The cost of buying more time

Posted on May 13th, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

I am staggered and humbled by what resources go in to keeping a person alive in the western world. I have certainly used up an extensive share of time, money and resources in the global picture, let alone within my country.

Biological/Personal Cost.
In order for me to get through these last few weeks in hospital, I was given 4 bags of blood and 4 bags of platelets. I guess up to 8 people gave there time and blood products so that I could get back on my feet. Without these people generously giving their own blood products, I would certainly be dead. I felt even more grateful for the platelets as they told me just before they gave me the fourth bag that it took a while to get this one on the drip because there is a national shortage.

Resource Cost
I cannot remember all the machines I have been scanned by or hooked up to over the last year, but they all are important in treating or tracking this cancer. Without them, a lot of my diagnoses and monitoring would be near impossible. I can easily measure my scan films in kilograms now rather than sheets.

Professional Time
A lot of people have studied long and hard to be able to treat people like me. This blows me away. This was made especially apparent during this recent hospital stay as I had about six doctors working on getting me better. Of course I wasn’t their only patient, but they all had a good knowledge of where I was at and did everything they could to make sure I kept living. These folk, along with the nurses, are golden. The time that these people have spent studying is one thing, but then the ongoing toll it takes on their families for callouts, or working back late, or those consultative phone calls at 1am is another.

Financial Cost
In the last 4 weeks, the cost of my treatment has been astronomical. We conservatively estimate the high-dose and stem cell transplant procedure to cost around $150 000 (the allogeneic transplant from matched donor costs $250 000). There is a charge of roughly $500 per night for a bed in hospital, and I was there for the best part of two weeks. One course of drugs that I needed (the injections) cost $2400, and I have had some tablets that cost $30 each. I will be having a PET scan next week. This alone costs over $2000.

So basically, the money, time and resources that go into medically giving me as many years as possible, they are all just buying me more time. I have been thinking about this because it does a little to make me remember not to take it all for granted. Thankfully, we are fortunate enough to not pay any significant part of this due to the health care system in this country, but by not having to foot the bill, it becomes too easy to forget about what actually goes into extending a life in the western world. I have to say it makes me pretty uncomfortable also.

Sure I want to live as long as possible, but can you imagine how far this kind of money and these resources would go in a place like Burma, or Halls Creek, to extend and save lives? What criteria did I meet to inherit these lavish gifts that will essentially give me, statistically, another five years? I would suggest the significant criteria would include the freak chance of being born in a place that has the resources to treat someone in my situation. There are so many places I could have been born into where there is no option of receiving bloods, $2400 worth of injections, admission to an emergency department, $30 tablets – the list goes on.

I don’t know how much an extra year of life is worth for an Anglo Saxon educated professional with a mortgage and a goldfish. I know if it concerned my child or my wife, there would be no limit to what I would spend. But how can I justify the cost of extending my life when these kinds of resources could be keeping thousands more alive in countries less fortunate? It is the answer, or my lack of ability to articulate one, that makes me uncomfortable.



Comment on May 13th, 2008.

Is it worth it?!

You will be amazed at how your testimony has impacted on other lives.

There are many people out here who thank God for you!

I pray that your testimony continues, and that what we have seen of it so far is just the tip of the iceburg!


Comment on May 13th, 2008.

Your contribution to the world may not be counted in terms of finances. No need to pay back in kind, but somehow your living will be worth the cost.

Your appreciation is so valuable because so many feel it’s owed them, because life’s not fair. How many take it for granted? Even when Jesus healed the 10 lepers, only one of them stopped to be grateful and ‘deserve’ his blessing – the others were healed regardless.

There will always be the temporary strong to help the temporary weak.


Comment on May 14th, 2008.

Hi Cam, I can relate to what you are saying about ‘why’, this is an ongoing issue with me having seen a lot of poverty/need/and lack of medical care when we lived in China. Even last night watching a program on orphans in Bulgaria made me cry and call out , ‘why’. I want to swap places, to be in those places to touch those and comfort those who are abandoned. But no, here I sit in my little cottage in York, enjoying beautiful surrounds and I ask ‘why?’ And often times I am reminded that this is where He wants me to be ‘for such a time as this.’ And so it is for you. Accept all the medical treatment because He knows what you need, and He knows you don’t think it is a fair distribution of wealth! To quote Spanna’s comment “I pray that your testimony continues and that what we have seen of it so far is just the tip of the iceberg.’


Comment on May 14th, 2008.

Hi Cam
I think that the whole purpose of medical and scientific research is to be able to do what you have experienced. If it were not, there would be no point. Thank you for sharing your experiences so eloquently. I am moved to read your journal every day.


Comment on May 14th, 2008.

Don’t worry, I don’t plan on getting cancer so you can have my Life Platelet Allocation, and 3 of those doctors were mine – I give you them – but I think I’ll keep my Life Bedspace Allocation if you don’t mind. Never know when I’ll fancy a break and some hospital down time. So you should feel very very guilty about that 2 weeks.

PS On the topic of this world’s suffering? It just breaks my heart. The idea of losing a child to bondage in the LRA for example? We can’t begin to explain the pain. What’s fair about Satan? Absolutely nothing. But yeah, we can do more.


Comment on May 14th, 2008.

CMH, You can thank our ancestors for the way in which they exploited the environment and people groups of our great land. Being born into this we seemingly inherited advantages that we have done little (or nothing) to earn. We are the “rich young ruler” of New Testament fame. But if it’s any consolation history shows that empires swing and wane in power and wealth. So just maybe, with any “luck”, our descendants can be poor and excluded from the privileges available to elite of they’re day. I feel better already… or maybe I don’t.
But money spent on a time extension for you is always a good investment.


Comment on May 14th, 2008.

Well, I agree – you’re worth it, and you can have my share as I’m not using it at the moment. When I need it back, I’ll come see you!

In terms of fairness, equity and global disproportion in terms of these kinds of resources, you’re probably right – the cost of one aspect of your treatment could cure blindness in dozens of 3rd world villiages.

HOWEVER – the money required to cure sight can easily be found in far-less noble causes than your medical treatment.

Believe me – if we (as a nation) REALLY cared about these things, we’d find the money to make it happen.

And there’d still be a lazy mill or 2 lying about to help you.

This is a time for gratitude, not guilt.

Oh – and you’ll never need to pay it back… just pay it forward.

Bonnie & Mark

Comment on May 16th, 2008.

Hi Cam,
The world does seem so terribly out of balance we live in such amazing luxury while others don’t even have enough to eat. Mark & I often struggle with the question why we were born into such privilege and how we can give more and consume less. We are just beginning to scratch the surface on how we can better live like Jesus. We love you and Elizabeth so much and are so grateful you have been given more time with us no price can be put on that!
Congratulations on the arrival of your very handsome nephew. You guys will make an awesome Uncle and Auntie. It’s heaps of fun. Lots of Love
Bonnie Mark Levi & Sam

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