Cancer patient struggled to make it to appointment during vaccine mandate protest outside hospital

A cancer patient says the protest against vaccine passports in Vancouver this week made it difficult for himself and others to get to their chemotherapy appointments.

Ed Prentice was booked for his second last chemotherapy treatment on Wednesday, and his sister was driving him to the BC Cancer Agency.

“We get probably within a couple kilometres of the cancer agency and there’s protesters everywhere,” he told CTV News Vancouver. “There’s no way we’re going to make it anywhere near the cancer agency, nobody can get close.”

He was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer in May and has been doing chemo and radiation ever since.

“I was exhausted. I can’t walk very far to begin with,” said Prentice.

But he said he had to get to that appointment, it’s saving his life and he’s almost done this round of treatment. He had to walk a few kilometres through the crowd to get there.

“I got out and put my mask on on and started trudging towards the cancer centre. But I’m surrounded by people who are not wearing masks, are not vaccinated, I have no immune system whatsoever,” explained Prentice. “A cold or a flu could kill me.”

Roughly 2,000 protesters gathered in front of Vancouver General Hospital and City Hall, angry at the mandated vaccine passports the government is implementing.

Posters reading “Stand up for freedom now or lose everything,” were being carried amongst the crowd. This, despite widespread majority support among B.C. residents for the temporary measure to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The protesters blocked major arteries in and out of the hospital, including access to the BC Cancer agency located at 10th avenue and Ash Street in Vancouver, next to the hospital.

“I get there and all I hear is nurses phoning patients to see if they’re going to be able to make it and letting them know that it’s okay if they come late that they can still get their therapy,” said Prentice. “It was so horrific to see the whole scene I was so disheartened and distraught after the whole thing.”

He said typically when he has his chemo there are three or four other people in the room with him, but this time he was alone because so many people couldn’t make it to their appointments.

“These people have attacked the very people that are there to help everyone,” said Prentice. “The patients are the collateral damage.”

The vaccine passport goes into effect as of September 13 and it will require proof of vaccination status to attend restaurants, gyms, sporting events, concerts and other discretionary services.

“These passports are for nonessential events,” said Rosalyn Salanguit a cancer survivor. “They’re not going to stop you from going to the grocery store and getting your essential items.”

Salanguit was diagnosed with stage four oral cancer in 2015. She had surgery in December of that year and completed treatment in April 2016.

“I just hit my five years this past April,” said Salanguit. “It was an amazing milestone.”

When she saw the location of the protests and the impact to others who are in a position she’s been in before, her heart sank.

“That area alone is such a concentrated area of people who are immunocompromised because they’re going to treatment, many of which who don’t drive, many of which who have to take the bus sometimes,” said Salanguit. “If going to a concert trumps losing a life, I’m sorry but you’ve lost an ally.”

She had a conversation with one of the protesters that she said left her feeling dismissed.

“She said ‘I’m sorry they were inconvenienced’, and I was like ‘No, this is not inconvenienced.’”

“The seconds that you guys took away from ambulances to get to the hospital are seconds that could possibly save life,” said Salanguit.

She and Prentice told CTV News Vancouver they both support the right to protest but the location of this one caused deep hurt.

“As a cancer survivor we are literally fighting for our life and to walk through a crowd that completely disrespects that, not knowing what a cancer survivor has to go through is a spit in the face,” said Salaguit.

Prentice said the entire experience of just getting to his appointment left him completely exhausted and he slept through his entire appointment.

“The way they did it, to attack the hospitals and the care givers and the patients, is absolutely unforgivable,” he said. “They’re not making the policy, I’m not making the policy, how many cancer patients didn’t make their appointments that day?”

Prentice said he believes the entire hospital was impacted in a similar way to the cancer agency, and worries that many missed important appointments they would have been waiting months for. He feels fortunate he found the strength to walk the remaining few blocks to attend his appointment.

“I would support anyone’s right to protest, what they want to protest, absolutely 100 per cent. But the way they did it, to attack the hospitals and the care givers and the patients is absolutely unforgivable,” he said.