They sold their rice field to pay for breast cancer treatment …….

by Moira Adams.

I’ve just come back from a group cycling trip in Cambodia – a wonderful experience if a tad hot! On one of our days we cycled into the countryside around the town of Battambang to see some cottage industries. We were taken to the home of a family who made rice paper for a living. Their house was very basic and five of them lived and worked in the humble shelter they called home.

They bought bags of rice, processed it all by hand and made it into rice paper to sell on to the market. This afforded them a meagre living of just 5 dollars a day, 1 dollar each to live on. Up until this year, they had owned their own rice field but their “profit margin” had recently plummeted because they were forced to sell the land on which they grew their own rice ……..

One of the adults, the sister of the man in the picture, was diagnosed with breast cancer. To receive her treatment, a 400 mile round trip to Phnom Penh was required and the family had to find the money to fund the transport and the surgery. (Fortunately, her ongoing treatment is available in Battambang although where the money comes from for the medication I will never know).

We couldn’t speak each other’s language but we compared scars and I gave her a hug. I had so many questions I wanted to ask but seven other cyclists were mounted, ready to roll and waiting for me so there was no time for interpreting. What treatment did she have? Did she have a breast cancer specialist or a general surgeon? What medication was she on? How much was her medication? How much information did she have on breast cancer? Did she have support, apart from her family? Alas, I shall never know.

So maybe our waiting times a bit too long, maybe we have to fight for the newest drugs, maybe we can’t speak with a breast care nurse 24/7, maybe we don’t always feel that we are given enough information on our treatment options, but on my way home to our beautiful country and our wonderful NHS, I am forever haunted by the family who sold their rice field to pay for breast cancer treatment.

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