The Alberta Cancer Foundation is calling on donors to help raise $400,000 for its Patient Financial Assistance Program to support patients with costs like travelling to access treatment.
All donations made between Feb. 4 and 28 during the campaign will be matched by up to $200,000 thanks to an anonymous donor.
In 2023, a total of $1.5 million in donations to the program went to assist 635 families in 135 communities across Alberta, including over $100,000 to support patients at Central Alberta Cancer Centre.
“Once cancer is diagnosed, a patient might require treatment and specialized care for months, if not years,” said foundation CEO Wendy Beauchesne.
“We’re lucky in Alberta to have 17 cancer centres across the province, but the reality is that cancer is not isolated to those communities so many, many Albertans are travelling to receive treatment, including to the Central Alberta Cancer Centre in Red Deer.”
She said patients with aggressive, rare or hard-to-treat cancers may have to be referred to Edmonton or Calgary.
“That might now sound that far, but the travel really adds up. For those patients, we don’t want them choosing between travelling for treatment or paying their bills.”
The Alberta Cancer Foundation financial program offers support to eligible patients to address some of the direct costs of care, such as travel and accommodation for appointments and medications not covered by insurance.
The foundation says the challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis can also go beyond managing medical treatment. Challenges can increase for those with limited income, no health benefits or employee health insurance, or those living in smaller urban or rural communities.
Cancer survivor Michael Kosterman, of Duchess in southern Alberta, said the program was a huge help.
“We got pulled out of a pretty deep hole,” said Kosterman who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in January 2022.
“The beginning was really, really tough. We were behind on the rent and then the Patient Financial Assistance Program helped us out.”
Kosterman said he and his wife had lost their jobs during the pandemic, and had just relocated to Alberta when he was diagnosed. In addition to helping with the rent, the money was needed to contribute to fuel to make the two-and-a-half-hour trip to Calgary’s Foothills Hospital, and food.
Beauchesne said a recent study showed the economic burden for cancer patients in Canada can be as high as $2,500 a month, taking into account income loss and expenses.
She said because the financial program is funded completely by donations, the demand will always exceed the supply. But the budget has grown from $1 million in 2021 with the help of generous donors who want to make life better for people on their cancer journey.
She said fundraising is year-round, and the upcoming campaign is an opportunity to raise money and awareness.
More information about Patient Financial Assistance Program visit albertacancer.ca.