The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
November 22, 2008

Discussion with Mrs. Bush and First Lady of Panama Vivian Fernandez Torrijos During Visit to the National Oncology Institute
National Oncology Institute
Panama City, Panama

November 21, 2008

10:34 A.M. EST

Q All these patients in this room are patients that had surgery --

MRS. BUSH: Have had already the surgery? Have they already had it?

Q Yes. Some patients are still --

MRS. BUSH: In a --

Q -- for make the -- finally do the last reconstruction job, or they are making some kind of procedure for good.

MRS. TORRIJOS: So they are breast cancer survivors and part of the program.

Q When I -- told me about my cancer, I never feel a -- (inaudible) -- because I felt everybody that I spoke with can't. (Laughter.) And tell him that, okay, He's good, very good, He's God, but always has solution. I'm here, I'm happy.

MRS. TORRIJOS: And healthy.

MRS. BUSH: And healthy, good, that's great.

MRS. TORRIJOS: Good for you.

Q And pretty.

MRS. BUSH: Yes, that's right. (Laughter.)

Q More pretty. (Laughter.)

Q Hi, it's nice to meet you.

MRS. BUSH: Nice to meet you.

Q When I was found that I have breast cancer, I became so sad. I thought about my children because they always associate it, the cancer, with death. But I came to this hospital, and here I found that they saved my life, but also they returned me the feeling of the -- you know, they returned me my breast --

MRS. BUSH: The reconstruction --

MRS. TORRIJOS: Self-esteem.

Q Yes, and also -- but I now can feel like a complete woman.

MRS. BUSH: Great, that's so good.

Q Thank you.

MRS. TORRIJOS: Thank you for sharing your story.

Q Yes. Now I'm writing a book --

MRS. BUSH: Oh, good.

Q -- to tell other women, because we need to know that the only chance that we have to --

MRS. BUSH: Survive.

Q -- survive or to -- the chance of -- to save our life and to be a woman in complete is to go to the medical screenings and to get medical attention soon.

MRS. BUSH: Sure, early, as early as possible. That's terrific that you're going to help other women with your book.

Q Yes, I hope so.

MRS. TORRIJOS: Thank you. What about you?

Q I do not speak --

MRS. BUSH: No, speak Spanish.

Q (As translated) I am very happy to meet so many important people, especially because this has been a good experience -- to be able to put this message out to women here and in other countries about being aware of doing timely self-examinations. And believe me, that's why I am here today.

MRS. BUSH: Thank you. Mucho gusto. I mean, gracias -- muchas gracias.

MRS. TORRIJOS: (As translated) Of course, very nice.

Q (As translated) I primarily want to thank God because at first when I was 28 years old and I got cancer --

MRS. TORRIJOS: (As translated) Twenty-eight? Very young.

Q (As translated) -- at first I thought that I was going to die because I did not have enough resources, and I'm really grateful to all the people who work in this hospital because there are people who don't have enough resources but they take care of us anyway and give us treatment.

MRS. BUSH: Still treat you. That's good.

MRS. TORRIJOS: Do you remember --

MRS. BUSH: Yes, I heard your story today.

Q This is my magic man.

MRS. BUSH: Oh, good. It's the doctor that helped you.

Q Yes, this is the doctor.

Q He is my doctor, too.

MRS. BUSH: He is your doctor, too.

MRS. TORRIJOS: But it's very uplifting that you share your story today. Very nice.

Q He's a very good doctor.

MRS. TORRIJOS: Are you still in treatment?

Q Yes.

MRS. TORRIJOS: (As translated) How many sessions --

Q (As translated) No, I'm taking pills now.

MRS. TORRIJOS: Okay. Taking the pills.

MRS. BUSH: She is, still? Oh, good.

MRS. TORRIJOS: Doctor, how many women do we have with breast cancer a year in our hospital here?

Q Five-hundred a year in Panama.

MRS. TORRIJOS: In the whole country.

Q In the whole country. And in here we take care of 500 -- over the 90 percent of the patients. Usually some patients have early detection, so they can treat out of the hospital, but all the patients with radiations and that need radiation, chemotherapy, I give them our hospital, so -- in the country it's the second cause of death of women here in Panama.

MRS. TORRIJOS: In Panama, of the cancers -- not only for women, but men and women -- breast cancer is the most --

Q Mainly treatment for here for breast cancer --

MRS. TORRIJOS: But for other cancers like lung cancer and stomach cancer and the rest of the areas where cancer affects -- breast cancer is the most frequent, or no? Most patients --

MRS. BUSH: For women.

MRS. TORRIJOS: Women, yes.

Q Yes, for women, it's the leading cancer. Well, it shares the first place with cervical cancer. Usually one year it's cervical, the other year breast cancer. But the first cause here in Panama is the prostate cancer.

MRS. BUSH: For men.

Q For -- no, for men or for female.

MRS. BUSH: Oh, really?

Q The population -- the first cause of cancer -- or led to cancer is prostate cancer. It's a big problem.

MRS. BUSH: Oh, really?

MRS. TORRIJOS: Men do not like to --

MRS. BUSH: Sure, be tested.

Q It was -- I was working with some campaign about prostate cancer three months ago. We have a very big campaign --

MRS. BUSH: Awareness.

Q Awareness. We are working in that because it's more difficult for men --

MRS. BUSH: Sure, to be tested.

Q -- to be examined. We are working on that.

MRS. BUSH: Well, that's really good, because women have really started to speak out about breast cancer, and it's important for men to speak out, too, about cancers that affect men; to encourage men to be tested.

Q You know, we are trying with the First Lady of Panama to educate the population -- just not for women, but the family, all the family.

MRS. BUSH: Yes, families.

Q The parents, the daughters, the whole family.

MRS. BUSH: That's right, because the whole family is affected, whoever gets it.

Q The whole family. So we are trying, with support of the First Lady --

MRS. TORRIJOS: We're trying to do these campaigns and speak to the people, right? How old are you now?

Q (As translated) Thirty-one.

MRS. TORRIJOS: Thirty-one, she says.

MRS. BUSH: Thirty-one, she's thirty-one.

MRS. TORRIJOS: (As translated) Three years since --

MRS. BUSH: Oh, great.

MRS. TORRIJOS: Very good.

MRS. BUSH: Very young. (Laughter.)

MRS. TORRIJOS: (As translated) We should thank God, right?

Q -- we should be able to help other people.

MRS. TORRIJOS: (As translated) Doctor, anything you would like to ask for or recommend or say?

Q We are really glad for the preoccupation of how the First Lady of Panama for this diease.

MRS. BUSH: I know, that's been so great. It's really terrific.

Q And really we would like to have more help in some areas; in fact the area of education for the personal use in all the areas, the --

MRS. TORRIJOS: We made an agreement with -- as a network -- with different countries and the United States with M.D. Anderson.

MRS. BUSH: M.D. Anderson and Susan Komen.

Q This is wonderful for all the population in Panama. This will be amazing for helping the people.

MRS. BUSH: Well, it would be great if we could really collaborate on research on this so that we could end up with a cure.

Q Yes, this is one of the more important parts that we needed; the research and the -- we have now the imitation of the information --

MRS. TORRIJOS: The resources.

Q -- and the research. This is something that -- one part that we needed.

MRS. BUSH: Are there a lot of people who are going into medicine in Panama, a lot of people training to be doctors?

Q Yes, the medical field, but not in the oncology area.

MRS. BUSH: Oh, really?

Q It's difficult because too many years --

MRS. BUSH: To study.

Q -- to study. And everywhere, not just Panama. It's a big problem. We have to encourage young people, young doctors, to get into that career.

MRS. TORRIJOS: I had no idea about that. The incidents of oncologists --

Q Everywhere, not just in Panama.

MRS. TORRIJOS: I know, worldwide. And it's sad, too, especially --

Q Maybe it's because if one heart -- (inaudible) -- then you'd have to see people die, and that's something that many people don't like to see that. They prefer to do other things, not something that people don't survive. (Inaudible) -- is something that you really feel happy about.

MRS. BUSH: Like your patients feel about you. (Laughter.)

Q Well, in fact, I have the -- (inaudible) -- part. I treat the patient that survives and I -- that I make to recover the part that they lost, and they really feel happy about this. It's not the other side, the side of the people that die.

MRS. BUSH: Thank you, everybody. Muchas gracias. And God bless you all.

END 10:45 A.M. EST

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