One woman named Paulette Leaphart has recently made a more than 1,000 mile journey to Washington D.C. to advocate for a breast cancer cure, according to the Washington Post. Leaphart has undergone a double mastectomy and her doctors advised her not to undergo reconstruction surgery. Feeling like she was deformed after her mastectomy, Leaphart realized she needed to move forward with calling on our country’s leaders to pursue a cure for breast cancer.
However, in my view, the most heartbreaking challenge that Leaphart has faced is her eviction from her home. The costs of her medications to treat her breast cancer and keep her in remission was a whopping $2,500 to $5,000 per month. In her state, Leapheart did not qualify for any programs to cover these costs. Since she had a hard time affording her medication, she literally had to choose whether to pay her rent or her healthcare costs. She had to choose to have a home or to avoid death. This is an unbelievably heartbreaking fact of residing in the United States.
Finding a cure for breast cancer and every other cancer plaguing this world would be a dream come true. However, as many scientists know, cures are not a simple thing that can happen overnight. We do not yet have a pill that would eliminate every type of cancer out there and this type of cure may not be possible.
The idea is that cancer is not just one disease. Cancer is a million different types of conditions. For instance, brain cancer and leukemia are two completely different diseases with different chemical structures and genetic properties. Pancreatic cancer and lung cancer or breast cancer are different as well since pancreatic cancer has more barriers that chemotherapy drugs must pass through and has lower survival rates.
Even in breast cancer, early stages versus inflammatory breast cancer have very different symptoms, survival rates, and chemical composition. As such, it is truly impossible to create only one cure for cancer. It may take decades or even centuries to put an end to all cancers, if it’s even a real possibility. In the meantime, we must make it bearable for men, women, children, and families around this country to undergo cancer treatment and ensure they don’t lose their homes in the process!
We must invest in better systems to ensure American families can afford their medical bills. We must work to target the pharmaceutical industry and put caps on the costs of prescription drugs. Both federal and state governments need to work to expand programs such as Medicaid that would ensure a single mother or single father raising multiple children on a middle-class income is able to afford rent while undergoing cancer treatment.
While the Affordable Care Act has given states the option to expand their Medicaid programs, there are still nearly 20 states that have refused to do so, which has left many low-income individuals without healthcare coverage.
Whether we need universal health coverage like many European countries with taxes covering medical care or merely an expansion of the Affordable Care Act remains to be seen. However, we do know that we cannot have families living out on the street because they couldn’t afford both their rent and their cancer treatment! We need change in the cancer community. We need to hold our government accountable for ensuring its citizens do not go bankrupt due to a disease they never asked for.