Cost of treating cancer goes beyond meds

Katrina Sherwood, 16, is fighting a rare cancer on the top of her spine called a peripheral neuro-ectodermal tumor.

"It was crushing my spinal cord against the bone on the other other side. So I was losing feeling in my arms and legs and stuff," said Katrina.

It's such an unusual case, she can't get treatment in her small town near Barstow. Her round-the-clock care plus finding living arrangements near Children's Hospital L.A. is really costing her family.

"Being up here that we have bills for the Ronald McDonald House. And then there's bills going on at home. And there's just not enough money now that they're not working," said Katrina.

The medication is even affecting her voice, but when her hair fell out after chemo, Katrina was devastated. Her parents could not afford a wig.

"Having your appearance change dramatically by chemotherapy can really add that intense burden on a teen," said Susan Gantan, Children's Hospital.

Cancer care coordinator Susan Gantan deals with the needs of patients like Katrina every day.

"Not a lot of people in just the general world will understand what is going to happen and how their lives are going to change when their child gets a cancer diagnosis," said Gantan.

The American Cancer Society provided a wig for Katrina through their, Look Good, Feel Better Program.

"It made me feel really happy and I started smiling again, and my Dad was saying how he hadn't seen me smile in a long time," said Katrina.

"It's actually bringing her spirit back up. Her personality is coming back. She's being more of a teenager, so, I'm very grateful," said Cheryl, Katrina's mom.

Katrina and her family still struggle with day to day costs like transportation, food and supplemental care.

When she's finished with her treatments, Katrina and her mom want to give back.

"Just knowing that I had people out there to help me made it a lot easier, and took the stress out of it," said Katrina.

Katrina's story is one example of the hundreds of pediatric cancer cases that are being handled at Children's Hospital every year. Each child will have many needs to fill for years to come.

The American Cancer Society says many of its programs are in jeopardy because of the lack of donations during these hard economic times.



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