Bernie's New Bones

In Canada, we’re blessed to have a public health care system that makes sure that no one dies from cancer because they can’t afford treatment. But unfortunately, when it comes to the long-term effects of cancer and cancer treatment, there are some gaps—and I’ve fallen through one. I am happy to say that I am a breast cancer survivor, but I now find myself facing an unexpected obstacle.

Typically when you are going to start cancer treatment, they have you see a dentist a month or so before you begin. When I was first diagnosed in November 2010, I had some dental issues, but they were relatively minor. The problem for me though, is that my diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer (a type that doesn’t respond to many of the usual treatment methods) meant I had to start treatment right away. And unfortunately, certain circumstances can result in bone loss. And that’s why I find myself in this situation today.

After coming out of the chaos of active cancer, I started to notice problems with my eating, chewing, and swallowing. These grew from being inconveniences into a state of constant pain, and increasing problems with my speech. After many consultations, meetings, scans etc., my course of treatment became extremely complicated and costly.

My sinus has dropped, and I’ll now need a sinus lift. Three areas of my jaw need bone grafting and I will have to have several dental implants to help reactivate and retain the bone. 

As lengthy and painful as it’s going to be, not getting treatment isn’t really an option. As time progresses, I will continue to lose my ability to eat solid foods, my speech will worsen, and the already constant pain will increase.

Because the dental problems are indirectly caused by my cancer (or cancer treatment), I will not be covered for these procedures. Had I had sinus, head, neck, or mouth cancer, things would be different. Ultimately the complete cost of treatment will be paid out of my pocket.

It is hard to “play through the pain,” or in this case, work through the pain, but I am, and have been throughout my battle with cancer—I have even started a side business to help earn extra funds. But realistically, there is just no way I will be able to pay for all of these treatments on my own.  I am lucky enough to work for an organization that has been both supportive and helpful, but as a non-profit, there’s minimal health coverage. 

It’s a sad reality that many of those who undergo therapy will have life-long dental problems. And while I am grateful to have the healthcare system we do, until this gap in coverage has been closed, I have to find ways to deal with the current situation.

I am beyond grateful to anyone who is able to contribute to this campaign. As a small token of my appreciation, I’ve built in some incentives below. You can learn all about the bracelets I make at

I know that some of you are unable to donate, but please know that your words of support have meant just as much to me. And if you could spread the word about this campaign, and about the issue of public funding of dental care, it would mean the world to me!


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Bernadette Leno 
Vancouver, BC
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