Nurse says knowledge of healthcare system helped save her life

Lianne Mantla-Look shared her story at the Falling Through the Cracks event of her experience going through cancer treatment. (Francis Tessier-Burns/CKLB).

If Lianne Mantla-Look had listened to a doctor in Edmonton, she may have come back to Yellowknife without ever treating her stomach cancer.

Instead, she stuck around and was convinced there was something wrong with her. She had to fight to have a series of biopsies done—more than 50 cross-sections of her stomach and intestines.

Those tests showed that she was right and she soon underwent surgery to remove the cancer in her abdomen.

Mantla-Look is a nurse from Behchokǫ̀ and said that her knowledge of the healthcare system is what saved her—in more ways than one.

She admitted that being a nurse allowed her to be seen quicker, with one doctor saying, “We take care of our own.”

A couple of years after successfully removing the cancer, in 2017 she started having severe gallstone pain and had to have her gallbladder removed.

When Mantla-Look first went to see a locum physician in Yellowknife, she wasn’t impressed that the doctor hadn’t looked at her file to know that it wouldn’t be a normal procedure.

Again, she says she had to advocate to have the same surgeon that removed the cancer years prior.

She wanted the doctor “who reconfigured my organs to take out my gallbladder,” she said.

Now four years later, she’s happy to be living cancer and gallbladder-free.

Film documents gaps in Alberta healthcare system

Mantla-Look told her story at an event called Falling Through the Cracks hosted by the NWT Wellness Society and Northern Conversations. The event was to help educate residents on their right to their healthcare information and patient advocacy.

It also featured a screening of Falling Through the Cracks: Greg’s Story. The film focuses on the ordeals of 31-year-old Albertan Greg Price, who faced delays in being diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2012. When he was finally diagnosed, he died from a blood clot three days after undergoing surgery.

Greg’s sister, Teri, and father, Dave, spoke in a panel session with other guests, including patients and physicians, to share their experience with a lack of continuity of care in the healthcare.

The Price’s message was similar to the Mantla-Look’s: do not blindly trust the healthcare system.

“It’s critical for all patients to be informed enough to advocate for themselves,” said Mantla-Look.

She added that the healthcare system needs to address the gap faced by Indigenous people.

One of the best ways to do that, she said, was to support Indigenous people going into healthcare jobs.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis was a reporter with CKLB from January 2019 to March 2023. In his time with CKLB, he had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures.