On a cold and snowy January evening Rob and I, along with two patients and a caregiver from the West Bend Multiple Myeloma support group, were privileged to have the opportunity to meet with Rep. Pat Strachota who represents our district, to discuss the importance of the Oral Drug Parity bill being introduced in Wisconsin this year. Rob and I became charter members of the WCCTA (WI Coalition for Cancer Treatment Access) because we believe it is important for the patient population to be represented in Wisconsin, and that patients and caregivers really CAN make a difference if we let our voices be heard.
We were pleased that some of the coalition members were able to meet with Rep. Strachota beforehand to lay the groundwork and educate her on this important chemotherapy legislation. We presented an overview of multiple myeloma, its treatments, and side effects, and each patient shared his/her personal journey since being diagnosed with cancer. Rob and I founded the West Bend myeloma support group in 2008 because we firmly believe there is strength in numbers. We shared with Rep. Strachota the mission of the group and its role in the community, which is to “empower patients through education and networking and provide a safe, supportive environment of hope and encouragement, enabling myeloma survivors to live better, stronger lives.”
Our main discussion point with Rep. Strachota was that cancer patients need access to ALL treatments regardless of how they’re administered, and that even if the issue of coverage for oral treatments isn’t one’s concern today, it could well be in the future, as the percentage of oral chemotherapy drugs in the pipeline continues to grow. We also emphasized the “Quality of Life” factor and the convenience of taking an oral pill rather than going to the clinic for IV treatments and missing work time for those who are still employed. Rob shared how he has maintained an excellent quality of life by taking a daily oral chemo pill, enhancing our goal to live life to the fullest.
Another talking point was that it is imperative that patients and their physicians have the ability to make treatment decisions together, and to be able to choose the most effective treatment available based on what works best for the patient, and not solely on the cost. An inequity in coverage should not play a factor in those treatment decisions, and we are pleased that the pending legislation strongly supports the doctor/patient relationship.
We firmly believe that all treatments for various types of cancers should be available to every cancer patient. Nobody should ever have to max out their credit cards, or lose their home just to afford cancer treatment. Sadly, that is a reality for many cancer patients. They have enough on their plate just trying to regain their health without the added burden of figuring out how to pay for life-saving treatment and going deeply into debt in the process.
On March 2nd we will travel to Madison to participate in “A Day at the Capitol,” to meet with WCCTA coalition members and other concerned citizens and discuss the oral chemotherapy bill. We will spend the morning being briefed on the legislative process, and spend the afternoon at the Capitol meeting with our legislators. We are excited to have the opportunity to do what we can to help pave the way for this important cancer legislation to become law. Nine other states have already passed similar legislation and our hope is that Wisconsin will soon join in making this nation a secure place for cancer patients.
Some people have said we seem to be so civic-minded, but in reality, we are simply two concerned citizens trying to make a difference, and we believe that to bring about change we must make our voices heard. It is our privilege to help others and we look forward to a brighter future for all cancer patients.
Congratulations and THANK YOU to Sue and Rob Enright for being this month’s Advocates of the Month!
If you live in the Wisconsin area, please register today for “A Day at the Capitol.”
If you are not yet an IMF advocate, please sign up here.