interest to the local population. I am sure the daily profit is little over ten dollars a day. They do have television and a refrigerator and furniture in their home. Their children attend the local schools and are members of the small Catholic parish church.  Manuela, their blind daughter, does not attend school; despite her birth defect she is attentive and very devoted to her mom.  Their kitchen would have the typical dirt floor and wood fire on a raised stone stove. The family would gather about the fire many times in the day as part of their culture.

Yesterday Maria returned from her second treatment of Chemotherapy. She goes in on the bus and we retrieve her the next morning from the Cancer Institute.  Her treatment of chemotherapy costs about $500. each and she will have six followed by a mastectomy. I was surprised that the treatment is basically the chemotherapy and a few medicines prior in preparation. The family goes to the pharmacy with the list of medications, pays for them and transport the medication to the nurse in the chemotherapy unit. She was advised by the discharge nurse that, if she has fever, to buy tylenol. Her breast was not examined or treated. She was not advised of the probable side effects of nausea, vomiting, low blood counts, and infection and what to do if this should occur.

She returned to the clinic from the treatment and we washed her wound, provided her some pain medications and checked her blood counts and brought her home. We will now watch her closely for the side effects, as her white count will fall as they did after first chemotherapy, and she did have fever, chills and infection and receive antibiotics and vitamins and protein supplement from the Clinica Maxeña.

The clinic is diagnosing more CANCER now;  according to the paper today, cervical cancer is the most prevalent among women with this diagnosis.  Papanicolau exam is scheduled monthly and the cost is seven dollars in the Clinica Maxeña.  You can be part of the solution for making Cancer diagnosis and treatment more available for the poor by donating on line for Clinica Maxeña at:


Photos of Maria and Manuel and three of their children, in front of their home. Manuela stands alone below; we hope to follow up on her Hydrocephalus and resulting blindness after her moms recovery.