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The cost of cancer


A pretty, young woman with wisps of blonde hair peeking out from under a stylish knitted slouch hat, walks into the room with a smile.

“Sorry I’m late!” she announces, before taking a seat at the kitchen table.

Hardly the face and demeanor of what you would expect from someone living with cancer, but then again, Sascha Davis is not your typical cancer patient.

The Happy Valley-Goose Bay businesswoman was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in December of 2014, just weeks after celebrating her 33rd birthday.

Her cancer was located in several spots, including her right underarm, near her lungs and on both sides of her breastbone.

After suffering with debilitating pain, a persistent cough and fatigue for a year, Davis says it was a relief to finally be diagnosed.

“I was sick for so long, everyone kind of viewed me as a flake,” Davis recalled. “When I was diagnosed, I was relieved. The worst part was having to tell my family and friends — it was harder for me to do that than to hear it myself because all they heard was ‘cancer.’”

After her diagnosis, Davis immediately started chemo treatment in St. John’s on Dec. 23, 2014. She went home to Goose Bay for Christmas, and was back to St. John’s within days, where she decided the best option for her due to her treatment schedule — a round of chemo every two weeks preceded by blood work and meetings with her doctors  — was to rent an apartment in the capital city.

Davis soon learned about the financial and emotional roller coaster that many cancer patients from Labrador find themselves on.

And while Davis counts herself among the lucky ones, thanks to help from her family, she still hasn’t come out of it unscathed financially.

“I have no income, other than rental properties I have,” she noted. “And when you’re in the middle of building a house, that doesn’t go far.”

She added her husband, Teddy, is also currently unemployed.

“He was laid off from work and applied for the (federal) compassionate care program, but he didn’t qualify because I wasn’t dying within a 26 week time period,” said Davis with a wry smile.

She added her husband has been taking care of her every need ever since her diagnosis.

“I don’t know where I would be without (his) amazing support.”

Prior to renting a fully furnished apartment in St. John’s, Davis says she had checked out the option of staying at Daffodil Place — a facility for those from outside metro St. John’s to stay while going through cancer treatment — but there was never any rooms available for the long term.

“There was usually only a day here or day there and then you would have to find another place,” said Davis, who said it wasn’t worth the worry of having to uproot and find other accommodations.

Since Daffodil Place opened in 2009, for Labrador specifically, there have been a total of 188 guests from 18 different communities.

Maggie Hynes is the marketing and communications specialist with the Canadian Cancer Society in St. John’s, which operates Daffodil Place.

She explained the occupancy rate through the week hovers somewhere around 90 per cent, and bookings are on a first-come, fist served basis.

“The average stay is around six weeks,” she said, adding there are people who have stayed up as long as 300 days due to their needs.

“We do have a wait list.”

However, added Hynes, the CCS does provide information on other accommodations for those from away looking to stay at Daffodil Place but are unable to get a booking.

“We have a lot of other places on file that offer discounted rates to cancer patients,” she said. “While they wouldn’t provide transportation to appointments or free meals like Daffodil Place does, we try our best to ensure people aren’t left with nowhere to go.”

Hynes said she also encourages anyone looking to stay at Daffodil Place to contact them as soon as possible.

“As soon as people know (when they need to come to St. John’s), call right away, don’t wait,” she said.

Family help

Davis noted her father bought a second-hand vehicle for her to use while in St. John’s to avoid costly taxis to and from the hospital while she goes through treatment — which won’t be finished until the end of May — which has helped ease the financial worry.

But she noted the biggest shocker of all for her in the whole process was finding out she qualified for little with regards to coverage for her drugs not covered by MCP or other programs.

“I have to take these ‘booster shots’ to get my white blood cell count up prior to doing my chemo treatment,” Davis explained. “I am currently on four vials of this drug every two weeks and each vial costs $1,000.”

Thankfully, Davis was able to avail of a program to help her with that particular cost.

And other than the provincial Medical Transportation Assistance Program and the CCS’s Labrador Air Travel Assistance Program, the only way she is able to travel home for visits has been through the help of her family who donate their points to go towards plane tickets. She explained due to the expense, she only comes home  every six weeks.

“I can’t imagine being one of those people who don’t have family behind them,” said Davis, as her eyes fill up.

“I am grateful so many people have reached out to me — I hope to one day repay my father for everything he has done for me, financially.”

For now, Davis is in good spirits and responding tremendously to treatment. She  said she one day hopes to be able to pay it forward by helping others who find themselves in a tough financial spot due to a cancer diagnosis.

“I wish there was a program in place to help those who fall through the cracks of coverage for cancer-related programs,” she said.

“That would be my wish: to do for others what my parents have been able to do for me.”

In the meantime, she recently opened a GoFundMe account to help raise money to go towards more ‘creature comforts’ for the ambulatory unit at the Health Sciences Centre where she receives her chemo treatments.

“My friend told me everything happens for a reason and that something is going to come of all of this. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but she’s very persistent,” Davis grins, adding her cancer diagnosis was a ‘wake up call.’

“It really made me re-think certain aspects of my life,” she said. “I’m not lacking anything; I have everything I need.”

This is the first in a three-part series on the cost of cancer-related expenses for Labradorians. Next week, Valerie Pardy Rachwal tells her story.

 

bonnie.learning@tc.tc

“Sorry I’m late!” she announces, before taking a seat at the kitchen table.

Hardly the face and demeanor of what you would expect from someone living with cancer, but then again, Sascha Davis is not your typical cancer patient.

The Happy Valley-Goose Bay businesswoman was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in December of 2014, just weeks after celebrating her 33rd birthday.

Her cancer was located in several spots, including her right underarm, near her lungs and on both sides of her breastbone.

After suffering with debilitating pain, a persistent cough and fatigue for a year, Davis says it was a relief to finally be diagnosed.

“I was sick for so long, everyone kind of viewed me as a flake,” Davis recalled. “When I was diagnosed, I was relieved. The worst part was having to tell my family and friends — it was harder for me to do that than to hear it myself because all they heard was ‘cancer.’”

After her diagnosis, Davis immediately started chemo treatment in St. John’s on Dec. 23, 2014. She went home to Goose Bay for Christmas, and was back to St. John’s within days, where she decided the best option for her due to her treatment schedule — a round of chemo every two weeks preceded by blood work and meetings with her doctors  — was to rent an apartment in the capital city.

Davis soon learned about the financial and emotional roller coaster that many cancer patients from Labrador find themselves on.

And while Davis counts herself among the lucky ones, thanks to help from her family, she still hasn’t come out of it unscathed financially.

“I have no income, other than rental properties I have,” she noted. “And when you’re in the middle of building a house, that doesn’t go far.”

She added her husband, Teddy, is also currently unemployed.

“He was laid off from work and applied for the (federal) compassionate care program, but he didn’t qualify because I wasn’t dying within a 26 week time period,” said Davis with a wry smile.

She added her husband has been taking care of her every need ever since her diagnosis.

“I don’t know where I would be without (his) amazing support.”

Prior to renting a fully furnished apartment in St. John’s, Davis says she had checked out the option of staying at Daffodil Place — a facility for those from outside metro St. John’s to stay while going through cancer treatment — but there was never any rooms available for the long term.

“There was usually only a day here or day there and then you would have to find another place,” said Davis, who said it wasn’t worth the worry of having to uproot and find other accommodations.

Since Daffodil Place opened in 2009, for Labrador specifically, there have been a total of 188 guests from 18 different communities.

Maggie Hynes is the marketing and communications specialist with the Canadian Cancer Society in St. John’s, which operates Daffodil Place.

She explained the occupancy rate through the week hovers somewhere around 90 per cent, and bookings are on a first-come, fist served basis.

“The average stay is around six weeks,” she said, adding there are people who have stayed up as long as 300 days due to their needs.

“We do have a wait list.”

However, added Hynes, the CCS does provide information on other accommodations for those from away looking to stay at Daffodil Place but are unable to get a booking.

“We have a lot of other places on file that offer discounted rates to cancer patients,” she said. “While they wouldn’t provide transportation to appointments or free meals like Daffodil Place does, we try our best to ensure people aren’t left with nowhere to go.”

Hynes said she also encourages anyone looking to stay at Daffodil Place to contact them as soon as possible.

“As soon as people know (when they need to come to St. John’s), call right away, don’t wait,” she said.

Family help

Davis noted her father bought a second-hand vehicle for her to use while in St. John’s to avoid costly taxis to and from the hospital while she goes through treatment — which won’t be finished until the end of May — which has helped ease the financial worry.

But she noted the biggest shocker of all for her in the whole process was finding out she qualified for little with regards to coverage for her drugs not covered by MCP or other programs.

“I have to take these ‘booster shots’ to get my white blood cell count up prior to doing my chemo treatment,” Davis explained. “I am currently on four vials of this drug every two weeks and each vial costs $1,000.”

Thankfully, Davis was able to avail of a program to help her with that particular cost.

And other than the provincial Medical Transportation Assistance Program and the CCS’s Labrador Air Travel Assistance Program, the only way she is able to travel home for visits has been through the help of her family who donate their points to go towards plane tickets. She explained due to the expense, she only comes home  every six weeks.

“I can’t imagine being one of those people who don’t have family behind them,” said Davis, as her eyes fill up.

“I am grateful so many people have reached out to me — I hope to one day repay my father for everything he has done for me, financially.”

For now, Davis is in good spirits and responding tremendously to treatment. She  said she one day hopes to be able to pay it forward by helping others who find themselves in a tough financial spot due to a cancer diagnosis.

“I wish there was a program in place to help those who fall through the cracks of coverage for cancer-related programs,” she said.

“That would be my wish: to do for others what my parents have been able to do for me.”

In the meantime, she recently opened a GoFundMe account to help raise money to go towards more ‘creature comforts’ for the ambulatory unit at the Health Sciences Centre where she receives her chemo treatments.

“My friend told me everything happens for a reason and that something is going to come of all of this. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but she’s very persistent,” Davis grins, adding her cancer diagnosis was a ‘wake up call.’

“It really made me re-think certain aspects of my life,” she said. “I’m not lacking anything; I have everything I need.”

This is the first in a three-part series on the cost of cancer-related expenses for Labradorians. Next week, Valerie Pardy Rachwal tells her story.

 

bonnie.learning@tc.tc

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