Before her chemotherapy session, Clara waits in line at the chicken for a "pair of thighs"

Before her chemotherapy session, Clara waits in line at the chicken for a "pair of thighs"

Clara, 79, has a difficult day ahead of her. Immersed in chemotherapy treatment due to breast cancer, this retired accountant will have one of those hospital sessions this Monday afternoon that leaves her exhausted and very weak. In the morning, instead of resting and preparing for the exhausting process, she has had to queue very early to buy the rationed chicken from the market. “I live alone and I can’t afford to come home after chemo and not have anything to eat,” she tells 14ymedio.

The long line reaches more than a block from San Lázaro avenue, near Infanta street, in Centro Habana. “They told me that the chicken for the elderly and children had arrived,” explains the woman. “I can’t afford to lose him, so I came as soon as I found out.” When she finally manages to buy “the pair of thighs” that she is entitled to due to the quota, then she will go to her home: “I will prepare everything I need to go to the oncologist.” After the treatment she will have to “return on foot because cars are very expensive.”

The line “looks like a hospital, here the one who doesn’t have rheumatism has gastritis”, Clara ironically. “If I don’t buy the chicken before noon I’m going to have to go to the hospital and see if I can catch it tomorrow”

The situation of cancer patients is one of the most aggravated in Cuba in recent years. To the instability in drugs, we must add that many of these patients must continue to deal with the daily problems of shortages, the collapse of transportation, and the lack of basic supplies. Those who have family abroad are able to overcome these obstacles with greater possibilities, but a large part of these people face a disease alone and with very few resources that, by itself, is already an immense challenge.

Clara was not the only patient waiting in line this Monday morning. Sitting in a pot, with a solitary tree, the only one for many meters, Pascual, 81, has come directly from the polyclinic where he had to go to inject himself with a medication to “lower blood pressure” that had it “through the roof “. Now, he mentally counts all the people in front of him. “I figure I do number 50 or 55,” he says ruefully. “But I can’t fight, because my blood pressure rises again,” he warns. Nearby, a woman on crutches leans against a wall and an old man takes small steps so his legs don’t go numb.

The line “looks like a hospital, here the one who doesn’t have rheumatism has gastritis”, Clara ironically. “If I don’t buy the chicken before noon I’m going to have to go to the hospital and see if I can catch it tomorrow.” In a few hours, the serums that could save his life will enter his bloodstream, but if he does not manage to reach the precious chicken quota, his mind will be elsewhere, calculating if this Tuesday will give him time to go to the butcher shop and if his body will reply to start the new queue.

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