Health

Quebec woman with rare cancer receives treatment out of province after research fund covers costs | CBC News

Stéphanie Alain screamed with joy on Wednesday afternoon after receiving a call from her doctor.

He told her she was going to Calgary and Quebec Health Research Fund — a government-funded nonprofit — has agreed to cover up to $100,000 so she can participate in an experimental treatment she hopes will save her life.

“My family cried with me,” Alain said. “We are all very relieved and also happy.”

Alain has been waiting for this opportunity for months The Quebec Health Insurance Administration (RAMQ) refused to pay part of the costs associated with the treatment.

The doctors conducting the Health-Canada-approved study said their funding would cover all treatment costs, but not standard procedures like scans and blood tests and potential side effects associated with the experimental study.

Alain is not allowed to pay for this type of care out of pocket, but the Calgary facility cannot cover the cost because it is not based in Alberta. RAMQ said it couldn’t pay for any part of anything “experimental.”

Feeling they had no choice, Alain and her doctor went public with the story.

The treatment is the only hope of recovery for the 31-year-old, who was diagnosed last year with alveolar soft-tissue sarcoma – a rare cancer that has since spread to her lungs.

Relieved that the wait is finally over, Alain, mother of four, gets ready to pack her bags.

“It’s going to take a lot of organization, but we’re going to get on with everyday life because the world moves on,” said Alain.

“I have a little boy who starts school in the next few weeks, so we will be able to use the presence here to integrate him into the school.”

“You can’t have a better ending,” says the oncologist

Your oncologist, Dr. Ramy Saleh, the medical director of oncology research at McGill University Health Center (MUHC), says the research fund was able to contribute because he is a researcher in the Calgary study.

He says the team is working overtime to ensure Alain’s tests and blood work are complete before she begins her treatment plan.

“Time was against Stéphanie because if we wait a long time and her respiratory status or functional status deteriorates, she is definitely excluded from the clinical trial,” Saleh said.

“We are very fortunate and blessed. I would say that we found a way to get her involved in the study very quickly and over the short period of time her functional status is still good enough for her to participate.”

A woman smiles and takes a selfie in a hospital room.
Stéphanie Alain’s cancer has spread to her lungs. Her oncologist says this treatment is her only option. (Submitted by Stéphanie Alain)

Saleh says the support Alain has been offered over the past few weeks is encouraging because people have connected to her story.

“It’s a very nice ending. You can’t have a better ending. The patient has had access to the treatment she deserves,” Saleh said.

Come next month, Alain could be in Calgary. She says she will be renting accommodation for a few weeks at a time to receive treatment before returning to her family home in Rouyn-Noranda, Que.

“I’ve found new hope,” Alain said. She appreciates everyone who helped advance her case.

“Thank you to the people who supported me, who were there and did everything they could to help me through it… It was really an important part of my journey.”

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