After repeated cancer relapses and uncertainty over her health, Anya Martinez’s family is finally getting some good news.
The Ancaster girl’s family has been pushing the provincial government for months to help send her stateside for an experimental cancer treatment. Anya, 6, has endured two bouts of leukemia and forced it into remission. But now the cancer is back, and her best hope of survival is a procedure that will cost at least $500,000.
At a gala fundraiser Friday evening, MPP Ted McMeekin announced OHIP is covering the treatment. “It’s unbelievable,” said Anya’s father Michael Martinez. “We’ve got so many hurdles to fight through so when we heard this, it was a huge weight off.”
Minister of health and long-term care Eric Hoskins and the Hospital for Sick Children issued a statement saying SickKids will be working with other Ontario hospitals to oversee care for Anya and an Ottawa girl in “groundbreaking” cancer trials.
'We just want to get her down there.' - Michael Martinez, Anya's dad
“SickKids, in partnership with the Government of Ontario, will support medically necessary services while these two patients are out of the country receiving care, and will provide care at the hospital once the trials are available in Ontario,” the statement reads.
“Minister Hoskins wishes to thank SickKids, all the health care professionals who have been involved in the care of these two young patients, as well as, in particular, the families and friends who continue to advocate for these courageous children.”
The family doesn’t yet have a firm date as to when they’ll be able to head to the U.S. for the trial, or exactly how much OHIP will be covering. “But we want her in right away because the trial wants her to be as well as possible,” Martinez said. “Over the past week or so she’s ben feeling pretty good – her counts are up and she’s playing.”
Anya has been through radiation, chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants. Nothing has kept the cancer at bay permanently. This treatment — called chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy – is Anya’s best hope, Martinez says.
“They take her cells and they genetically alter them in a lab. It’s essentially a virus, which turns them into fighter cells,” he said. “They put them back in her body and they go around hunting down other cells.”
An extensive crowdfunding campaign had raised over $160,000 for Anya’s treatment. Martinez says the family will use what it needs for accommodations during the two-year program, and whatever isn’t used will be donated back to charity. “Whatever we don’t use will go back to the people who need it,” he said.
Now, the family just waits for the green light to get the treatment started.
“It gives me energy and has gotten me pumped up,” Martinez said. “We just want to get her down there.”