A teenager battling leukaemia who was denied a medical card has written to An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar asking: “Why am I being punished for having cancer?”

Orla O’Farrell from Clonsilla posted an open letter to Mr Varadkar after she was refused a medical card because her father’s income is slightly over the threshold.

Her treatment could end up costing thousands of euro and former Tesco worker Orla has blasted the system for failing to support her in her hour of need.

She said: “Why is a 19-year-old girl being given added stress over this when she already has enough stress about living with a life-threatening illness?

“Why am I being punished for having cancer? And why is my life not important enough for them to help me?”

Orla was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of leukaemia in August after she noticed a cluster of bruises on the backs of her legs.

She said: “It was out of the blue, I wasn’t sick beforehand or anything. I had no symptoms except for a few bruises. I was meant to start a new job the next week …

“They did blood and bone marrow tests. I’ve a really rare form [of leukaemia] and it’s very, very aggressive. Doctors said if they could get me through the first few days I had a good chance. It was very touch and go.”

Orla presumed her health insurance would cover her medical costs but they only covered in-patient procedures and she is now receiving treatment as an out-patient.

Her parents were told to apply for a medical card on her behalf but were refused and her own application was also rejected. An appeal was not successful.

Orla fumed: “If we had lots of money I wouldn’t be looking for this. Before I got sick I had my own job. My parents don’t fund me, so why did they have to apply?

“My application came back and it said I was above the threshold by minus €42, which confused me.”

The family survives on Orla’s dad’s wage since her mother gave up work to care for her elderly parents and he also supports his cousin who has health issues.

Orla said: “We had letters from the hospital and from my doctor saying that they seriously advise them to give it to me only for the duration of my illness. We don’t want it for any longer than that.”