Skip to main content

Cancer patient paying for chemotherapy in Bellingham says B.C. Cancer Agency discharged her


When 60-year-old Sheila Vicic went in for a routine colonoscopy in August, she was shocked to learn she has colon cancer. Surgery in September confirmed her disease is at stage three, and she was anxious to start treatment as soon as possible.

“The B.C. Cancer Agency, when they did finally connect with me, told me it would be mid-November before I would even see an oncologist. And I kind of like lost it. What do I do in the meantime? I’ve got confirmed cancer it my lymph system, which is like the spreader-system of your body. And we’re going to do nothing until when?” Vicic said in an interview from her home in South Surrey.

On the advice of friends, on Oct. 4, she contacted the North Cascade Cancer Center in Bellingham, which has an agreement with the B.C. government to treat some cancer patients whose care has been delayed by long waitlists. Two days later, she had an appointment with an oncologist there who suggested she begin immediate chemotherapy. But treatment for colon cancer isn’t part of the agreement between the Bellingham clinic and the province, so she would have to pay out of pocket.

Vicic and her husband decided they had no choice. “Timely, consistent care has to happen now. And we talked about a budget to get it going, thinking we could start and then switch back to B.C. Cancer Agency,” she said.

But halfway through her four chemotherapy treatments in Bellingham, which cost nearly $10,000 USD, Vicic said she was told the B.C. Cancer Agency was discharging her as a patient, and she was no longer eligible for support services like a specialized dietician.

“t felt very much like, you’ve rejected our core services, you don’t get anything else,” she said.

In a statement, the B.C. Cancer Agency said “In some cases, patients who independently arrange to receive cancer treatment out-of-country do not require additional care and oversight from a B.C. Cancer oncologist. In this case, they are followed up by their primary care provider.”

Vicic said she doesn’t understand why she can’t be seen by doctors and other staff at the B.C. Cancer Agency alongside her chemo treatments in Bellingham.

“I felt like a beggar. It does upset me to say that. It felt like I was begging for services, begging for them to see me,” she said, adding “I am their patient, even though they’ve discharged me. They may not acknowledge that, but they are the single provider of cancer care in this province, and I am a cancer patient.”

While she’s been told her chemo infusions are working, she’s worried about complications or a relapse. “I’m afraid of what I need in the future. I’m afraid that it won’t be there. So fear of having to deal with B.C. Cancer again is pretty overwhelming,” Vicic said.

If she needs further treatment, the accountant and mother of three said she’s likely to head back over the border. But she knows that's an option many people can’t afford. “My heart breaks because I know I have resources and I found a solution that not everyone has access to who’s waiting.” Top Stories

Stay Connected