The Liberal Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell has continued her campaign in State Parliament for the establishment of radiotherapy services at Goulburn Valley Health, this time conveying the story of Kyabram woman Leanne Beck.
In an adjournment debate to the Minister for Health, Ms Lovell said Leanne’s cancer journey was further proof that patients all over the Goulburn Valley requiring radiotherapy deserve better than the emotional and financial burden associated with having to travel for treatment.
“Leanne’s story is sadly typical of all patients throughout the Goulburn Valley that need radiotherapy treatment; the hardship and emotional toll of long travel and extreme financial impost,” Ms Lovell said.
“Being forced to travel every day from Kyabram to Epping in Melbourne for seven weeks to obtain life-saving radiotherapy treatment had a dramatic impact on the lives of Leanne and her family and friends.”
Ms Lovell said that Leanne attempted to arrange treatment in Bendigo but the large amount of patients at the Bendigo facility meant that Leanne was facing a wait for treatment that her illness would not allow her to afford.
“Because of the long waiting list for treatment at Bendigo, Leanne need for immediate treatment forced her to travel the over four hours round trip from Monday to Friday every day for seven weeks in order to receive the radiotherapy she needed,” Ms Lovell said.
“I would like to thank Leanne for sharing her story in the hope the Health Minister will realise the need for these services to be available locally for all Goulburn Valley patients.”
Leanne Beck is a 53 year old mother of three adult children who has lived in the beautiful town of Kyabram all her life. Her husband is a self-employed painter in a business that Leanne calls a “one-man show”, while Leanne works part-time.
In 2002 at the age of 37 Leanne was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a partial mastectomy in Melbourne to remove the tumour and completed a course of chemotherapy at the Peter Copulos Wellness Centre at GV Health in Shepparton. In 2013 at the age of 48 Leanne was again diagnosed with breast cancer, this second bout not connected to the first cancer eleven years earlier. On this occasion Leanne underwent a lumpectomy in Melbourne to remove the tumour and her specialist recommended an intensive course of radiotherapy to save her life.
Knowing that there were no radiotherapy services close to her, Leanne was desperate to be treated in Bendigo, which was at least 45 minutes closer to home. Unfortunately because of the amount of patients attending for treatment in Bendigo, there was a substantial waiting time, time that Leanne’s oncologist made clear she didn’t have considering this being her second bout of cancer. Due to the urgency of her requiring treatment, Leanne was forced to attend a private radiotherapy clinic in Epping. Although she had private health insurance, her insurer refused to pay because she was attending a clinic and not a hospital. So Leanne and her husband were forced to pay a total cost of over $20,000 for her to receive the treatment she needed, this figure only partially covered by Medicare.
For seven consecutive weeks, from Monday through to Friday, Leanne travelled every day the over four hour round trip to receive the ten minute treatment that was going to save her life. The first three days were very tough but she really had no option and quickly got into a routine of travelling up and down the highway every single day. The travel meant that Leanne had to give up work and her husband couldn’t take her as his business was the family’s only source of income and was funding the treatment.
Leanne says she was lucky to have the support of her family and friends to travel with her but made the point that the work places and lives of all of these people were also disrupted because of her need to travel for radiotherapy. When getting her treatment, Leanne used to see Melbourne patients popping in for treatment during their lunch-break and noted the importance of radiotherapy services at GV Health to allow local patients to have some normality in their lives.