For four years, doctors told Laura Landry-Rudolph the growing and painful rash on her inner thigh was “chafing” or perhaps “eczema.”
And for four years, Landry-Rudolph persisted something much more serious was going on.
In an emotional Facebook live video last month, the 32-year-old from Antigonish, N.S., shared what a dermatologist’s biopsy had finally revealed: cancer.
“The health-care system is f—ed,” she said through tears. “Why did it take my doctors four years, four years?! Thinking it was f—ing chafing in my inner thigh? And now it’s spread, and now I have to find out if it’s in my blood.”
Speaking to Global News, Landry-Rudolph said she wanted to share her story so that others know to speak out if they notice something wrong with their bodies.
“You know your body, you trust your gut. And my message, simply, is you have to advocate for yourself and be persistent in getting the answers that you deserve,” she said.
Her official diagnosis is cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, which is an uncommon type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.
Landry-Rudolph’s symptoms began after she became pregnant with her first son. She said she noticed a reddish-purple rash and visited her family doctor, who prescribed her some creams.
About a year and a half later, she noticed it had grown in size, had become painful and was leaking fluid,
“I was fearful that I had an infection. So I would visit (the ER), then again I was given antibiotics and no answers,” she recalled.
By the time she was pregnant with her second child, she noticed the rash had started to show up on the opposite side of her body on the left hip.
“Then I knew in my gut that something is not right,” she said.
Even then, she said she was seen by “multiple” physicians and told it was chafing or eczema. She was on a wait-list for a dermatology specialist for over a year, and when she asked the family doctor about the wait, she was advised to call and check on the wait-list herself.
That’s the day she calls a “miracle” because she called and they had a cancellation
“Hadn’t I made that call that day myself, I wouldn’t be in treatment right now,” she said.
“When I went up to see the specialist, he took one look at me and said, ‘This is not something we see every day.’ So in that moment, I was distraught. I had my mother with me. I was scared, I said, ‘I have babies. I’m a young mother, I’m 32 years old.”
It took three weeks for the biopsy results to come back, and in that time, a blood blister appeared on her hip. She saw a separate physician who had access to her biopsy results, and will never forget the way the news was presented to her.
“He said, ‘What you have is called cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.’ And I said, “Well, what is that?’ And the physician responded with, ‘I have no knowledge around this type of cancer, you can choose to Google it or choose not to. I’m so sorry that I had to deliver this news to you,'” she said.
“My world collapsed. I was left in the dark, I had to go pick up my kids from daycare thinking mummy might die. I don’t know what stage I’m at, I don’t know what type of cancer I have. All I know is I have a rare cancer that this physician has zero knowledge over.”
According to Landry-Rudolph, four years ago, only two per cent of her body was affected. Now, the cancer covers seven per cent of her body and requires her to travel to Halifax for treatment, which could last up to six months.
“If it wasn’t for me asking, I probably never would have gotten this diagnosis,” she said.
“My message here is not to belittle any physicians at all, whatsoever. But, if you notice something on your body, you listen to your gut and you push to get the answer.”
‘Effort to expedite people’s diagnosis’
Minister of Health Michelle Thompson told Global News the government has been working on ensuring Nova Scotians “getting better care, sooner.”
Part of that, she said, is looking at how people access primary care and looking at how to create “clearer pathways” for specialty service.
“Everything we’re doing in terms of the investments and the pilot projects that we’re trying is in an effort to expedite people’s diagnosis,” she said.
Premier Tim Houston campaigned on a platform to “fix” health care. Last month, he told attendees at the Progressive Conservative AGM he felt an urgency to get things done.
“None of this happened overnight and it will not be fixed overnight. But, I want you to mark my words. I may have inherited a broken system, but I will do everything in my power to fix it,” he said.
But critics have pointed out that the province’s system is in a crisis, highlighted by the recent emergency department deaths that have prompted investigations and a civil lawsuit against the province’s health authority.
So far this year, the province has initiated a pilot program that allows select pharmacies to provide more medical services and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia has removed the requirement for doctors trained in the United States to write a certification exam.
The provincial government also announced $59 million for a new medical school at Cape Breton University, $37 million for a rural health-care institute at St. Francis Xavier University, as well as a new health-care data analytics and management program at Saint Mary’s University.