Tuesday, July 31, 2007

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0614 - Medicine, Money, and Mitt

Some days it seems like there isn't anything simple at all about living with cancer. Here are some examples from just one day.

Cancer survivors worry a lot. They worry about recurrence, they worry about long-term changes to their quality of life, they worry about other people with cancer, they worry about their families, they worry about their burden on whatever medical system is in place in their jurisdiction, they just plan worry.

Sometimes they worry about the treatment they have already received and whether it will or will not actually induce another form of cancer in the future.

What? Really, it's not just paranoia. One of my worries last year during radiation was the possibility of cancer induced by the radiation itself. Now, we have learned of a case of a rectal cancer patient treated with radiation who has developed prostatic sarcoma (cancer in the prostate) as a result of his treatment 4 years previously. So, not only do I need to worry about long-term radiation proctitis from my treatment, I can realistically worry about sarcoma. Not a pleasant thought.

A friend and I have been having an ongoing discussion about universal health care, prompted in part by Michael Moore's Sicko, but also in part by stories that have come to our attention about comparative medical care in Canada and the United States that have nothing whatsoever to do with Moore. My friend says it's simply inevitable that Canada will have a two-tier medical system eventually, and it appears he's right. Today's Globe and Mail featured a front-page article about the CMA's Colin McMillan and his campaign to get the debate going in Canada

As my friend says, "it's all about the money". Rectal cancer patients have a reason to worry about money, whether they live in Canada or the United States, whether they are part of a universal health care system or beneficiaries of private plans. An article appeared yesterday which highlights the costs of drugs used to treat colorectal cancer. What system do you know that can handle costs like this - $120,000 and $96,000 per year per patient for Erbitux and Vectibix respectively for colorectal cancer (as reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute)?

Who wants to talk about the money associated with care of cancer patients? Doctors don't. Patients don't. Pharmaceutical companies don't. Politicians certainly don't. But it is something that those of us who deal with cancer have to worry about one way or the other.

Finally, Leroy Sievers complained yesterday, along with many, many others, about comments made by Ann Romney, presidential candidate Mitt Romney's wife in People magazine. She is reported to have said in her anguish about her MS, "I thought, 'Couldn't I just have cancer and die?'"

Leroy and many of his regular readers were understandably upset by the reported comment. Cancer, cancer treatment, and sometimes even surviving cancer is no fun at all. As Leroy says, "It hurts."

So, in addition to everything else, it seems that some days those of us in the world of cancer have to worry about what other people say, especially those with a high public profile.

I know. Sober second thought will probably mean that most of what worried me yesterday will be forgotten tomorrow. Most maybe, but not all. Add "worry" to the after effects of cancer treatment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Don - never would Tommy Douglas have imagined a drug protocol costing $120,000 per year. When he introduced the concept of Medicare, Rocket Richard was perhaps earning about $25000 per year, less suspensions and fines of course. But rest completely assured that universal health care will exist throughout our lifetimes and then some. The 2nd tier of medicine will merely be an option. A few years ago an oral surgeon told me he could remove my impacted wisdom teeth in a hospital for no charge or he could do it in his clinic for $800. No charge meant waiting a few months, $800 meant waiting 48 hrs. Call me a queue-jumper.
Regards, WayWestandLeaningRight