JUST more than 20 years ago, short of her 30th birthday, mother of five Jessie Tamegal experienced a medical condition she felt uncomfortable with and became worried.
So she visited a local private doctor in Lae and asked for a pep smear test – a test done to detect whether a woman has evidence of cancer in her cervix.
She was told the sample collected would have to be sent down to Australia and the result would not be known for at least two to three months.
She agreed to have it done.
Three months later, the result came back and she received a telephone call from the doctor.
The news was not good.
Mrs Tamegal sank into the chair in the doctor’s office as tears rolled uncontrollably down her cheeks when the doctor told her the result was conclusive – she does have cancer and it was at stage three level – whatever that meant.
The doctor did one thing before calling Mrs Tamegal.
He called the cancer unit at the Angau Memorial Hospital and spoke with Dr John Niblett about the result.
The doctor asked if he could refer Mrs Tamegal to Angau for a second opinion.
Dr Niblett and two other senior specialists agreed to see Mrs Tamegal the next day.
Whilst going through the report from Australia the doctors discussed whether to do another test for confirmation.
It would mean another three months of waiting time.
Dr Niblett told his two colleagues Mrs Tamegal should be operated on immediately – another test and another long wait could spell danger for her life.
The doctors asked her to return for another appointment with her husband the next day.
At that second meeting the options were laid out in front of the husband and wife.
They both agreed that surgery was the only option available to them.
A few days later Mrs Tamegal was in the operating theatre and the cancer removed.
The doctors did what they had to do to save her life.
This year she celebrated her 50th birthday and told friends about the experience and how life had become so precious for her.
She told The National some of the other mothers who also had surgery around about the same time had passed on. She was still alive.
On the 34th Independence Anniversary Day, Mrs Tamegal took part in the Lae Rotary Club Charity golf day to raise funds to purchase a new machine for the cancer unit which will enable doctors to save the lives of more women.
At the Lae Golf Club, she met Dr Niblett and immediately went to say “thank you for saving my life”.
Mrs Tamegal did not have time to thank the doctors after being discharged from the hospital then because her husband was transferred to Port Moresby and she had to leave with him so suddenly.
Twenty years later last week she found Dr Niblett and said “thank you”.