Unless it’s Affordable, Curing Cancer is Just a Dream

August 30, 2011 – 12:43 pm | By Mari Serebrov | 5 comments

Although they’re the stuff of science, statistics too often lack the power to move us. After all, they’re just numbers. So when companies like Dendreon Corp. and Seattle Genetics Inc. price their cancer treatments at nearly $100,000 or more, we may arch our eyebrows, but we don’t really think about the impact those prices will have on the individual faces and names behind the numbers. Instead, we wonder, as reported in BioWorld Today, why more patients don’t take advantage of promising drugs like Dendreon’s Provenge.

Unlike statistics, faces and names have stories that can bring us to tears, that make us want to shout at the unfairness of life, that inspire us to reach beyond ourselves to make the world a little bit better for someone else. My niece Jaymi is one of those names.

She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s when she was 15. After a cocktail of chemo and radiation, full-body radiation and an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant, her doctors basically told her to enjoy what little life she had left. She took them at their word. She went to college. She married her high school sweetheart. And, against all odds, she gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl (pictured here with Jaymi).

At 23, Jaymi is a senior in college, majoring in technical writing and communications. Next year, she plans to start her MBA. Outside of school, she enjoys every minute she has with her 2-year-old daughter and her husband, who also is a college student. But her life is shadowed by the cancer that continues to spread throughout her body.

Jaymi doesn’t need hope. She sees that every time she looks in her daughter’s eyes. What Jaymi needs is a cure. But she needs one that is affordable.

Because she’s a married college student with cancer, Jaymi doesn’t have private insurance. And although she’s eligible for disability and Medicaid, she’s still waiting for the forms to enroll in the government programs. She’s also been warned by Medicare staff that pursuing full-on cancer treatment may not be feasible in light of budget cuts.

Years before Jaymi was born, scientists dreamed of finding a cure for cancer. Those dreams are coming true. But for people like Jaymi, the cure is still just a dream they can’t afford.

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