There is one place on the island where the Cyprus problem is already solved to all intents and purposes. Where citizens are treated equally. Where nobody cares about your ethnic origins. Where the only thing that matters is quality of life.
The government-owned Bank of Cyprus Oncology Centre in Nicosia treats Greek-and-Turkish Cypriot cancer patients alike. Here they visit their doctors, get treatments and hope for better health. Because when everything else is stripped away, money, position, pride, power, ethnicity, even the ability to work – and you face a future with cancer – only one thing matters: health and the battle to get better.
It’s to the Bank of Cyprus and the government’s greatest credit that our citizens can be treated and be given a chance at a better quality of life. Cancer doesn’t care where you come from, how much money you have, or how important you are. It can ravage anyone’s body and psychological well-being.
So how does this miracle of cooperation work in a country that’s been politically divided for over four decades? Greek-and-Turkish Cypriots and other EU citizens alike have the right to treatment in the Nicosia facility. It works with a combination of compassion and cooperation. These two values are the only way it all comes together. There are too many patients and not enough doctors and nurses, so everyone really has to pull together for the greater good.
During our weekly visits to the Oncology Centre, my mother and I sit with other patients and listen to multiple languages; Greek, Turkish, Romanian, English, French. The list goes on. Mum is sociable in spite of her illness, and knows all the doctors and nurses by name. She strikes up a conversation with her neighbor no matter where they are from. The people waiting have long-suffering patience and show each other small kindnesses. A pat on the back, a smile, an encouraging nod. There is a sense of determination. Gone is the sense of desperation of just six months ago when the system was overwhelmed by too many patients who had to sit anxiously through long waiting times. Now that the House of Representatives has passed the national insurance plan things could get even better for the cancer patients.
In this most dramatic and challenging of situations, teamwork is the only way that the patients can get the care they need. If you want to imagine how a solution could work in Cyprus, visit the Oncology Centre, the place is a model of cooperation.
At the end of the day the patients and medical staff are fighting a common enemy – cancer. Surely the rest of our country could take some inspiration from this and feel encouraged that if authentic community values can work in this small corner of Nicosia then there is hope.
Cancer patients and their families learn to take things day by day and celebrate the wins when they happen. They are humble and know that most things are out of their control. Ego and pride vanish in the face of a lingering death by cancer. It becomes most important to relieve pain and psychological suffering, it becomes most important to be humane and compassionate.
If they can do it, can’t the rest of us do it?