A Saskatoon man feels helpless not knowing if his wife’s cancer is spreading, literally right under her nose.
Richard said his 48-year-old wife Lesli noticed a sore on her nose about six months ago. Since then, she’s had surgery to remove a tumour and get a biopsy done.
The results came back within a reasonable time of about one week, bringing the news no one wants to hear.
“It’s cancer,” said Richard.
She was diagnosed with an aggressive form of skin cancer in her sinuses, called invasive squamous cell carcinoma.
The couple didn’t want their last name identified because they haven’t revealed everything to their friends and family but felt it was important to tell their story following the provincial auditor’s report. The report mentioned patients in Regina and Saskatoon are waiting much longer than the five days recommended for biopsy results.
It’s waiting for the results of a second biopsy that the couple said has become unbearable. On November 22, Lesli had a follow up procedure done to swath a larger area around the tumour to see if the cancer spread.
The doctor needed to shave off bone, cartilage and drill a hole in her septum to get a good extraction of tissue in the surrounding area. They were told it would take about one to two weeks for results but have been waiting for three weeks. They’ve been told it could now take up to six weeks for those results.
Richard said the longer than expected wait time has even surprised the doctor, whom he spoke very highly of. He said the doctor has been great through the whole process and they appreciate his honesty and transparency.
The couple trusts the doctor’s confidence in his ability to remove all the cancer through surgery before exploring the possibility of chemotherapy. However, they describe not knowing if the cancer has spread has had a paralyzing effect on their lives.
“Every day is a battle just waiting for this result. I have no idea why it takes so long. It’s very frustrating and I don’t want anybody to have to experience it,” said Richard.
The couple has become distracted at work, don’t feel like seeing friends and describe their life as being put on pause.
Richard said they’re trying to hope for the best but admits it’s tough not to think about the worst case scenario.
“That’s where the brain goes when you’re talking about cancer. You hear people having it and they’re gone within weeks.”
The couple said it’s not right having to spend the extra weeks with those thoughts not knowing if they need to act now. Lesli caught the cancer at an early stage and Richard believes they’re ahead of the game. But now they’re worried about falling behind, losing whatever advantage they may have as the weeks go by.
“Hopefully we don’t have to act but what if we do? Who answers for that?”
Richard and Lesli have been married for 25 years but have been together for 30, since high school. Richard described his wife as loyal, empathetic, and his biggest fan.
“There isn’t a person that I’ve ever met that doesn’t love my wife,” he said.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority issued a statement in response to the couple’s situation. It said it cannot speak to the individual case but “the SHA has taken significant steps to improve its laboratory processes to both work through a backlog of cases that had developed earlier this year, and implement processes that will help us prevent these delays from occurring again.”
“There are currently no Regina or provincial SHA biopsy delays that would result in a six-week wait to obtain results, but some specific biopsy processes do require a longer period of time in order to be completed appropriately.”