B.C.'s health minister said he's sorry a cancer patient spent thousands of dollars on travel expenses that would have been covered under a government program -- but she's not going to get her money back.

Vancouver Island resident Carmelle Demers spent two years travelling to North Vancouver for cancer treatment before she learned she could have qualified for free ferry travel from the provincial government under its TAP program, which provides funding for medical patients who need to travel for medical procedures.

She's seeking reimbursement for 25 round-trip ferry rides, a cost of about $3,000 – money that she said sent her into financial hardship during her two-year battle with colon and Stage 4 liver cancer.

"Taking the ferry and knowing I'm drowning a little more every time –I don't like to complain but it's something people shouldn't have to go through," Demers told CTV News.

Related: B.C won't repay cancer patient

The province says Demers could have found out about the program through her oncologist, family doctor or the BC Cancer Agency. The Ministry of Health also said Demers should have been treated closer to home.

But Demers, who had recently moved to Vancouver Island, said her family doctor and oncologists didn't tell her about TAP and no one ever said she could have her treatments, including chemotherapy, nearer to where she lives.

She feels it's unfair that she's had to travel on her own dime when the province would have paid for it had she known about TAP beforehand.

"It's terrible, some people that have to travel and they can't afford it," she said.

Health Minister Mike de Jong said he feels bad for Demers but it's simply not government policy to retroactively reimburse patients.

"In fairness I don't want to hold out false hope because there is a certain obligation on people… and I recognize how difficult it is when you're receiving treatment for a terrible disease like cancer to get as much information as you can," he told CTV News from his office in Victoria.

But Demers said the issue is about more than just money, it's about principles. She says she's lost faith in her government.

"I've been robbed. I feel robbed," she said.

De Jong said he hopes media coverage of Demers' story will prevent another B.C. cancer patient from falling through the cracks of the health care system.

"CTV News is one of those ways … and I suspect people will be better informed as a result of what's taken place here," he said.

Demers says it's not up to the media to educate patients -- it's up to the province.

"They should make the effort to advertise things like that. It's really their responsibility to do it," she said.

Information about the TAP program is available on the Ministry of Health website, as well as the BC Cancer Agency's "Coping with Cancer" web page.

TAP was used 102,026 times in 2010/2011 and expenditures are expected to reach $9.8 million in 2011/2012. It's actually over budget for this year, according to the health ministry.

Its website logged more than 116,000 hits between July 2010 and August 2011.

Demers has accessed the TAP program four times since finding out about it this summer.

Watch CTV News for a full report from Lynda Steele…

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