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Friends hoping to collect donations for Coquitlam, B.C., couple paying out-of-pocket for cancer treatment

Coquitlam, B.C. -

Friends of a Coquitlam, B.C., couple paying out-of-pocket for Stage 4 cancer treatment are rallying to help them through an online fundraiser

The move comes after months of pushing for help and answers from the province, but so far nothing has changed.

Kari Taylor Atkins and her husband Matthew are paying about $1,200 a month for a new combination of three drugs, which Taylor Atkins is taking as a third line of treatment for metastatic breast cancer.

Only one of the drugs, called Herceptin, is not being fully covered, although it’s already approved in B.C. and is funded as part of other treatments.

“I’m doing very well under this treatment,” she said. “And I hope to be on it for a long, long time.”

In June, BC Cancer said the new treatment was undergoing cost negotiations with the drug companies, and added it is possible for some patients to end up paying until funding decisions are made.

However, it’s unclear how long that wait may be.

The self-employed couple has reached out to the province multiple times, and has also managed to get compassionate coverage from the manufacturers for the other two drugs involved, but only received 50-per-cent coverage for the Herceptin.

“What we believe in Canada is health care is free,” Taylor Atkins said. “And it’s a bit of a slap in the face when you realize health care is mostly free. It’s not free when you’re part of that very marginal group of patients.”

Matthew Atkins said the couple's MLA has sent some letters on their behalf, and they received a phone call from the premier’s office requesting a personal letter, which Atkins sent. So far, he said, there’s been no response.

“It’s been extremely frustrating,” he said. “Simply because it feels like I’m banging my head against a wall.”

One avenue that was suggested early on to the couple by their oncologist was to set up an online fundraiser, something they were reluctant to do.

“It wasn’t a path we wanted to go down,” Taylor Atkins said. “We felt like talking to the government about how to access a drug that’s already been paid for made more sense.”

Now, friends of the couple have stepped in and started a fundraiser for them. One of the organizers, Lynda McKillip, said they wanted to take away the financial stress so Taylor Atkins could focus on her health.

“It just doesn’t seem right. I wonder, people that don’t have the means, any kind of resources to access these treatments, what happens to them,” she said. “Matt and Kari are very deserving people who just need some arms around them right now.”

The fundraiser also includes a call to action, which encourages people to reach out to their MLA or the province to ask for transitional funding for patients.

“They’ve been fighting a good fight, but that bill keeps rolling in every month,” McKillip said. “We just wanted to support them.”

Taylor Atkins said she’s grateful to everyone who has contributed so far, including total strangers, and her friends who “wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

“It still feels a little bit awkward, and when I say a little bit, I mean quite a lot,” she said. “But it’s an option. It’s an option we can use that will make things easier for us.”

Atkins said they plan to keep pushing for change, in the hopes patients won't have to worry about being able to afford the care they need.

“If we end up with enough money to get us through whatever it is we need to get through, the problem still won’t have gone away,” he said. “It’s a conversation that needs to happen.” Top Stories

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