Message From Barbara

A patient’s last call …

Laying on bed, I opened my eyes to the voice of the TV broadcaster saying that today is World Cancer Day.

Each time I hear someone talking about this issue, I feel that I am about to cry, and my mouth becomes drier than usual. Why? It is not that I am angry because I am sick, as I overcame this feeling long ago. I have even been a role model for many women who got sick after me, and helped them to overcome this phase and be strong.

I feel that I am about to cry because I remember how I felt when I was left alone along with my family fighting this vicious disease without any other source of support. I wanted to share the story of cancer patients in Lebanon, and explain the obstacles that each one of them faces. I also wrote in spoken Lebanese, to be able to share my voice with a larger audience.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, the doctor told me that I am at the last phase of the disease. In other words, my confrontation with death started. God gave me strength and patience, as well as the ability to endure pain, and I shall always be grateful for that.

However, was this enough? Among the most important things that a Lebanese thinks of when he/she gets sick, is the treatment cost, and may God help them if they weren’t registered at the NSSF before being sick, as no insurance company would accept to cover them.

When a lady is diagnosed with breast cancer, she goes through three main stages: First of all, she has to undertake chemotherapy that spreads poison across her body, she loses her hair and stays in an unpleasant condition for quite some time. Then, she has to go through the mastectomy surgery, which makes her feel as if she lost her femininity, regardless of how strong she was. Let any man imagine that he lost his sexual organ, that organ that is the essence of his manhood, and let him share with us his feelings.

Third, she has to take the radiotherapy treatment, which is not painful, but requires daily hospital visits for a whole month.

At this phase, the patient and her family don’t ask much about the cost because they only focus on getting through this phase.

If the patient is registered at the NSSF, she has to pay the difference in cost that the NSSF doesn’t cover, which is around $200 per session. Knowing that she has to take around two sessions per month, noting that the insurance companies, in case the patient is insured, don't cover these sessions and give plenty of excuses to justify this. They pretend that the fees set by the hospital are higher than those set by the NSSF or that they don’t cover chemotherapy medications, etc.

When it comes to the mastectomy, that is usually accompanied by an artificial implant, the surgeons usually request an additional amount of money to be settled prior to the surgery because the amount set by the NSSF is not enough for them. For example, in our case, the surgeon requested an additional $400 settled at the clinic without any receipt. As for the plastic surgeon that should be present along with the surgeon during surgery, he charges $2000 to cover his expenses and the cost of the implant and the surgery. At that stage, a person feels that he is having plastic surgery to recover her beauty, in a process that none of the insuring authorities accept to cover.

As for the radiotherapy, it costs around $3000 and the patient has to pay the whole amount, then submit invoices to the NSSF with the hope of being able to retrieve them ages later.

This is all feasible, because as I previously said, God helped us and we passed through this phase without giving much attention to the cost. However, now, the situation is totally different… If the disease spreads in the body, the sufferings become much greater… I am hospitalized for around 20 days each month, each time for a different reason. When the body becomes weak, the immunity decreases, the infections increase, and so do the treatments and medications that compile.

Today, if we ask the hospital why we are paying around $1000 more than the amount set by the NSSF, the answer we get is “You can go to another hospital”, and as we heard, all hospitals are alike.

Trust me, I don’t know what my husband is doing to provide me with medications for $800 per month. Each time I dare to ask him, he says “God shall find a way”. However, I am afraid to reach that phase, where I would have to use the medication that a friend of mine, who was also sick, had to take, and which costs $5000 a month. The poor lady left this world before she even completed it.  What I also know is that my doctor is helping us a little bit with the medications, even though my friend told me that her doctor used to charge the cost of the phone call he received from her on his mobile, each time she called him, telling him about her pain. He had coordinated this along with the phone company!!!

In my name, and in the name of each cancer patient in Lebanon, each patient who is no longer a child and who has no one to look after him, I say: Isn’t it enough that my body is like a puzzle because of all the surgeries, and like a riddle because of all the needles? Isn’t it enough that each time I celebrate a holiday with my young children, I feel that this is the last holiday I spend with them? Isn’t it enough that each time I go to the hospital, I see that two or three of my sick friends are leaving this world, and I ask myself, is it my turn or not? Isn’t it enough that my husband, that I highly appreciate, has to be humiliated at the NSSF each time he needs to get me an approval to be hospitalized? Isn’t it enough that I feel that I am depriving my children from their basic needs so that my husband can provide me with 40 pills of medications each day?

We have accepted our fate, and we are bravely fighting the disease, and God will help us to overcome this situation, but there is no need for you to make things worse. I address my call to the hospitals, to the doctors, to the Ministry of Health and to the Ministry of labour, and since they won’t hear me, I reach out to the Civic Society:

We have no problem with death, we have a problem with you. I won’t live for long, but many others are suffering silently. We accepted our fate, but please allow us to live in dignity, and don’t you ever forget that you shall follow us…

Lebanese cancer patient,

Barbara Nassar

February 4, 2013


Help Cancer Patients

Donate Now