Eye-watering cost to save Aussie mum’s life
IMAGINE watching five of your closest family members die from a disease which you know you will almost certainly get one day.
Then imagine you discover there is a way you could stop yourself from getting this disease, but there's a catch - you must wait years for the surgery or be tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.
This is what Kelly James, a mother-of three from Toowoomba in Queensland, has been through as she desperately tries to raise cash for a double mastectomy to prevent her from dying a horrific death from breast cancer.
The 39-year-old special education teacher found out she carries the mutated BRCA 2 gene, which gives her an 80 per cent chance of breast cancer in her lifetime.
She decided she would undergo the preventive cancer care in the form of a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, but because she doesn't yet have cancer, it is considered elective and therefore not fully covered.
Now, her mate Kath Brassington has started a petition to raise the $45,000 which Mrs James needs to stay alive.
"This important surgery will decrease her chance of getting breast to around one per cent," Brassington wrote on the petition.
Kelly's story began two years ago when her mother, Linda, then 58, got breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy.
There is a strong maternal history of death from breast cancer in Kelly's family - her grandmother was diagnosed at 52, her great grandmother in her early 50s, her aunt aged 33, and two cousins in their late 30s.
"Still caring for her mother, who now has lung disease due to the effects of chemotherapy and has almost died twice from pneumonia, Kelly has three children aged 7, 6 and 4, so not doing the surgery is not an option," Ms Brassington said.
"She has looked into the public system to have this procedure done, but unfortunately the waiting period is up to two years, time Kelly has been advised not to spend waiting."
Mrs James will have a 12-hour operation, which includes a breast reconstruction using tissue from her stomach, at Brisbane's Wesley Hospital on May 12.
Despite having basic hospital cover with Medibank, the surgery cost her $37000.
"Like many Australians, finding a spare $37000 is out of the question," said Ms Brassington. "Kelly does have some superannuation, which hopefully she can access, however, if they approve the early withdrawal to pay for surgery, she will be taxed at 22 per cent on the amount being borrowed, which means her super fund will be drained by $45000.
"Kelly has a loving and supportive husband, but like many women, she takes on a lot of responsibility, not only for her own family but for others through her special education teaching. It breaks my heart to see this beautiful family thrown so many curve balls."
Danielle Spence, from Breast Cancer Network Australia, told the Courier Mail the underfunding of preventive surgery is a cruel blow to women trying to do the right thing.
"Kelly has a triple whammy, she can't get swift access through the public system, the public purse doesn't cover the cost of her surgery privately, and she is being taxed on taking steps to save her life," Ms Spence said.
"Kelly is not having surgery for cosmetic reasons. She's being a responsible mum, caring for herself, trying to get back to work and reducing her long-term cost on the health care system."