This blog post is part of a series of patient stories taken from interviews conducted with volunteers who had responded to the All.Can patient survey. Some information has been changed to protect anonymity.

Iwan* (Poland)

I noticed a bulge on the side of my neck. It turned out to be a tumour on my neck, but it wasn’t painful. I opted for surgery to remove it. Histopathological samples were taken during surgery, and it was only afterwards it was found out that it was cancer. Seven years later, I noticed the tumour growing again. After the first operation, the tumour was thought to be benign. The original tumour was quite small on the outside, and it was much larger on the inside.

At the time of my diagnosis, there were three doctors present and I was alone. The doctor simply said it was a malignant tumour with relapses and infiltrations. A colleague of mine who is the head of the hospital, operated on me.

‘I haven’t felt any discomfort so far’

Regarding my involvement in deciding my treatment plan, it depended on what procedure it was. I never demanded any detailed explanations or many conversations. I took part in congresses, symposia, lectures and I had some prior knowledge on the subject. I also spoke with others, preparing myself.    

I rarely get sick. I don’t smoke and live a healthy lifestyle. I think that the sum of these circumstances helped me endure treatment and surgery – I have not had post-operative complications. I had one surgery and four re-operations. I have not felt any side effects to this day. The disease does not affect my professional life. After surgery, I returned home after 1 or 2 days with my neck bandaged and went to work. My scars are minimal, and I feel great. Thanks to these circumstances, I am actively working in my profession. I haven’t felt any discomfort so far.

Regarding the treatment I received, I believe I received the best treatment possible. Modern resonance, tomography, scintigraphy, ultrasound, experienced diagnostics are the best that are available currently. Treatment procedures were adopted to my needs.

I have not used, and I have not needed to use the services of a psychologist. As for my family and friends, I have always been open about my experience. I assume that if I do not help myself, they will not help either. I did not require much emotional support. I am realistic.

I eat what I need and what I deem I need. I believe that each of us can listen to our bodies and determine what we need. If I know that something is good, I use it but with the knowledge and approval of the physician in charge.

‘There is a good flow of conversation’

My cancer treatment procedures are currently reimbursed. The National Oncology Network has been established to help oncology patients. I use what is available and refunded. I go to a reputable centre that has good staff and equipment. As far as information on financial assistance to patients is concerned, it did not relate to me. But I know the cases where medicinal marijuana was needed. We have a law, but it still is not properly implemented today.

In Poland, the National Health Fund pays for all our treatments. The NFZ headquarters budget is over PLN 80 billion. The quality of treatment is still varied between different hospitals. The Polish health service is the most underfunded in Europe. However, treatment has improved today than how it was 15 years ago.

When it comes to communication and the transmission of information about my treatment, there is a good flow of conversation I talk with an anaesthetist, doctor, diagnostician and nurse. We have a normal dialogue – we are talking, designing and constructing a procedure. I say what’s wrong with me and what my expectations are, and they respond.

‘We care more about our car than our  health’

I participate actively with patient groups, attending various conferences, symposia, and meetings. It is hard not to know about it. I am familiar with health topics. Maybe I am atypical, but I think that one should be well-versed with health topics that affect them.  

If I ever met a person with health problems, I would advise them to get the necessary tests as soon as possible. This is to ensure a timely diagnosis, and to fully utilise the resources available, in order to take care of one’s self. Unfortunately, we care more about the family car than about our own health. We rely on the healthcare system to take care of our disease, but we should also play an active role in taking charge of our health.

* Names and some other identifying elements have been changed to protect patients’ anonymity.