Canadian woman slams healthcare system after fighting four years for cancer diagnosis

A Canadian woman spent four years fighting to get the right healthcare and finally received a cancer diagnosis. She’s now telling others to be “persistent”.

Laura Landry-Rudolph, 32, from Antigonish, Nova Scotia in eastern Canada, had doctors tell her for nearly a half-decade that the painful and expanding rash on her inner thigh was chafing or eczema.

She posted an emotional video on Facebook in February, saying that it was in fact cancer, which was revealed after a dermatologist’s biopsy.

“The healthcare system is f***ed,” she said at the time. “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.”

Ms Landry-Rudolph told Global News that she spoke out to urge others to be tenacious if they feel that something is wrong.

“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 told the outlet.

She has cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. The Canadian Cancer Society’s website states that it’s a rare kind of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The 32-year-old started having symptoms during her pregnancy with her first son. She visited the doctor and was prescribed creams. About 18 months later, the rash had grown, it was now painful, and it had begun leaking fluid.

Laura Landry-Rudolph got a cancer diagnoses after four years (Screenshot / Global News)
Laura Landry-Rudolph got a cancer diagnoses after four years (Screenshot / Global News)

“I was fearful that I had an infection. So I would visit [the ER], then again I was given antibiotics and no answers,” she said.

During her second pregnancy, the rash had appeared on the other side of her body, on her left hip.

“Then I knew in my gut that something is not right,” she told Global News.

She was told by several doctors that it was chafing or eczema. She spent more than a year on a dermatology specialist waitlist. She called her family doctor about the wait, at which point she was told to call and ask herself, leading to her being booked in following a cancellation by another patient.

“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’.”

Weeks later, she saw another doctor who gave her the news.

“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.”

She said four years ago, two per cent of her body was affected – today that number is seven per cent.

“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.”

Nova Scotia Minister of Health Michelle Thompson, a registered nurse, told Global News that work is being done to create “clearer pathways” to get speciality care.

“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 added.

The Premier of Nova Scotia, Tim Houston, who took office in August 2021, said at the Progressive Conservative annual general meeting last month that “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”.