Peaceful Protest in Cuba Demanding a Cancer Medicine

Yanelys Nuñez Leyva

Ariel Urquiola

HAVANA TIMES – It’s 9 pm and he is sitting on the ground, his head in his arms, curled up in a red blanket.

I walk slowly, trying to identify him.

-¡Ariel! -I call out to him.

He raises his head, I give him a kiss on the cheek, and I realize that it is wet with tears.

Since the morning of November 3rd, Ariel Urquiola is conducting a peaceful protest at the National Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology, as his sister, one of the longstanding patients there, has already missed two cycles of treatment vital for her, simply because the stock of drugs is exhausted.

The administration of this institution has informed him that it does not know when to expect the arrival of the monoclonal antibody called trastuzumab, which should be given every 21 days.

Urquiola knows exactly what this delay can cause, and not just because he is a PhD in Biology but because for 11 years has taken the reins of the illness of his sister, which was diagnosed in 2005, when she was given only 3 months to live for suffering an “infiltrating ductal carcinoma, high grade malignancy.”

I sit beside him and Ariel begins to speak in a very low voice, almost a whisper, as if to store up all strength for the hours to come.

He told me that at about 11 am he was taken to the police unit amid expletives and obscenities by his captors, who did not conceive that a person could demand their right to health care.

He didn’t say a word or even look at them. They tried to humiliate him, snatched the shirt in which the drug name required was read, but he wasn’t intimidated and remained silent until 5:00 a.m., when he was released.

In recent days, Ariel had tried going to various offices. He wrote to the representative in Cuba of the Swiss company Roche which manufactures trastuzumab, from who he received no reply. He also contacted the doctor in charge of the monoclonal antibodies program for women in the same company, who found surprising medical evolution of his sister all the years of her condition.

Ariel has reported his story in different informative spaces of the web. But he has not received what he demands. So he has decided to stay as long as necessary without ingesting water or food, in front of the institution that has the responsibility to help find a solution in this matter.

Ariel has faith, and I do too, that the drug will come soon and that this public protest will not have been in vain.

I think we all should support him because tomorrow or maybe today we could find ourselves in a similar situation.

I ask urgently for everyone’s help to obtain at least one bulb of trastuzumab whose trade name is Herceptin, a single dose monoclonal antibody.


Yanelys Nuñez

Yanelys Nuñez Leyva: Writing is to expose oneself, undress before the inquisitive eyes of all. I like to write, not because I have developed a real fondness for nudity, but because I love composing words, thinking of stories, phrases that touch, images that provoke different feelings. Here I have a place to talk about art, life, me. In the end, feeling good about what you do is what matters; either with or without clothing.

One thought on “Peaceful Protest in Cuba Demanding a Cancer Medicine

  • I have posted a comment on the Canadian site of Roche with the link to this article in the hopes that someone might read it and find a way to help.

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