B.C. terminal cancer patient faces astronomical costs for U.S. treatment
Published Saturday, February 27, 2016 5:50PM PST
Last Updated Saturday, February 27, 2016 7:18PM PST
In many ways, Brandon Durieux is an average 24-year-old: he recently married the love of his life, works as a landscaper, and plays video games. But unlike others his age he has terminal cancer, and recently travelled to the U.S. for an experimental treatment that may cost millions of dollars.
“I'm 24-years-old and I'm pretty much terminal,” he told CTV News from his hospital bed in Houston, Texas. “[Canadian doctors] said the only thing they can offer is palliative comfort care.”
Last summer, the Victoria man went for some routine blood work after feeling tired and noticing unusual bruising. His diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive form of blood cancer, came as a shock.
“We knew he wasn't feeling well, but never in our wildest dreams did we think that would be the reason why,” said wife Michelle Durieux.
“I was terrified,” Durieux added. “You never think it’s going to happen until it happens to you.”
After two rounds of chemotherapy and an experimental drug trial at Vancouver General Hospital, the couple got devastating news – the cancer was rapidly progressing and they were out of options.
Doctors recommended palliative care, but the couple wasn’t giving up without a fight.
“When we got the news there was no treatment available in Canada, there was not a doubt in my mind that we weren't going to quit,” Michelle said.
On Monday, Brandon began experimental treatment at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas – one of America’s top rated cancer centres. But there’s a catch: just two months of treatment costs an estimated at $224,000 in U.S. dollars, and additional therapies may cost millions more.
Nearly $88,000 has been raised on a GoFundMe page, but it’s just the start. Unlike Canadian hospitals, U.S. cancer centres are for-profit businesses.
“I know that it’s a lot of money,” Michelle said. “But it doesn’t cross my mind that the doctors and the nurses here are doing it for financial gain.”
Despite the astronomical cost the couple says it’s more than worth it. They believe this treatment is Brandon’s last chance.
“I picture myself in the future and with kids and stuff like that and it gives me some hope,” the young man said, his voice breaking.
“The day I met Michelle, I knew I loved her very much. I just wanted to fight for everything I could possibly fight for and to never give up.”
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Shannon Paterson