Launceston’s Sharon Salzman was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancers about six years ago and in order to receive treatment had to travel weekly to Melbourne.
As part of Blood Cancer Awareness Month this September Mrs Salzman is sharing her story with myeloma, as the Leukaemia Foundation highlights what it calls the postcode lottery for Australians with blood cancer. Because only one in five people diagnosed with blood cancer is getting access to clinical trials, as a result of where they live.
Mrs Salzman was one of them. She was able to access a trial, but it was in Melbourne and therefore forced her to fly backwards and forwards each week for more than two years at her own expense.
She was due to enter a second trial in Melbourne earlier this year, but due to COVID-19 things were put on hold. Instead she is continuing her treatment via distance with her specialist.
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The mother of two is on a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme drug she can access in Tasmania, but in a few years it will likely become ineffective for her and another trial may be needed.
“When I was diagnosed, we thought let’s stay in Launceston. That’s where I’d be able to get treatments, but there’s only so much available on the PBS,” Mrs Salzman said.
“So I found out about a good specialist in Melbourne and I went over there for two and a half years, just on a trial every week.
“It’s an incurable cancer, but having said that it’s very treatable. Like a lot of things, you just have to get things early and get the right treatments.”
Mrs Salzman said the travelling did impact the whole family, but one little saving grace was she was able to travel by herself for treatment.
Last year a State of the Nation report for the foundation on blood cancer in Australia found a gap in survival rates between patients in regional and metropolitan areas.
It noted if reforms were implemented to reduce the variation in survival outcomes for people in regional areas it could reduce the number of deaths expected by five per cent.
Therefore preventing the deaths of more than 9300 people living in rural and regional areas that may have otherwise occurred and saving more than 200,000 years of life over the 2018-2035 period.
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