Maple Ridge woman calls for B.C. to cover fertility preservation for cancer patients

A woman from Maple Ridge, B.C. who spent thousands of dollars to preserve her eggs before starting chemo tells Monika Gul she wants the government to cover fertility preservation for other cancer patients.

A Maple Ridge woman who spent thousands to preserve her eggs before chemo is calling on the B.C. government to cover fertility preservation for cancer patients.

Just days before Christmas, Emma Bennett found out she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma and needed chemotherapy.

“I was just so upset, and I don’t think I had really fully understood what was going on,” Bennett said. “It was very difficult, very emotional. All of our family lives back in the UK, so having to tell all our family and friends around such a time that should be so happy and celebrated- I almost felt I had put a downer on people.”

But a cancer diagnosis wasn’t the only surprise for the 23-year-old Maple Ridge woman. Chemo can impact a person’s ability to have children and Bennet says she quickly discovered egg retrieval cost $4,400 which wasn’t covered by the province’s Medical Service Plan (MSP).

“I was just extremely shocked and very, very taken aback that our government can’t support people who are going through this. Especially someone who didn’t have a choice.”

While Bennett was able to pay for the cost with the help of her parents, she is now calling on the B.C. government to cover fertility preservation for cancer patients.

“If I didn’t have my parents, I wouldn’t have been able to go through that. So having that support made me think that I could get my eggs retrieved and that was paid for. But those people who are put there who can’t afford to do that.”

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A reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Al Yuzpe, says he would also like to see B.C. step up.

“The government has never been overly generous in one, funding in vitro fertilization (IVF) in general for infertile patients, they have not been generous in funding special techniques that we can diagnose and eliminate certain genetic diseases, and they certainly haven’t been forthcoming with funds to cover women who want to do fertility preservation because they have a cancer diagnosis.”

He adds that there is a foundation based in Ottawa that helps fund IVF for cancer patients.

“When a woman receives the diagnosis of having cancer, that’s devastating. The last thing in the world for most of these women is to think about their future fertility. They want to get better. And so, they’re consumed with it, with the concept of their medical treatment. The oncologists, the medical specialists that treat cancer, are also consumed with helping this patient get better. And they often forget to talk about future fertility,” Yuzpe said.

B.C.’s Health Minister Adrian Dix was asked by CityNews about Bennet’s situation.

“Those decisions are guided by health professionals, the decisions we make, including with respect to what’s covered by the medical services plan,” Dix said. “If people have concerns to bring forward, I’d be happy to take a look at it.”

In the meantime, Bennet says she’s hosting a fundraiser in May. The money raised will go towards covering egg retrieval for other cancer patients. She says she has three chemo sessions left and recently found out it’s working, her tumor is now half its original size.

“It’s been a battle. Every day’s a new day and waking up and not knowing what I’m going to get,” Bennet said. “I definitely think with all of this going on, I can treasure life a lot more than I used to.”


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