A Vancouver Island cancer patient who gave up on the provincial healthcare system in favour of life-saving treatment in Washington State, will get to spend Christmas with her family and ring in the New Year.
Campbell River’s Kristin Logan suspects that would not have happened if she had stuck with British Columbia’s backed-up system.
“I’m coming out (of rounds of treatment) and surgery just in time for the holidays,” Logan said from the University of Washington Medical Centre in Seattle. “My husband and my daughter will be down here as well. My brother and my niece will be here. So, we’ll have a big, kind of, family Christmas.”
In the middle of her ongoing struggle for cancer treatment, Logan is urging British Columbians to speak out for change and demand better of what she considers the province’s poorly-managed system.
Logan sought treatment for her stage-4 ovarian cancer which was diagnosed back in September. This after six months of reporting symptoms to her doctor. Chemotherapy was ordered, and she was informed there would be a three-to-four-month wait for surgery and six weeks before chemotherapy could start. Then, a few weeks after the diagnosis, she was informed that there was no record of the referral.
Because of the delays and because Logan is a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen and a veteran, she decided to go to Washington where her parents live and secure medical treatment there under her veteran benefits.
Logan would have been happy to get treatment in B.C., where she wouldn’t have had to endure the emotional impact of getting treatment out of the province and enduring it alone.
“It would have certainly been helpful to be at home,” Logan said. “When you’re going through cancer, you know, there’s the emotional impact of that and, I mean, there were moments through this process – I came down here because I was very far advanced – that I was not sure I was going to live and to continue to go through that and have that scare without my husband and daughter by my side was brutal.”
Logan has managed to garner public and media attention for her situation and will continue to do so because she knows she’s not the only one endangered by what she calls systemic problems.
“I think it’s time for us to really make our voices heard in every way we can to get these problems resolved. Quickly,” she said. “It is mismanagement, it’s bureaucracy, it’s too many layers of red tape and not enough looking at what’s going to be efficient and effective in terms of how we’re managing and spending on our health care.”
Her case came to the attention of B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix.
“The healthcare system doesn’t always get it right, and that’s why we have this set up and people can, as well, raise these issues — and this has been done in this case publicly,” he told Global News.
His answer infuriated Logan.
“To suggest that the system merely ‘doesn’t always get it right’ is a gross understatement, bordering on denial. Our healthcare system isn’t tripping over minor hurdles; it’s plummeting off a cliff. We’re not dealing with ‘occasional misses’; we’re grappling with a chronically diseased system where inefficiency and neglect have become the norm.
Just 75 per cent of cancer patients are receiving radiation therapy within the Canadian benchmark of 28 days, according to B.C. Cancer Agency data, a drop from 77 per cent in May. The national average is 97 per cent.
Logan’s case has connected her to others in similar situations. She also drew attention to the case of Dan Quayle, a Victoria man with a Campbell River stepdaughter. Quayle chose medical assistance in dying (MAiD) because he didn’t receive chemotherapy and treatment in time.
“The stepfather, was just, he couldn’t wait anymore. He ended up electing MAiD because he was suffering for so long.
It has also caught the attention of the provincial opposition. BC United’s Shirley Bond, shadow minister for health care, has been critical of current developments, including B.C. contracting two clinics in the United States for British Columbians to receive radiation treatment.
“The crisis is so dire that we are sending patients to other countries for treatment — and even then, some patients are choosing to fund their own care in the U.S. because they cannot get through BC Cancer fast enough, ” Bond said.
Meanwhile, Logan’s treatment at the University of Washington has been encouraging. Chemotherapy is having a big impact on her tumour markers, dropping to levels that have everyone encouraged. She has more treatments to come and will be going in for surgery in two weeks.
Logan and her husband Donovan James are both self-employed business owners. Besides the medical challenge Logan faces, the family’s economic stability and security is in jeopardy because they have lost her income.
“Getting the cancer and having to come down to the States has been extraordinarily financially disruptive,” she said. “It’s been an enormous financial strain.
“Our daughter’s in university now. The three of us are completely separated. She’s in Nanaimo, he’s in Campbell River, I’m down here. We’ve seen each other very little. So, you know, emotionally and financially. It’s been a huge strain.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help with the ongoing medical expenses not covered by benefits. If you want to help, search for “Support Kristin’s Aggressive Stage 4 Cancer Fight.”
– with a file from Wolf Depner