I am in remission from cancer of the immune system. I am one of the lucky ones who has taken the six chemotherapy treatments and am now cancer free. The U.S. Veteran’s Administration takes a lot of flak over problems within this vast bureaucracy. Upon diagnosis of this very aggressive Mantle C Lymphoma, I applied to the VA for help with payment for my cancer care. The Veteran’s Choice rep assigned to my case went to bat for me and was successful in getting their high-powered committee to approve payment for all of my cancer care.

Without exaggerating, this saved my life — as each chemo treatment costs about $30,000. With six treatments, doctor’s bills, scan costs and hospital bills, the total is well over $200,000.

In addition to this, my oncologist, Dr. Quackenbush, from the cancer center at Providence Hospital in Walla Walla, said my type of cancer nearly always comes back. He has recently placed me on what he calls a “maintenance chemo program” for the next two years. Once again, the VA came to my rescue and approved payment for this extended care. So I think it is only fair to publicly thank the Veterans Administration for saving my life, because there is no way in the world I would have ever been able to pay this bill on my own (even with the help of Medicare).

In 2016 there were 1,685,210 new cases of cancer in the U.S. Of those, 595,690 died. About 40 percent of both men and women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Estimates say about $895 billion is spent on cancer care and research every year now. There are about 200 different types of cancer that can be found in literally ever part of the body. A person doesn’t have to do anything wrong to get it either. My oncologist told me my cancer was probably “just plain bad luck.”

I am sure much of the many criticisms of the VA are well deserved, but before you jump on that bandwagon, remember my case. They saved my life — along with a lot of prayer, family support and good doctors.

David Burns


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