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A Barrie family's fight against cancer

And what they didn't know about the financial cost
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Julie and Brandon Carter with Owen, 1, and Olivia, 3. Gofundme photo

Julie Carter is still fighting on.

Her incentive is simple. Julie, 32, wants to see her two little ones grow up. Olivia is 3 and Owen turned 1 in February.

The Barrie mother has cancer and is now taking part in a clinical trial, a research study that tests new drugs to treat or manage the disease.  

“We have been told that this would be our best avenue of treatment as she is not responding to the 'traditional' chemotherapy treatment. We have seen some improvements. A few set backs here and there as well. We are trying to remain optimistic, while proceeding with some caution,” said husband Brandon.

Julie is as good as can be expected, he said, but treatment days and the following day are the hardest. The emotional aspect takes the biggest toll. 

“When we received the news that she wasn't responding to the traditional treatments there was a definite feeling of defeat. It was a difficult couple of weeks. We experienced a wide range of emotions with this news.”

Julie is a manager at a local McDonald’s.

In January, she was diagnosed with colon cancer, now at stage four and has metastasized to the liver and is impacting her lymphatic system.

While trying to cope with their new reality, the couple received another blow - the financial cost of a cancer diagnosis. 

For the first weeks of this year, they were covered by their benefits. On the second week of February, they were informed they had exceeded their unlimited drug coverage.

Julie had more than $12,000 in medication. The coverage renews every year but the Carter's don't have time to wait. 

Relatives launched a gofundme campaign here to help them pay the bills. At the maximum peak of this treatment, not including the trial, Julie was consuming more in pills a day with a cost greater than what Brandon made at  his job. 

The fundraiser is also raising awareness.

“A lot of people had no idea that cancer hits families this hard on a financial level. Some people lose the roof over their head, others go so deeply into debt that it takes years to recover,” Brandon explains.

Initially, they had kept relatively quiet about Julie's illness sharing her diagnosis with only close friends and family.

Brandon also works for McDonald’s so his supervisors knew.

“When the campaign launched it also launched the information out there to the world. Julie had a very warm reception of people send her well wishes, as did I. People who we hadn't talked to in years were showing us this huge support and we still aren't really able to put it into words how much it amazed us.”

Their daughter and son are very resilient and have good days and bad days, just like their parents.

“We are learning to cherish our time together and are doing more things together as a family and trying to create more memories together,” said Brandon. 

The busy husband takes life day by day. Some days he forgets and It feels like it's just another regular day. 

“Others, it hits you and hits you hard," he said. "I have no other choice but to push down feelings. I still have two kids to care for a job to do and a wife who needs me. You just keep moving forward, with reminders not to have a reason to look back with regret. Carpe diem means nothing. Live life to the fullest comes close. Live with no regrets is the goal and the challenge," he said.

Julie’s immediate thoughts are, as always, with Brandon, Olivia and Owen. 

“That's the hardest part about all of this,” she said on the gofundme page. “Not only does this impact our day to day life, we are running the risk at impacting their futures. It's a thought that makes me stay awake at night, makes me more upset than I ever thought was possible and ultimately, why we need to continue the fight. I need to be with my husband and children for at least another 80 years. More than 80 would be fantastic, but 80 will do. “



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Sue Sgambati

About the Author: Sue Sgambati

Sue has had a 30-year career in journalism working for print, radio and TV. She is a proud member of the Barrie community.
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