The full-bodied voice of Cândido Jorge Torres, 69, who was already very successful when he presented radio programs, breaks the silence of the hospital room. It’s lower and dragged than before, a consequence of the tumor discovered five and a half years ago. The bad news came when he participated in a cancer research protocol at Hospital São Camilo (SP), by SUS: the mole on the right side of his face was a melanoma.
The announcer didn’t soften reality. “It’s the beginning of a new life. And this new life is going to bring me some difficulties,” he thought. Nor did he lose the ground. “In the past, the diagnosis of cancer was a semi-death, because there weren’t so many treatments. Now it’s a different life. But it’s still life.” He was just sad to be away from work. The cancer in the parotid region was not long in being removed. After three months of recovery, he returned to his routine.
After a year, however, the melanoma reappeared in the foot of the ear. Cândido was operated on again and was soaked for a few more months. As the disease had no cure, he continued to be monitored by the palliative care team at the same hospital and forged ahead. When the pandemic came, he was on the radio Multi FM, in Guarulhos, where he presented the program “Só Remembrances” on Saturday afternoons.
He felt fulfilled taking calls from listeners who asked for old songs. The financial side also counted, as he is not retired. But, as part of the risk group, he was instructed to stay at home.
Cândido’s passion for radio goes back a long way, but he never imagined he would be in one. He was a house painter until the day he called a program. “I don’t know what I’m doing here because you have a good voice over there,” said the broadcaster.
Then, he received his first invitation to be an announcer. Refused. He only accepted the third, made directly by the owners of the station. And there go 17 years. Lying in the hospital bed, Cândido gets excited when he tells these stories. In June of that year, he discovered that he had metastasized in his liver. And the week before, he was hospitalized with jaundice, the first hospitalization after two surgeries and many chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions.
Before being admitted to the hospital, Cândido stayed at home in Vila Matilde, spending most of his time at rest and being taken care of by his wife and daughter, since his son lives at another address. He had a pretty normal life, as he defines it, despite the weakness in his legs and the pain in his abdomen. He had also had an ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography) that placed a stent to dilate the bile ducts and eliminate jaundice. The idea was to get stronger to start immunotherapy, which could stop or shrink the tumor.
That’s not what happened. “We talked yesterday that even if the cancer has spread, it doesn’t mean the end. Regardless of when it’s there, we’re with it as long as God wants it, not knowing when it’s going to be, isn’t it, you Candido?” says Carolina Hipólito, a palliative care nurse who is in the room. In addition to the yellowish skin, the speaker breathes slowly because of fatigue. Earlier, he felt a “new pain” and feared that he would not be able to talk to the reporter from TAB. To support this pain, he is taking a serum with painkillers.
During the interview, he picks up his cell phone from his bed and shows the audio of the poem “A flor do passion fruit”, by poet Catulo da Paixão Cearense, which he declaimed on the radio. While Cândido’s voice fills the room with text that seems to be a prayer to nature, he keeps his gaze distant, as if he could cross the bedroom wall. As soon as the recording ends, he confesses his desire to return to the studios. “My place is waiting for me.”
For that, it clings to faith. “Faith is nothing more than a plant that we have to water every day. Otherwise, it withers and ends up dying. I ask God to, if he doesn’t cure me, at least keep me alive”. He imagines himself enjoying life on the farm his daughter bought, in Salto do Pirapora. “My dream is small. While I’m in the new house on the weekends, I’ll be able to do a program on Transversal FM radio.” Cândido died the following day.
Living one day at a time
Suddenly, Joyce Thais de Figueiredo Souza, 36, felt a severe pain in her right breast. It was August 2016. He noticed the red breast, with an orange peel aspect, the nipple inward and a brown liquid coming out of it. Even though the mammogram and biopsy revealed the cancer at an advanced stage, she only realized how serious it was two days later, during a conversation with the head of the ICU at the hospital where she worked as a pharmacy technician. When the penny dropped, he had an anxiety attack and passed out.
Joyce had switched sides. Instead of giving medication to cancer patients, he started receiving them. The worst was seeing the family’s despair. He tried to show that he was fine. I needed to be strong for the couple of young children, because I wanted to see them grow up. Two years after the mastectomy and chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions, the cancer moved to the left breast. This time, the doctors just chose to continue with the medication.
Still digesting the news, he learned that he had metastasized in his lungs and needed to remove a part of his right lung. That wasn’t all. The following year, he began to feel a lot of headaches. The diagnosis? Five malignant nodules. Joyce remained calm. “I dealt better with the disease coming one metastasis after another because I managed to treat them all at once”, he says. The head tumor was treated with radiosurgery and radiotherapy.
Since then, Joyce has been under palliative care at Hospital São Camilo de Santana, treatment covered by the health plan. He currently undergoes chemotherapy once a week, takes medication and undergoes physical therapy to fight lymphedema in his right hand. He couldn’t work anymore. Tried to sell custom products, but it didn’t work. She is provisionally retired due to disability.
Although tumors in the head and lungs increased, headaches and tiredness decreased. Joyce is no longer so exhausted when talking or climbing the two flights of stairs outside her house, in São Bernardo do Campo, in Greater São Paulo. He also doesn’t mind the looks he gets when he loses his hair. A man once insinuated that she was imitating an American singer. “Sir, I’m bald from cancer treatment and I’m not ashamed of it.” He was silent.
Joyce sees cancer naturally. She started to behave with more patience and positivity, as her husband observes. “She didn’t give up. She’s always steady. There are the ups and downs of life that even us, who don’t have any disease, have. But thank God, these relapses are few. They don’t take a long time out of her life,” says Anderson de Souza. She spends her time with her family or promoting the book “Contains hope: stories about living and living with a serious illness”, where she published an emotional letter that she wrote to her children.
Or dreaming of taking them to Disney. Or planning to buy a house. There’s just no room for fear in your thoughts. “I’m going to die like everyone else. It can be from cancer or not. May I have a normal life while I can and have the professionals, medications and resources that exist today. I have the disease, but I don’t see it as a sentence of death,” he concludes.
According to the WHO, palliative care is a set of care provided for the person who suffers from a serious or incurable disease that threatens life – and also for their family, in order to alleviate suffering, improving well-being and the quality of life of those involved.
In the explanation of the palliative nurse at the Hospital São Camilo, everything that has a medical indication and can be good for the patient, is done. “But there are moments of the disease when we know that, unfortunately, we will not be able to revert or treat the main cause. Palliative care takes care of all this moment. From the moment of diagnosis of the incurable disease until the end.”