My name is Kelly Shanahan and I am 57 years old. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic cancer on my 53rd birthday.
Just six days after my diagnosis, I was in surgery for a femoral rodding and within four months of being diagnosed, I developed neuropathy and could no longer practice medicine. My career, the passion I spent nearly a three decades working towards, was over.
Initially I was on Cytoxan, at a price of $10,000 out of pocket –– as my insurance refused to cover it –– for a nine month supply. It was a tough payment to make but we recognized the necessity of it, so we bit the bullet and made the payment. Due to this large and unexpected bill, we had to forgo everyday things like eating out at restaurants –– something that our family really enjoyed doing as it was a guaranteed meal we’d spend at the same table. Additionally, we took fewer vacations as a family, a fairly routine activity for us. We are a small and tight-knit family that loves enjoying new experiences and found that trips would encourage the closeness, but we had to stop taking them due to the high price of my drugs.
After Cytoxan, I was put on Aromasin, the branded version Exemestane (an estrogen modulator steroid), used to treat post-menopausal women with advanced breast cancer. It lowered my estrogen levels and slowed the growth of my cancer, which left me a host of other discomforts. The Aromasin required that I pay $200 for a three-month supply.
The next logical line of therapy for me is Ibrance, a treatment meant to regulate and prevent cells from passing through the rapid cell cycle that is cancer. Since I’m not eligible for any patient assistance programs, I’d have to pay 20% of the $11,000-13,000 per month cost of Ibrance. If in the future I’m prescribed Ibrance, I will have to forgo this treatment as it is far too expensive and it’d leave me in the Medicare donut hole. The potential effect it will have on my daughter and her career in education is enough to sway me from treatment. She’s already losing her mom, there’s no need for her father to not be able to provide for her and face extreme debt after I’m gone.
Anna Eshoo is running for Congress in California, but she has a history of taking money from Big Pharma, the same people who have put my family and I in this devastating position. Politicians can’t properly represent patients like me if they’re in the pocket of drug corporations.
The only thing that I should be thinking about right now is getting better and spending the most quality time with my daughter and husband. I should be spending my last moments with them, not considering the costs of getting better and how my treatment will potentially bankrupt my family.