We’ve initiated a public-private partnership in Luiz’s care. By bringing together the private healthcare system (read: faster, more convenient, less upsetting) with the foundation-supported public resources to fight cancer (read: high end research and treatment facility where everything is free) we’re planning to reap the best of both worlds.
Luiz is now a patient at the National Cancer Institute in Rio de Janeiro (INCA). INCA is a technical branch of the federal government and administered by the Ministry of Health. It is THE place for cancer care in Brazil – and just happens to be a 40 minute drive from our apartment. According to their website “INCA’s outcomes are comparable to the best oncology centers in the world.”
We did not fire our oncologist, Dr. Roberto. He is a perfectly nice man. Super polite and engaging, enthusiastic, bilingual, and very easy on the eyes. But he is not a specialist in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. That’s the only shortcoming. No offense meant or taken, but we had to expand the team to get more expertise on the case.
We are delighted to have made this transition. Our friend Ana Cristina went with Luiz to help walk him through the enrollment process at INCA. (Her mother is a recent colon cancer survivor and was treated at this facility.) They arrived at the center at 6:30 a.m. and snaked their way through the bureaucracy, including three levels of admissions assessment and finally a medical history and physical exam by two separate oncologists, the latter of which eventually assigned Luiz to a lead doctor. They left the center at 5:00 p.m.
Luiz was given another long list of blood tests to be taken. We have some recent results, but the folks at INCA want their lab to provide results. OK by us. More info is better. Oh, and did I mention that EVERYTHING is free? Plus, Luiz qualifies for a free bus/transit pass to enable him to get to and from appointments (and anywhere else he wants to go!)
Dr. Roberto, whom we saw today, is sending Luiz out for another CT scan to get new pictures of his lymph nodes. Comparing the scan from December in San Francisco with the new scan will help gauge any growth, clues toward assessing the onset of treatment.
As is always the instruction at the end of our visit – we are to “watch and wait.” Luiz is not yet to the point where any treatment is indicated, but we can hear the clock ticking.
Do keep Luiz in your thoughts. This is not fun.