Roshida (name changed)

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Disclaimer: this isn't a feel-good story.  But it's one of the hardest, most important cultural insights we have had to make.  

An 18-year-old woman with an "abscess" on her knee.  The "abscess" had been there for many months and it was growing. 

That was the story we got.  What was the background story that we weren't getting?  That her family was hoping she could marry soon and needed to finally address this lingering issue?  Or maybe now that she could barely walk, they decided that it might warrant medical care?

Whatever the case may be, one look told us it wasn't an abscess. And an x-ray confirmed: a bony cancer, probably an osteosarcoma.

Bone Cancer PatientWe told her the bad news and the good news - she has cancer, but we had hope for a cure by doing an amputation.  She was, understandably, devastated.  What 18-year-old girl wouldn't be at such news? Then, we did the culturally appropriate next step and invited her father in to explain the situation.  The father promptly did what to me was the unthinkable, but was later explained to me to be the cultural norm:

he escorted his daughter out of the hospital, refusing all care, likely never to be seen again.

I pause as I write this to reflect, and I recommend you pause, also. Imagine yourself as a parent, and try to understand that situation and that decision. 

I don't understand. I try to, but I just don't.  I try to rationalize:

  • as an amputee she would never marry
  • as an amputee, she would never work
  • she would be a financial drain on her family her whole life
  • in the short term, her medical bills would decimate the savings of her immediate family and likely all of her extended family, as well

Similar arguments have been made in the past to justify not treating breast cancer in women. But I'm not convinced. God created men AND women in His image. Male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27).  I just don't understand why females can be treated more like things than people.  If you do understand, please help me. If you don't, please pray for Roshida and for girls and women like her.

- Submitted by Drs. Jonathan and Libby Egle

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