The Canadian healthcare system is often a subject of dissatisfaction among Toronto residents. On the Internet, you can find numerous jokes and memes related to the slowness and clumsiness of the medical system.
However, what Canadians sometimes forget is that access to free and effective medical practices is a luxury for many residents of other countries. Canada truly saves lives for many immigrants. Tetyana from Ukraine is no exception, forced to flee her city of Melitopol, which was occupied by Russian soldiers, on the very first day of the war, holding her four-year-old daughter in her arms.
The year 2022 became a truly challenging period in Tetyana’s life. It started when she felt a small lump in her left breast. She immediately consulted a doctor and managed to undergo some tests, but couldn’t make it to the appointment to get the results. The next day after she visited the doctor, Tetyana woke up to the deafening sounds of explosions early in the morning. The bloodiest war in Europe in the last 70 years began. At 5 a.m., Tetyana hastily packed her belongings, placed her daughter Yarynka in the car, and at her own risk, embarked on a multi-day journey through Ukraine in an attempt to find a safe place. Tetyana miraculously managed to bypass the bridge over the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station (the one that would be blown up a year later). It was the only accessible path to the other side of the Dnieper River dividing Ukraine in two. In just an hour, the bridge was captured by the Russians, and the exit for civilians was blocked.
Tetyana and her daughter spent a month with her husband’s parents in a small village in the Kherson region. But when armed soldiers came to their yard, she decided to take the risk of trying to escape to the Czech Republic, where her husband Yura was working at the time. They attached a sign saying “CHILDREN” to the car’s windshield and tied white handkerchiefs, hoping that their car would not be shot at. Fortunately, they managed to reach safety and reunite with her husband.
But the happy ending did not happen. Only from the Czech Republic, Tetyana was able to contact her doctor in Melitopol. He said that her tests were normal, and she had nothing to worry about. Tetyana tried not to pay attention to the increasing pain in her chest, attributing it all to stress. The pain of losing their home, and the fear that the war would catch up with them even in Europe, did not allow her to think clearly.
Only in the summer of 2022 did Tetyana finally see a Canadian doctor (already with serious symptoms). Exactly on her birthday, she heard a frightening diagnosis – cancer.
If Tetyana had stayed in Ukraine in the occupied territory, it would most likely have been a death sentence for her, as there is no normal medical care in the soldier-surrounded zone. Obtaining even the most basic medications is a problem, and chemotherapy is simply impossible. Moreover, there are almost no professional doctors left.
Thanks to having an OHIP card in Canada, Tetyana did not have to desperately think about where to get a huge amount of money for treatment. The money her family simply did not have. She could focus on her health. At the moment, she has undergone 8 chemotherapies. A year ago, in December 2022, she had surgery, followed by 15 sessions of radiation therapy. The fight against cancer continues. Ahead is a long hormonal treatment, numerous examinations, and plastic surgery. But the most important thing has already been done – doctors reassured Tetyana and assured her that she has entered a state of remission!
Tetyana’s life is gradually getting back on track. She works as a pharmacist, her husband Yura found a job in construction, and their daughter Yarynka started first grade in St. Demetrius Ukrainian Catholic school, where she actively studies English but does not forget her roots.
Tetyana is incredibly grateful to everyone who helped her, was there for her, and supported her. She has met a tremendous number of kind and responsive people in Canada, and most importantly, she has received a second chance for a happy life!
by Iryna Paltseva, a freelance writer, journalist, web-developer. You can contact her at email@example.com