Shutdown delays potential life-saving cancer treatment for California mom

Published On: Oct 03 2013 07:37:04 AM HST

Federal employees are furloughed and national parks have closed, but the government shutdown may even jeopardize lives.

And that's because the National Institutes of Health is not accepting new patients for its cutting-edge experimental trials during the shutdown.

One Auburn woman is waiting for a potentially life-saving cancer treatment.

Michelle Langbehn was diagnosed with sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, in April 2012.

"The thought of not possibly being able to be here for my daughter and my husband was absolutely heartbreaking," she told KCRA 3 on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old mother has had five surgeries and undergone radiations, as well as rounds of different therapies. Langbehn is now desperate for a more effective treatment, as recommended by her doctors.

"I was initially told by a specialist that people diagnosed with sarcoma on average live up to a year," she said, adding that only 1 percent of all cancer patients have sarcoma.

So, Langbehn signed up with the NIH to try a promising new drug as early as mid-October, and was expecting approval this week.

However, she now has to wait until the shutdown is over for a decision.

"When you are given a terminal diagnosis, each month counts. And I already have one new (cancerous) spot that has popped up," Langbehn said. "Every day counts. Every second, a decision needs to be made."

Langbehn and her husband are frustrated and angry.

"Every day is precious," Josh Langbehn said. "To some degree, I think we already have that feeling now. But with the delaying treatment, you never know how fast things are moving, and if things are progressing in a way you don't want it to."

Michelle Langbehn said she just wants to fulfill a promise she made to her daughter, Lula.

"I would love to think about the future with my daughter, but right now that is unknown," she said. "I'd love to think about her first day of kindergarten. Or her getting married, but I don't know if that's possible."

The NIH estimates that every week during the shutdown, it has to turn away 200 patients, including 30 children, who have exhausted other options and want to enroll in experimental treatments.


The views expressed are not those of this site, this station or its affiliated companies. By posting your comments you agree to accept our terms of use.
blog comments powered by Disqus