Sick, out of work and no insurance …
This is Theresa’s story. Before you finish, you will read a very heart warming story and you will see a few (or maybe more) flaws in the way our healthcare system is run today in this country and a few not so minor flaws in how corporations and businesses destroy people through their lack of human compassion.
Theresa is a drop-dead gorgeous, 41 year old who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her wonderful husband, Floyd and their two children a boy 12 and a girl 14. They have, for several years, lived in a nice, though not extravagant, middle class neighborhood where they worked, paid their bills and thought they’d live happily ever after. But, you will soon see that was not to be.
One afternoon around 18 months ago, Floyd came home and told Theresa that he had lost his well-paying job due to a layoff. Theresa is always positive and she immediately told him once more what she had told him many times, he was so smart and positive and had such a good work ethic that he would find another job in no time. After all, Floyd and Theresa had met in college where she finished her 4 year degree and he obtained his too while falling in love. She reminded him there weren’t too many out there that were that much smarter than him and all he needed to do was get out there and ‘beat the bushes’. Well, that he did and after a few months, he was able to find another job, but it paid a lot less than the one he lost. Theresa, the all- star athlete and avid stay-at-home soccer mom, didn’t see that as a hurdle they couldn’t surmount, so she gladly took a job that was offered to her by the same company. She was in customer service and it was a hard job, but they were experiencing a little ‘road bump’ and she was glad to make the sacrifice. At first she was on ‘tryout’ as a contract worker and in a few months she was given a permanent full-time employee status. That was a relief. They obviously found her to be performing satisfactorily and that was important to her.
After a few months on her job, she had reason to believe that she has some sort of health problem but they were just getting back on their feet and paying off some bills that had mounted due to his unemployment and she was reluctant to face facts, but very soon she had to. So, she went to the doctor who did various tests and he called one day to give her some devastating news. She received the phone call at work and the doctor told her she had colon cancer. She was frozen in time. Her supervisor and co-workers gathered around her and helped her get through the minutes that followed.
When she went back to the doctor, Theresa learned that she needed to first undergo chemo for a certain number of months, then she would have surgery and after she recovered a short while, she’d have more chemo. The chemo was very hard. The doctor told her she’d need a strong dose plus pills and that it would make her very ill which it did. All the while, Theresa tried hard to keep up a good front for her husband and children. She was so protective of the children. She was afraid they would hear enough about her condition to fear the worst and she wanted them to have as normal a childhood as possible with a mother in chemo. She knew they were smart kids, always making good grades and the girl had just made the soccer team. They had to know how devastating the news was. She was so proud of them and she was intent that regardless of her condition, she would be at her daughter’s first soccer game of the season. In fact, she tried to keep working. I was given a private site, by the neighbor, set up for chemo patients to let their friends know how they were doing. I registered but rarely went there. . Here is a post she made on Nov. 30, 2010.
As of today I am officially half way through my chemo and radiation treatment. The first 2 weeks went well and I was able to continue working. This past week proved to be the most challenging and the side-effects of the chemo started manifesting through chronic fatigue and nausea. I ended up in the E.R. before Thanksgiving dehydrated and exhausted. My doctors lowered the chemo dosage to give my body an opportunity to rest. If I can tolerate it, the dosage will be increased over the next week.
Unfortunately as of this week I will be unable to continue working. The fatigue and inability to focus or concentrate has taken its toll and it has become to difficult to be productive. My employer has been great and when my surgery and chemo treatment in the spring is over, I will have the opportunity to return to work.
I had never met Theresa, I had never even heard of Theresa at this point in time. But, I did know one of her neighbors who kept giving me bits and pieces of the story until around Christmas 2010, I could take it no more. I sent her a Visa gift certificate thinking that would ease my conscious regarding their hardships and the Christmas season. I was so adamant about not getting involved that I sent it anonymously and used my Business PO Box as the return address. The neighbor didn’t know all this, but she just kept talking. There was no shutting her up. She kept telling me ‘You’re not going to believe this!’ and telling me the next saga. Here is a post Theresa made between Christmas and her surgery at the end of February.
The best way to describe how I feel is: If you have ever experienced a tornado..the first part of the storm wreaks havoc on your home and rocks you to your core but when the center of the storm passes over..the clouds break, the rain stops, the winds die down and the sun can even come out for a short time depending on the size of the storm (this is where I am now) however the sky will quickly cloud back up, hail, rain and high winds will sweep over you once again even more violently then before……I know that I will survive the back end of the storm but just knowing and waiting for it to hit is really hard.
After Christmas, in February, Theresa entered the hospital and re-entered my thoughts. I checked on her progress a bit more regularly. Once she wrote:
My husband Floyd has been so wonderful through all of this and has carried the burden of fear, financial hardship, and stepping up his role as father and husband. When I was at my worst he has cared for me with such a gentle spirit as well as made sure that Bl*e and B*a were being taken care of too. The days have been long and exhausting and he never once complained about coming home after working all day to fix dinner, help the kids with homework and throw a load of laundry in before going to bed late, only to repeat the day over and over. When we said our vows 17 years ago I never gave much thought to, “for richer or poorer in sickness and in health”. never thought we would be tested in both areas at the same time…but surprise!! Even so..Floyd has confirmed to me why I married him and I can only pray that B** is blessed with a Godly man like her dad!
The day before she came home from the hospital, I couldn’t take it any longer. I had to know if this story was ‘for real’. My friend, her neighbor, told me that Floyd had been laid off again! Things just kept getting worse. So, I took some groceries and rang the door bell. Floyd came to the door and he was obviously trying to place me in his mental process. I told him my name and said ‘You don’t know me. You’ve never heard of me, but I’ve heard that you’re having a little bit of a hard time and I brought you a few things.’ He immediately thanked me and helped carry them in the house. Then, he too, told me he had lost his job. He said he had good reviews and he felt there were other places in the company where they could have used him, but they chose not to do so. He felt they wanted him off their insurance because of Theresa’s illness. Then, he said that although Theresa was on disability, she was afraid they were going to let her go too. I questioned the legality of that, but I’m not an attorney, so what I thought was worthless. He was glad to take my gift and gave me a big hug and I left.
When Theresa was home a few days she posted.
I have seen my chemo doctor since surgery and needless to say it wasn’t the uplifting appt I thought it would be. He informed me that even though the tumor has been removed and the margins are clean, even after treatment I had 2 infected lympnoids (sic) that were also removed. I am still considered high risk and instead of 4 weeks of chemo, I will undergo 4 months of BOTH the pill form of chemo that made me so sick over the holidays and IV chemo that will be put in my port that has been implanted in my right shoulder. The side effects are horrible and may affect my ability to walk or even use my hands for normal everyday activity. I will experience temporary nerve damage that also affects your throat and can put you in panic mode because you feel like your choking and cant breathe normally. I will finish treatment at the end of July and will be screened every 90 days for 2 years to check for any trace of the cancer returning. I will then go to every 6 months and then every year at the 5 year mark. If any cancer returns within the first 2 years that is obviously not good and dramatically reduces my chances of beating the disease. I also unfortunately was told what stage it was..and in my heart I already knew but had not actually seen it on paper in front of me. My chemo doctor didnt know that when he handed me a piece of paper with my odds of beating this based on the treatment I was getting and right at the top of the sheet next to my name was stage 3 colon cancer. I will not focus on this number as many people before me have beaten colon cancer with worse odds than me…it was still upsetting for Floyd and I to face the reality that I am still very sick.
Note: That treatment period has now been extended until September.
I’ve been back to see Theresa several times now and she is still the same upbeat personality as before, but she had lost 30 lbs. before beginning the last chemo and she didn’t have any to lose. Now, she is very small, so small I keep trying to take things that might ‘stay down’ and some things for the family. However, ‘Human Resources’ (what a misnomer) from her work called and told her they were ‘no longer needing her’ and therefore they were letting her go. I was shocked! What ever happened to compassion! She told them, sick though she was, that she didn’t realize they could let her go while she was on disability. According to her, she said they said that she would be able to continue drawing her disability, but she would lose her healthcare benefits. However, if she (though unemployed and ill) wanted, she could retain her COBRA but it would cost 4 times what she had been paying and probably more than their combined incomes from disability and his unemployment.
So, now, if not before, we understand why we all need access to good, free or reasonably priced health care. Now that you know the story, you probably understand why I feel it is critical to try to help Theresa and Floyd and their children to stay in their home and somehow get her to the doctor while keeping food on the table and the lights, water and heat on. So, if you choose, you can donate to Theresa through the PayPal the link will take you to her page.