Falling through the cracks

By Liz BERNIER, Special to The Observer

Jim Somes has terminal lung cancer.

He’s had surgery after surgery — parts of both lungs removed, his adrenal gland and four lymph nodes taken out.

He had a bowel resection after doctors discovered colon cancer.

He’s also had 32 chemotherapy treatments, none of which worked.

In and out of hospitals non-stop for the past three years, Somes’ had to pay the price in more than just pain and suffering.

Canada is famous for its universal healthcare, but the system is not without its gaps. And for Somes and Dawn, his wife of almost 35 years, the gaps in the system have left gaping holes in their finances.

They can’t afford many of the costs associated with Jim’s treatment, Dawn said, including constant travel expenses and drugs for which they don’t receive coverage.

Jim, 54, was denied long-term disability and WSIB. The Cancer Society offers help from volunteers, but not financial assistance.

They have exhausted all of their savings and Jim’s pension. The only thing he qualifies for is CPP disability and, Dawn said, it’s not enough.

“We’ve fallen through the cracks,” she said. “We make too much to qualify for Ontario Works, (but) we don’t make enough to make ends meet.”

Taking care of Jim is a full-time job for Dawn, who said he turned down experimental treatment because he wants to enjoy the time he has left with his three children and seven grandchildren.

“He wants quality of life, and that’s here with his family,” she said.

But staying at home with his family means more travel costs and further strain on the couple’s already-stretched income.

Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey said he’s seen cases like Jim’s before.

“I think with the aging population resources are always tight and if you don’t have someone advocating for you, you (can) slip though the cracks,” he said.

“In a number of cases we’ve been able to assist,” he said, noting issues are always evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Dawn said she’d like to see include more financial support for people who don’t qualify for most existing resources.

“There’s more people like us out there,” she said. “They’re losing their homes, they’re losing everything because they can’t afford (it).”

“I’ve been with the people in the chemo (ward), and (they have) enough to deal with,” she said. “(They’re) struggling for a life.”

Liz Bernier is volunteering at The Observer. She will graduate this spring from the post graduate journalism program at the University of Western Ontario.

Article ID# 3415747

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