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Fighting cancer also a financial burden

By Sean Macey

Sandra Roebuck got a present no one wants to get for her 50th birthday: cancer.

That was eight years ago, and she had no idea the burden it would put on her and her family financially. Roebuck expected to face the physical and mental anguish such a disease would come with, but she overlooked the financial strain.

Roebuck was diagnosed with breast cancer and was forced to stop working. When she applied for employment insurance she was told she could only get it for 17 weeks, and it wouldn’t come right away.

“I had to wait six weeks, and make a nasty phone call to get my unemployment because our money was running out,” she said.

Not only was she forced to fight for her employment insurance, she was also turned down for short-term disability. Roebuck was told her husband made too much money. She disagreed, saying any family that loses an income will feel the pinch.

While fighting cancer and going to multiple chemotherapy appointments, Roebuck also had to fight for an income. She went to Daryl Kramp, MP of Hastings-Prince Edward County, to plead her case.

“I looked at him and I said, ‘Daryl, you are fortunate, very fortunate that your daughter is going to be able to stay home with your first grandchild for a year and be happy. A year from now, I don’t know if I’m even going to be alive,’” she said.

Roebuck isn’t the only person going through this. A report released by the Manitoba Cancer Society last week said nine out of 10 Canadians with cancer feel the financial pinch of the disease.

Heather Gray from the Canadian Cancer Society in Belleville hasn’t read the report, but said she’s aware of the financial hardships Canadians face because of illness. Gray also approached Kramp to implement a catastrophic drug plan to assist with medical costs in the last year.

Roebuck continues to remain optimistic, as she did through her treatments. She was amazed by the support emotionally and financially she received from neighbours, friends and family. It’s something that brought her family even closer together.

“I’ve got two phone calls, two of my three children have already phoned me because they know this is my day off,” Roebuck said. “The love and the support is amazing.”

Roebuck sits in her quaint Wellington home surrounded by photos of her family. She also collects trinkets and donates when she can to cancer research, anything to do her part.

Just last week she was given a much better gift than eight years ago: a grandchild. It’s something she would have never expected to see when she was diagnosed.

She said there needs to be more consistency because all types of people are diagnosed with cancer and they should all have the help available when they need it.

Roebuck was fortunate to have friends along the way that helped her out when they could.

“Somehow it just seemed like before a chemo treatment you’d get a well-wishing card or a, ‘Hope you’re feeling better card,’ and bingo, there would be 20, 30 dollars in it,” she said.

The cancer society offers programs to help those in need, but Roebuck doesn’t think it’s enough. There are ride programs to get to and from treatments so patients don’t have to worry about gas costs. But she said there isn’t much help beyond that for the middle class.