Cancer treatment leads Eau Claire woman to larger mission

Local News

EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. (WLAX) — An Eau Claire woman lent her name to a bill in the Wisconsin legislation aimed at banning a controversial practice known as “white bagging.” She is now sharing her story, letting people know why she is fighting this new battle.

“January 25th, we found out that I was diagnosed with cancer,” Koreen Holmes said.

She was 35 weeks pregnant when she received the breast cancer diagnosis.

Less than a week after giving birth, she started treatment at the Preva Cancer Center at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital.

“I would say the cancer team at Prevea, they care deeply about their patients,” she said.

In July, Holmes found out her insurance company was forcing her to get her medication from what is known as a “specialty pharmacy” it owned. The practice is called “white bagging.”

HSHS doctors feel administering “white-bagged” drugs is too dangerous, and will not give such medications to patients. This meant Holmes was left with a choice to pay out of pocket or go somewhere else for treatment.

“These people became my family,” Holmes said. “And to know that I would have to up and leave them and try and find somebody else in the middle of my diagnosis, they would have to relearn everything that I have and what I’m going through, that’s scary.”

Holmes and her husband Nathan said they were willing to go bankrupt to keep her at Prevea.

“That minute that you find out that your care is no longer covered, you look at what that could cost you and it literally will break you, like it mentally, emotionally, all of it,” Holmes said. “It’s like you go to a place where, ‘Alright, screw it,’ for lack of better terms, ‘We’re going to do what we’ve got to do.’ And that’s what it felt like.”

Holmes was able to secure a one-time, 90-day coverage extension from her insurance company, which should be long enough to complete her treatment at Prevea.

Holmes is now cancer-free, and her treatments are an attempt to prevent a recurrence. Now, she is fighting a new battle, working to help get “Koreen’s Law” passed to ban the practice of “white bagging” in Wisconsin.

“I hope that it helps other people and I’m praying that this gets passed because I would hate to see that this continues,” she said. “And, like I said, this comes down to life or death. This isn’t just a casual thing.”

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