Egils Levits
Valsts prezidenta dzīvesbiedres Andras Levites uzruna pirmajā Latvijas onkoloģisko pacientu un viņu tuvinieku forumā “Pret vēzi – kopā un bez bailēm”

Dear participants,

Dear patients and their near and dear ones,

Dear colleagues,

I am deeply humbled to be here today and together with you try and find answers to questions concerning health, well-being and better quality of life. It is exciting to open the first such forum here in Latvia and see the health care professionals, patients and their relatives and policy-makers together at this event.

I have personally been faced with these questions in my professional capacity as gynaecologist. I must also admit that I have been taking care only of the half of the humanity. By profession I have had to deal with men’s issues only when they are brought to me as new-borns or more seldomly as breast cancer patients.

It is devastating to be diagnosed with cancer. Life stops. Your life is divided into ‘before’ and after’ the diagnosis. The moto of the conference is ‘Without fear’. But I know that the first emotion after being diagnosed with cancer is fear. And then all kinds of questions come up. Can I survive the cancer? What will my body look like and how will it work after the required surgery? Will it hurt? Will I be able to cope with physical and mental stresses of chemotherapy which comes nowhere near taking a headache pill?

That is what people usually ask themselves. However, since in my professional life I have mostly dealt with women, I know that women who are diagnosed with cancer have other immediate questions too. What will happen to my children? How can you explain your young children that mummy will be too tired to play? How will my partner cope with my condition? Quite often older women take care of their old-aged partners. They are often concerned about who is going to cook for their partners. Therefore, we need to have a place where to look for and get those answers. And I am really proud that we have ‘Tree of Life’ here in Latvia, an NGO that offers answers to these questions. It is important to have a place where you do not have to hide your fear, where you can cry and receive the support you need to get through another day.

Overcoming cancer is a ‘team effort’. This team is not comprised only of the patient and doctor. It is a wider support system of nurses, physiotherapists, counsellors and social workers.

Doctors have powerful instruments for curing cancer. Traditional means like scalpel, more modern means of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, antihormone therapy and immunotherapy. Unfortunately, these modern means cost a lot and are expensive everywhere in the world. Modern medicine is more and more about money. We see that happening around the world. But patients, too, have a way to fight cancer. They can try to lead a healthy life. I said ’try’ on purpose because I know how hard it is. It takes positive thinking, strength to endure therapy, to follow doctor’s instructions and faith.

But the biggest effort should be made in avoiding cancer in the first place. We all have the duty to take care of our own and our relatives’ health. Regular check-ups, healthy lifestyle, no unhealthy habits, being careful and monitoring your own health is what is necessary. Cough that does not go away, an itchy mole, sudden bleeding are all signs of concern.

Valsts prezidenta dzīvesbiedres Andras Levites dalība pirmajā Latvijas onkoloģisko pacientu un viņu tuvinieku forumā “Pret vēzi – kopā un bez bailēm”