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Originally published Monday, August 24, 2009 at 4:23 PM

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Guest columnist

A man with two countries forced to choose the one that will take care of him.

Keven Drews, a former Washington state journalist with dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship, moved to Canada when he was diagnosed with life-threatening cancer. He urges President Obama to continue his fight for a government-run insurance plan.

Special to Tbe Times

I SUPPORT President Obama's health-care reform.

I am a 36-year-old man who has dual citizenship in the United States and Canada. Born in Washington, I wanted to make my life there, but I was forced to move to British Columbia, Canada, after I got sick six years ago.

I was a newspaper reporter at the Peninsula Daily News, located on the North Olympic Peninsula, and was climbing the ladder, but I had no health-care insurance. Coverage began after three month's employment. I'd been at work just shy of three months.

On April 1, 2003, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the plasma cells, in a hospital outside Vancouver, B.C. Free treatment began immediately: medication and radiation. By June, I was admitted to Vancouver General Hospital's Leukemia Bone Marrow Transplant Program for an expensive stem-cell transplant. (A similar transplant costs hundreds of thousands of dollars in Seattle.) I left the hospital without paying a cent. Follow-up treatment ensued.

In November 2005, I relapsed. The cancer came back, formed a tumor known as a plasmacytoma, and destroyed a chunk of my skull. Radiation treatment began within weeks. The system saved me again. No financial worry. I had two more good years.

In the spring of 2008, my myeloma returned, claiming half my right pelvis. Again, the system was there. Doctors hammered me with radiation and performed a cementoplasty, injecting my right pelvis with a cement-like substance. I can now walk again and am without much pain.

I am now on a new medication, Revlimid, that's keeping me alive. Again, I don't have to pay.

By the way, the Canadian government also pays me disability insurance, just in case I go down sick — like I have several times over the past few years. I can focus on my health and work and have no financial worries.

Sadly enough, this is not the first time my family has been forced to return to Canada because of health issues. In the late 1960s and early '70s my dad taught at a Lutheran school in Montana. He had to return to B.C. after he got sick and learned medical treatment would have destroyed the family.

The B.C. health-care system kept him alive for another 36 years — 36 years he was able to contribute as a vice principal, a father and a volunteer. Can you put a price on that? He died recently from skin cancer, but was well taken care of in a Vancouver-area hospital. He suffered little. We are grateful.

My point?

Universal health care works and saves people like me. I'd be dead if I had stayed in the U.S.

As sick as I have been, I can still contribute to society. In 2005, before my first relapse, I started an independent online news service for the West Coast of Vancouver Island. We've broken some huge stories.

Unfortunately, I will never return to live in the U.S. I lack the financial resources to remain alive there with my illness.

This saddens me, but it is reality. I recently interviewed B.C.'s minister of aboriginal affairs, a former minister of health, on an unrelated issue. After the interview, I told him how grateful I was to the Province of British Columbia and how I planned to stay here and make my contributions here.

Keep fighting, President Obama.

The U.S. has lost me, but there are many out there like me and you can still save their lives, especially if you don't back down from your plans for a nonprofit, government-run insurance plan People like me will never survive in a system run exclusively by private-insurance companies. Keeping us alive is incompatible with their bottom lines. We are expendable.

One last thing: I am willing to make one last major contribution to U.S. society. I am willing to speak up in support of your efforts.

Keven Drews is the editor and publisher of news Web site, Westcoaster.ca

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company

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