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Haunted by cancer after Cuba’s Black Spring

Haunted by cancer after Cuba's Black Spring

By Alfredo Felipe Fuentes/ CPJ Guest

As the world welcomes celebrated Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez on her

first international tour in a decade, we must also remember

Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, who continues to be confined not only to

the island nation, but to a cell in Havana Province.

Martínez, a reporter for the independent news agency Centro de

Información Hablemos Press, was imprisoned in September after he started

looking into why an international shipment of medicine was allowed to go

bad, according to news reports. The journalist, who has been on

intermittent hunger strikes over the course of the past few months,

described in a telephone conversation with Hablemos Press last year the

inhumane conditions he faces in prison. Cases like that of Calixto are

a troubling counterbalance to reforms the authorities have announced in

recent years, and recall the Black Spring, one of the darkest episodes

in recent Cuban history, and my own experience as a of conscience.

Six months before the Castro government freed me from prison and

me to in October, 2010, I found a cyst on my neck. I

turned to the prison authorities and the jail doctor, who, after

examining the small lump, told me it was probably an inflamed or

necrotic ganglion, but nothing to worry about. This was without even

ordering an ultrasound to look for elements that might have contradicted

his rushed diagnosis.

Months later, while still in prison, I managed to have a specialist

examine me, but he only reproduced the same irresponsible conclusion and

attitude of the previous doctor.

For my part, as a believer in science and the Hippocratic Oath, I

dismissed my concern and confidently continued my life as a prisoner of

conscience.

But in February 2012, after having lived some time in Spain, I arrived

in the United States, where I began to worry again about the cyst due to

its insistent presence. Moreover, it had started to increase in size. I

went to a doctor who ordered various imaging exams with the latest

technology.

As a result of those exams, the specialist ordered immediate surgery in

order to remove the cyst.

A week after the surgery, I went for a follow-up visit with the

specialist, who informed me that the tissue removed from my neck had

been sent to pathology and that the tests indicated, without a doubt,

malignancy.

I had to face then, all of a sudden, that most dreaded word: Cancer.

After undergoing surgery, I am now going through radiation and

chemotherapy, which though the most effective treatment for cancer, also

implies a serious decrease in quality of life.

It is in this situation that I find myself today, with severe

limitations for my work; except for writing in days of grace.

I thank my doctors in the United States, my relatives and brothers in

exile for their constant concern and support. I especially thank my wife

Loyda Valdés, who as in her magnificent time with the Ladies in White in

Cuba, has not left me for a second and toils, with love, so that my

treatment and recovery are strictly implemented.

My case, in the sense that it was not acted upon in time, constitutes

another example of the mediocrity of the Cuban "medical power." But

without forgetting the already mentioned negligence and laziness of the

doctors who examined me in prison, what I truly attribute my cancer and

its consequences to are my seven years of unjust incarceration and its

sustained stress. I attribute it to the Cuban Black Spring.

Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, an economist by training, began working for the

Cuban independent press in 1991. He was given 26 years in prison in 2003

for violating Article 91 of the Cuban penal code and acting against "the

independence or the territorial integrity of the state."

http://www.cpj.org/blog/2013/04/haunted-by-cancer-after-cubas-black-spring.php

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