When Betty-Lynn LaFrance was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017, she was completely shocked as she’d never smoked and had been very active her entire life.

Born and raised in Pembroke, Ont., where she still lives with her husband of 34 years, LaFrance has three children and seven grandchildren. When she was diagnosed with ALK+ non-small cell lung cancer, she’d been employed in the paint department at Home Depot Inc. for more than eight years, she told the audience at Benefits Canada‘s Employers Cancer Care Summit in Toronto on Feb. 27.

Read: Lung cancer ‘not one big disease’

“When I first noticed, it was 2017 and my husband just retired and I was having a hard time just walking back to the lunch room [at work] and I was having a hard time breathing. My daughter, who’s a [registered nurse], said I’ve got to go and get checked out. I went and they told me I had pneumonia.”

But LaFrance’s condition didn’t improve. When she eventually had a CT scan, doctors discovered she had a collapsed lung. Then a specialist suggested she go to a cancer clinic and she had a biopsy. She thought she was going in for more tests, but she received the cancer diagnosis instead.

“It wasn’t until after the biopsy that I was told I had stage-four, non-small cell lung cancer. It was mind-blowing because I wasn’t expecting that. . . . And it’s like OK, so what do we do? Well, there’s no medical cure [they told her] but we can help, we will you get started and registered [for] coverage,”

Read: Getting cancer drugs to patients a significant challenge

The doctors asked LaFrance if she had medical coverage through her workplace and she was relieved to say she did. The knowledge that she could get targeted treatment through her benefits plan was “very important, especially knowing the cost. I couldn’t afford it and my private insurance was amazing, so my hats off to them.”

Since accessing targeted treatments, LaFrance’s tumours have shrunk significantly, and she’s able to continue doing the things she loves, including helping out at her church, spending time with her grandchildren and training her puppy. Though she hasn’t yet returned to work, she has every hope to do so soon. And her job is waiting for her when she’s ready.

Read more coverage of the 2019 Employers Cancer Care Summit.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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