THE FINANCIAL TOLL OF CANCER
Imagine the emotion that sets in when someone hears the words, “you have cancer.” Panic. Fear. Worry.
Now add in the financial burden that can accompany that diagnosis: travelling to appointments, medications, parking, on top of everyday costs when a patient may no longer have a regular income.
For many Albertans, that stress is a reality. Cancer can be a huge strain on the finances.
Many people have to leave their jobs to receive treatment—some without any coverage to replace their income. The burden can be so big that some people decline treatment because they can’t afford extra travel or treatment costs.
With your help, the Alberta Cancer Foundation Patient Financial Assistance Program is changing that.
Tammy and Geoff Wegrich were two of those Albertans who ran into unexpected costs following a cancer diagnosis. A few years ago, Geoff was diagnosed with leukemia. Unbelievably, a short time later, Tammy faced a colon cancer diagnosis of her own. Their doctors staggered their treatments, postponing Geoff’s splenectomy so Tammy could have her treatment, knowing how hard it would be to take care of each other. After she finished her surgery and chemo, Geoff, who also had a triple-bypass open heart operation-went next with surgery and chemo of his own.
Not only did they both have to take time off work—Geoff from driving a City of Edmonton bus and Tammy from Sobeys—but they faced additional costs. Each trip to the Cross Cancer Institute was 85kms, parking four times each treatment week was not cheap and although their chemotherapy was covered, prescriptions to counter the horrible side effects were not. A generic anti-nausea drug cost, which the couple had to refill to get through treatment, cost an alarming $400.
Without any savings to fall back on, they quickly exhausted Tammy’s RRSPs from her time at Sobeys. As the financial and emotional toll of two cancer trials accumulated, “Life almost stopped, it seemed,” says Geoff. While attending a class on living through chemotherapy treatments, Tammy and Geoff met Teresa Skarlicki, a social worker who helps administer the Alberta Cancer Foundation Patient Financial Assistance Program.
Thanks to our donors, the Alberta Cancer Foundation Patient Financial Assistance program eased that journey for Tammy and Geoff.
"I think everybody wishes they could shoulder the burden without asking for help, but I felt like it was more of a burden than we could deal with at the time."
- Tammy Wegrich
Teresa immediately starting working with the Wegrichs to help identify what they needed the most. She says patients often find it more difficult to deal with the financial aspects of cancer treatment than the medical aspects.
"If you can give them a little bit of help, a lot of that stress melts away and they can go forward and focus on trying to get through cancer, because it takes all of your internal resources to make it through treatment."
- Teresa Skarlicki, Social Worker
Because of your support, the Patient Financial Assistance Program was accessed more than 3,144 times last year to help families when they needed it the most. Thank you.
Thank you for making life better for Albertans facing cancer.