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For breast cancer patients in Venezuela, lack of medicine is 'death sentence'

Healthcare system collapse in oil-rich country hurts cancer patients

CARACAS – Carmen Garcia lives in fear. She recently underwent a lumpectomy, a surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from her right breast. She is tired, but she said coffee helps to keep her going, so she is back at work making plastic bags.  

In any other country with access to healthcare, Garcia would still be undergoing treatment. If her doctors could treat her, she said, they would be supervising her chemotherapy and radiation therapies, but they can't. She lives in Venezuela.  

The therapies are meant to kill the remaining breast cancer cells that could be spreading to other organs. Garcia said she couldn't continue treatment, because the radiation therapy machines in Caracas aren't working and the chemo drugs aren't available. 

"I don't wish this on anyone ... Now I feel like I just have to wait to die," Garcia said in tears. 

Feliz Ceballos, a pharmaceutical union leader in Caracas, said Garcia is one of many cancer patients around the country who are suffering. The shelves of Ceballos' phamacy were mostly empty. According to Ceballos some 80 to 85 percent of medicines are unavailable in Venezuela. 

"A cancer patient here has to leave the country to survive," Ceballos said. 

Garcia, whose husband is working as a handyman, said she can't afford to leave Caracas. The couple sent their daughter to Colombia in search of help. She was among the many Venezuelans who were at a Catholic soup kitchen in the border city of Cucuta pleading for help in tears.

For more information about how to help Garcia, contact Local 10 News' Venezuela Correspondent Cody Weddle on Twitter

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