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Patient Story – Ray and Michele

Patient Story – Ray and Michele


 A New Lease on Life

At CKHA, there are countless stories of dedicated staff, physicians and volunteers going above and beyond expectations for patients and families. For Ray and his daughter Michele, it was no exception when a collaborative interprofessional team went the extra mile in delivering compassionate high quality care.

In May 2015, Ray was diagnosed with aggressive bladder cancer and underwent surgery to remove the tumours that were found in his bladder lining. Shortly after, he began a round of BCG treatments – an effective treatment used for some non-invasive bladder cancers, administered once a week for six weeks in order to prevent recurrence or progression. Unfortunately this past summer, Ray received the devastating news that he had a bladder cancer recurrence.

Dr. Ramirez, Urologist, Bluewater Health and CKHA, advised Ray of a treatment option that would help him preserve his bladder. It was recommended he undergo another round of BCG treatments plus Interferon to be administered at the same time for six weeks of treatments. Interferon is a drug that boosts the immune system and is distributed by Merck, a global pharmaceutical company that delivers innovative health solutions through its prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and animal health products. Interferon is not covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). 

The news that a significant financial investment was needed to cover the cost of Interferon was a hard fact to accept for Ray and Michele. “Finding out your Dad’s cancer has come back is one thing; finding out there is no coverage for the possible cure is another,” said Michele. Feeling unsure of where to turn, Michele contacted Nancy Snobelen, Director of Partnerships and System Integration, to guide her on options that could make this treatment a reality. It was suggested they apply to Merck Cares – a program that provides Merck products at no cost to patients who financially qualify. “Nancy was extremely helpful and I’m very appreciative of the calls she did on my behalf,” Michele continued, “within a day she had the detailed information, contacts and the forms needed to apply to the Merck program.” 

Dr. Ramirez and his Administrative Assistant, Sherry Cerutti, were also a tremendous assistance and processed the required forms quickly so Ray could begin his treatments as soon as possible. Stephanie Rumble, a RN from Ambulatory Care, was specially trained by Dr. Ramirez to administer the Interferon, allowing Ray to receive his treatments close to home at CKHA. “It was helpful to not have to drive to Sarnia and Stephanie has been very kind to my Dad,” said Michele.

The assistance from Merck Cares has provided relief to Ray and his family, allowing them to focus on the more important aspects of his well-being. “Being eligible for the program took a lot of stress away from my family, especially my Dad who felt he was being a financial burden. Our focus is now on him getting well, not ‘how are we going to pay for all of this?’” said Michele.

Michele described the communication from the interprofessional team as making a big difference in her Dad’s healthcare journey. “From the detailed information from Nancy, to the one-on-one video conference with Dr. Ramirez who explained in detail my Dad’s diagnosis and recommended treatment options – it all really made a difference.”

Ray completed his final treatment at CKHA on November 22, 2016 and will receive a cystoscopic evaluation within three months to evaluate if further treatments are necessary. Michele said her Dad has been positive throughout this new treatment. “He really has a great attitude right now and I think he has a new lease on life!” 

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