Cancer victim dies after moving to US for treatment

A woman who was forced to leave her dream life in New Zealand to return to America for cancer treatment has died.

Julie Moon took her final breaths on Sunday morning (US time) with her husband Joseph holding her hand and kissing her forehead one last time.

“I lost my love to cancer…..I spent four long days and nights next to you in ICU as you struggled to breathe. The guy that fixes everything, could not fix this,” Joseph wrote in a Facebook post.

The “miracle drug” that was keeping Julie alive, known as Osimertinib (Tagrisso), was costing the couple nearly $11,000 a month in New Zealand because it’s not funded by Pharmac and was not covered under their health insurance.

They had no choice but to sell their boat and car, and remortgage their family home to pay for more than $22,000 of treatment – before making the heartbreaking decision to leave New Zealand.

After watching their son marry their soulmate, they left them, their daughter and grandkids and shifted back to the United States in September last year.

There, Tagrisso cost them just $700 a month under the country’s (Affordable Care Act) ACA insurance.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to save her, even if that means we have to live in a basement to avoid Covid,” Joseph told the Herald before he left.

He said the fear of losing Julie was the first thought that entered his mind when he woke up and the last thing he thought of each night before he went to sleep.

“She means everything to me and without her, I am nothing.”

In December, Joseph wrote an update on their Givealittle page saying: “Julie had her 3-month scan…and her results were all good. All of the abdominal progression we saw in July is gone. No evidence of disease.”

Sadly, she then took a turn for the worst.

“I stayed next to you in ICU and although I had to watch you suffer, on Friday, the Lord gave us an almost normal day. We talked, cried, laughed, and had some hard conversations you never want to have with your love,” Joseph wrote in a Facebook post.

“On Sunday morning, I held your hand and kissed your forehead as you took your last breath. You were totally at peace and comfortable,” he wrote.

Philip Hope, chief executive at Lung Foundation New Zealand, said Julie’s death was very sad and represented one of many hundreds of vulnerable patients that die prematurely in New Zealand, the direct result of Pharmac preventing access to standard of care treatments.

“This tragedy is another reminder New Zealand is in denial about the vital role of precision medicine, for example; targeted therapies and immunotherapy treatments for lung cancer, which are life changing for patients and their family’s/whanau.”

A small family gathering wil be held in the US before Joseph can return to New Zealand with his late wife.

They hope to hold a tangi on Manly Beach in Whangaparāoa on their return.

“She will be delivered to the sea along with the ashes of her other love, Frankie our golden retriever. That was her wish and that is what she will get.”

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