When Sarah Aspeslet was diagnosed with cancer more than five years ago, she had no idea of the financial burden it was about to take on her. Over the years, she has made trips from Nakusp to Nelson, Trail, Kelowna and Vancouver for surgeries and treatments; most of what she needed was not available any closer to home. Occasionally, there have been government assistance with gas money and sometimes accommodation but meals and other expenses have been out of pocket and for Sarah, who is on a fixed income, that has meant charging major credit cards or not receiving treatment.
“I’m a single mom of two, so it’s been really rough. I am dealing with disconnection notices for bills. I have had trouble paying my rent,” Aspeslet said in an interview.
While many of the surgeries and other cancer treatments have been covered by British Columbia’s Medical Services Palan (MSP), plenty of her medical expenses have not been covered. Associated costs are a reality for many chronically and terminally ill patients.
“I’ve had two surgeries a year for five years. I’ve maxed out credit cards,” she added. “I had a major surgery last year and was incapacitated for three months; I couldn’t sit, lay, stand or find any way to be comfortable except for half-propped up.”
Sarah was born with a rare bone marrow disorder — Fanconi’s anemia, the rarest form of anemia in the world. Essentially her bone marrow loses its ability to produce blood, and most patients either develop leukemia or bone marrow failure by age 40.
Aspeslet, 36, has two children aged eight and fifteen and has recently received the difficult news that nobody is ever prepared to hear: her illness has now become untreatable. She has been given a life expectancy of a year and a half. Diligently fundraising for help with medical supplies and expenses, her priorities have shifted. She tried to raise funds by organizing a sale of her wardrobe and accessories, then with an online fundraiser hosted by Go Fund Me. However, the news has changed everything. Now she wants to live her remaining months for her family.
“A vacation, somewhere out of the country. Something they will never forget,” Aspeslet said through tears. “The bills and rent come first of course but I hope there is potential for a family vacation. If there is anything left over, we’ll take whatever holiday we can get.”
The lymphatic tumor she now has between her femur and her bladder is large, aggressive and inoperable. Because of her other health issues, her immune system cannot handle regular chemotherapy and radiation. She recently returned from ten bouts of targeted radiation via cat scan, however there is little hope of containing the tumor’s growth.
The Saddleback Church was the location for a garage sale to assist Sarah with her finances. Members of the delegation and the general public were asked to donate items for sale and all items were sold by donation.