Cancer patient told to fundraise for drug by health department

Edna Kelly was denied by government and the Cancer Society for full funding for a drug involved in a cancer treatment that she said would save her life.
Edna Kelly turned to her church to help her fundraise the money she needed for a cancer drug she hopes will save her life. This after she says Newfoundland and Labrador's Department of Health and the Canadian Cancer Society could not help her out. (CBC)

A central Newfoundland woman is upset with the province's health department, as well as the Canadian Cancer Society.

Edna Kelly, who has been living with non-Hodgkins lymphoma for 13 years, was denied full funding by both groups for a drug involved in a cancer treatment that, she says, would save her life.

Who are they to say that I can't live longer than 59 years old if it should come back?- Edna Kelly

Her doctors want to her to undergo, what has been described as, a delicate stem cell transplant that needs to be performed while her cancer is in remission.

"It would get rid of all my cancer, it would make me a new person," Kelly told the CBC's Natalia Goodwin.

However, the stem cell procedure requires Kelly to take an immunostimulant drug known as Mozobil to get her cell counts up.

Kelly said the provincial government only offered to cover about 80 per cent of the cost of the Mozobil she required.

That leaves a remaining bill for Kelly of about $1,800, something she said she can't afford on her $1,200 per month income.

'Cancer society should be there for cancer patients'

She reached out to the Canadian Cancer Society, but was told they don't fund cases such as hers.

"I relayed for 13 years [for the Cancer Society]. Where's all that money gone?" she asks. "I mean, the Cancer Society should be there for cancer patients."

Kelly said the health department told her she should start fundraising herself to cover the remaining 20 per cent of the cost.

"I don't want to die yet because I can't have a needle," she said. "Who are they to say that I can't live longer than 59 years old if it should come back and they can't do no more treatments."

After being told that she should consider fundraising the extra costs, Kelly turned to her faith community.

Members of the Windsor Pentecostal church in central Newfoundland stepped up and provide the funds that Kelly needed.

That has Kelly feeling grateful, but worried at the same time, for others in similar situations who may not have an avenue to turn to like she did.

"What about the next person who don't have somebody to back them up that way?" Kelly wonders.

CBC News requested a response from Health and Community Services Minister Paul Davis, but he declined to comment.

A representative from the Canadian Cancer Society said that organization is not in the financial situation to fund individual cases such as Kelly's.

Spokesperson Angela Noseworthy said the society is lobbying the federal government for a national catastrophic drug insurance program, to help remedy situations like Kelly's in the future.

Kelly, with the help of her church, will travel to St. John's on Tuesday to begin the treatment she hopes will rid her of cancer for the rest of her life.


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