The first week of the school holidays have seems to have passed in a blink of an eye. Even though the kids were at camp all week I found that inconsequential interruptions needed my attention resulting in having very little time to actually do anything constructive! In the midst of it all I still managed to meet a friend from work for a cuppa, she very happily retired, me reluctantly retired! We were catching up on all our colleagues and what was happening with our old workplace which was close by. As we continued reminiscing we decided on an impromptu visit to our old workplace, see some of our old colleagues and check out all the new developments we had been hearing about. As we made all the right noises at all the wonderful developments and changes that had taken place, I felt a slight pang again of “what if” but quickly quelled the sensation, there is no point is there? In the car on the way home all that came to mind was the quote from Mary Engelbreit:
” Don’t look back, you’re not going that way”
Who knows what will happen in the future and that is the beauty and tragedy of life.
On a wider scale more change was announced with the publication of the latest National Cancer Strategy 2017-2026 in Ireland. When I was first diagnosed with cancer in 1999, Ireland’s cancer services were very different to where they are today. The system that was in place could only offer a fragmented cancer service for the patient, which had the potential for errors to occur and unfortunately did occur for some people.
Life moved on following my treatment, and fast forward to 2013 when I was diagnosed with a recurrence. Since my first diagnosis A Strategy for Cancer Control in Ireland was launched in 2006. Arising from this strategy and subsequent recommendations from a report from the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA), I was referred to a Triple Assessment Clinic. I had a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy on the same day and results within a few days. Following a multidisciplinary meeting by all healthcare personnel caring for cancer patients my treatment plan was discussed, agreed on and arranged. Surgery and chemotherapy followed which were performed in the same hospital.
Both experiences were very positive ones on a personal level and I know that in each case I received the best available treatment at the time, but my last episode felt more cohesive. With the new strategy launched, I had a peek through the document and again the bar has been set. Its vision seems to build on what they had achieved with the previous strategy with an emphasis on promoting more clinical research and encouraging more people to access clinical trials. A new development as far as I can see is that it aims to have more involvement from patients in policy and service delivery and a development of survivorship programmes for people. There is also a welcome recommendation for the appointment of a Clinical Lead in Psycho-Oncology which aim to improve psycho-social supports for people during and after treatment.
Obviously there needs to be enough political will and resources to enable the implementation of all the recommendations cited. The overall health service is literally bursting at the seams with more than 100% capacity on most days of the year with depleted staff levels. Only time will tell if this vision will be realised but it is encouraging for me as a patient to be a witness to the evolving cancer services in Ireland and with so many leaders in the field of cancer wanting to make it better and not being satisfied with the status quo. I recognise our health service is flawed but when I think of what is going on in another country in the so called developed world, I am glad to be living in Ireland.
Have a good weekend…