The cost of life

An Auckland woman has considered selling her house to try and pay for the breast cancer medicine, Kadcyla, that will keep her alive. The same breast cancer medicine would be available free through the public health system if she lived in Australia. 

“We have looked into selling and moving to the outer suburbs but it’s still very expensive. My husband is still working so we can’t leave Auckland,” says Jyoti (Jo) Bhagat. 

Jo was first diagnosed with inflammatory, ER+ and HER2+ breast cancer in 2008. Since that time, the cancer has returned four times very aggressively and Jo has been treated with many rounds of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and a range of drugs including Herceptin. She is currently taking a drug called Capecitibine while she struggles to raise the $120k needed to receive the breast cancer medicine. 

Kadcyla is a new cancer drug that targets a powerful chemotherapy agent to HER2+ cancer cells, with minimal side effects. Research has shown it to be effective as a ‘second line’ treatment for patients with metastatic HER2+ breast cancer whose breast cancer has advanced after treatment with Herceptin and a taxane. The trial revealed that 64.7% of patients taking Kadcyla were alive at two years compared with 51.8% of patients who did not receive Kadcyla. In New Zealand, some of the patients on the Marianne study taking Kadcyla have been on treatment for 3.5 years and are still responding well. 

The drug was registered for use in New Zealand in October 2013 however only those who can afford it can access it through the private system. Earlier this year it was approved in Australia and it has been available to patients through the public health system there since July this year. 

In a desperate bid to extend her life, Jo has explored many avenues to raise the money including family, friends, her son’s work colleagues, and setting up a ‘Give a Little’ page. “But we’ve run out of contacts now,” says Jo. She’s even contacted the drug companies and Pharmac to find out more information. However, Jo is determined to keep trying. “I’ll fight it (breast cancer) – if there’s sunlight at the end of the tunnel I will wait and I will get it.” 

So far, Jo and her family have raised $70k but needs another $50k to be able to begin the treatment. “I have a lot to be grateful for – I have a wonderful husband and son and through their support I have never felt alone.” 

But, Jyoti does have a couple of wishes she would love to see fulfilled – “I want to see who my son will spend his life with and I want to be a Nana.” 

If you would like to donate to Jyoti’s cause please visit: (copy and paste link into browser or google 'help save jo')

13 August 2015



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