'Preparing for disfigurement': Wait for B.C. cancer surgery leaves time for nurse's tumour to grow

WATCH: A cancer patient who Global News first spoke with in October says her situation is worsening. Fayra Krueger's stage 3 neck cancer has grown considerably. As Christa Dao reports, the White Rock woman says extensive delays in the healthcare system will leave her disfigured.

A B.C. woman who has been waiting months for a cancer treatment plan finally has a surgery date on Dec. 1.

However, due to the delay in getting that date and a treatment plan in place, Fayra Krueger now faces the loss of her right ear and permanent disfigurement.

A registered nurse, Krueger had a tumour about the size of a grape removed from her ear in June.

“I was told we had clear margins so then about five weeks after that… I noticed my lymph nodes on the same side were quite swollen so I went to my family doctor,” she told Global News. “That was the first week of August and began the process of what had become metastasized skin cancer.”

Her surgery date is still a week and a half away.

“From the time I was diagnosed with the metastatic stage 3 cancer to the time I’m actually getting surgery is four months,” Krueger said.

“The cancer has grown and advanced so much during those four months that what I was initially told would be an overnight stay in hospital and a fairly straightforward surgery has now turned into a three-to-five-day stay,” she added. ”

“I have the likelihood of losing my entire ear, maybe part of my jawbone. Ten days ago I had four of my teeth extracted because of the radiation. I may also lose function in my facial nerves so that would be my smell, sense of taste and movement. I may lose my smile, my ability to smile.

“And the pain is quite significant now, it’s ongoing pain.”

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Krueger said she is still trying to come to terms with what might happen

“Especially because it could have been prevented,” she said. “That’s the key and that’s the message I want people to hear, it wasn’t necessary, you know. Had I been offered the treatment in a reasonable timeframe.”

Krueger said in her understanding, referrals to BC Cancer usually take about two weeks and she waited a few months.

“I work in the system so I know there’s significant systemic delays across the board in health care right now,” she said. “But to be honest with you, stage 3 cancer, I thought I would be a higher priority.

“I thought even with the lack of resources, I would still receive some sort of fast-track because now I’m going to be facing significant disfigurement, not to mention the complications of having such extensive surgery.”

In a statement to Global News Monday, Dr. Kim Nguyen Chi, chief medical officer for BC Cancer said he cannot discuss the specific details of any case due to patient privacy.

“Regional health authorities perform the majority of cancer-related surgeries with the exception of BC Cancer – Vancouver, which performs a limited number of surgeries for breast cancer, minor surgical oncology and gynecology surgeries,” he said in a statement. “The surgical suite also performs brachytherapy, and endoscopies and bronchoscopies.

“Patients referred to BC Cancer for PET/CT are triaged based on a number of factors. These factors can include: type of cancer, location of disease, clinical stage, impact on clinical management.”

He said waits for PET/CT scan results can vary but the majority of people wait 28 days or less, with urgent cases waiting less than 14 days on average.

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Health Minister Adrian Dix said Monday the way to address the delay in cancer surgeries will be by hiring more oncologists, adding more surgeries and more team-based staff.

“So in the last two budgets there’s been significant new investments in cancer, which we’re going to build upon with a 10-year cancer plan,” he said.

Dix said there have also been more staff hired.

“In addition. on the issue of scans, we’ve added new PET/CT scanning capacity, which was really only in Metro Vancouver before, in Kamloops and Victoria,” he said.

But for Krueger, she now has to wrap her head around what’s going to happen on Dec. 1.

“We’re failing. We’re failing the public,” she said.

“It’s hard, I have a daughter who is fairly young so I’m trying to prepare her.

“I’m just preparing myself for that disfigurement and hoping when I come out that I can literally still be smiling.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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