Weighing the cost of surviving cancer

Sunday, November 14, 2010; 8:08 PM

I am living with metastatic colorectal cancer, and I read Rob Stein's article about the cancer drug cost-benefit debate with great interest ["Medicare renews debate on health costs," front page, Nov. 8]. The quote from Tito Fojo of the National Cancer Institute stood out - "To charge $90,000 for four months, which comes out to $270,000 for a year of life, I think that's too expensive . . . . we can't afford it as a society." His comment reminded me of a recent comment I heard at an oncology conference: "Three months - why bother?"

"Expensive" treatments have given me many extra years with my family. I witnessed my older daughters graduate from high school, start college and celebrate events doctors told me I would never see.

Precious minutes have been spent with my newly adopted daughter and the joy of listening to her babble her first words. I've savored time with friends and look forward to rocking-chair days with my husband.

As difficult as chemotherapy can be, I know that continuation of treatment allows for more memories. These "expensive" treatments are lifesaving milestones.

Why bother? Time is precious, life is priceless and every breath is a gift.

Suzanne Lindley, Canton, Tex.

The writer is founder of YES, an organization for individuals living with metastatic liver tumors, and an advocate for the Colorectal Cancer Coalition.


The Nov. 8 news story about whether the government should pay for an expensive new prostate cancer treatment that extends patients' lives, on average, by about four months quoted Skip Lockwood of Zero - the Project to End Prostate Cancer as saying: "If the cost wasn't a consideration, this wouldn't even be under discussion."

Well, of course! Why else did President Obama push for the new health-care law?

As a 63-year-old cancer survivor, would I forgo just four more months of life if it would cost $93,000? Yes, in a heartbeat.

Yet that is a minor amount when we consider the cost of extending life, regardless of age, to an extent that becomes unconscionable.

Let's quit trying to live forever and put those millions of dollars into educating the next generation.

Dee Daly, Washington

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