Susan O’Connor, diagnosed with stage four bone cancer, is frustrated with wait times for CT scan and appointment with oncologist. Photo submitted

Woman diagnosed with cancer frustrated with wait times

Waiting for answers

They say life is a waiting game.

Waiting for the big promotion. Waiting to lose weight. Waiting to get married. Waiting to reach the legal drinking age.

But for Susan O’Connor, diagnosed with stage four bone cancer, the waiting game has turned into more than a waiting game.

It’s turned into a nightmare that she can’t seem to wake up from.

O’Connor, a 64-year-old mother and grandmother from Sylvan Lake, was diagnosed with bone cancer on Sept. 3. For several weeks she had suffered debilitating pain that seemed to start at her shoulder and radiate throughout her body causing her to walk with a cane and spend endless sleepless nights in agony.

Finally, she asked her family doctor for a bone scan, somehow suspecting the worse case scenario. She had suffered from breast cancer 15 years ago and she feared the disease had returned with a vengeance.

It turned out her worst fears were confirmed.

On Sept. 3 she received the chilling news she had bone cancer.

“The doctor compassionately explained that I had bone cancer. The dreaded cancer that I had dealt with 15 years ago had returned (or maybe never gone away.) The doctor went on the explain that breast cancer can often metastasis into bone cancer, then lung cancer, then cancer of the brain.

“Due to my limit understanding of medical terminology my interpretation of my diagnosis might not be accurate,” she said.

“I was just an ordinary person, trying desperately to absorb the horrendous news I’d just received. I was alone. I didn’t have anyone with me to help me understand.”

True to her English upbringing of ‘keeping a stiff upper lip,’ and not sure what else to do O’Connor marched herself off to work the next day.

“I was desperate to hear some news. I had an awful cough that wracked my body with pain. I couldn’t get anything to relieve it until I knew whether it was just a cough or whether it was lung cancer. I was told to wait. So I did.”

O’Connor had a CT and brain scan scheduled for Sept. 20 and will see the oncologist on Sept. 24.

“Hopefully I will find out what the bigger picture is then.”

The last three weeks have been nothing short of hell on earth for O’Connor.

“I want the provincial and federal government to be aware of what is going on at the Red Deer Hospital through inadequate funding. This is beyond party politics. We have to do something, because staff and patients deserve better. It is not fair that three weeks of my potentially shortened life have been spent in hell,” she said.

“This is not good enough.”

O’Connor said she wants to tell her story even though she has been told it won’t make a difference.

“Just because it has been this way for years does not mean that it has to continue. I’m sure that people said similar things to Martin Luther King and William Wilberforce. It only takes one person to cast a stone in to make a ripple. Please don’t let apathy win.”

Alberta Health Services Acting Communication Director, Heather Kipling said information on wait times is available at waittimes.alberta.ca.

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