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Cancer and My Family

Organized by: Sean Helms

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My wife was the most caring person I have ever met. She would give a stranger her last dollar and often did.

In 1998 my wife Christine (Chris) was diagnosed with breast cancer. At that time we were covered by a great health plan from her employer and paid very little out of pocket. After chemo, radiation and a lumpectomy, we were told that the cancer had been caught early enough and she was free of it.

In 2009 after a trip to the emergency room, she was having trouble speaking; we were told that she now had a “floating cancer” related to her original breast cancer. Unlike the first brush with cancer, we were not covered by a great health plan. Chris was already suffering from a list of debilitating issues and had been fired from her job due to absenteeism related to these issues. We had filed for SSID prior to her new cancer diagnosis and within a year she was awarded SSID, including Medicare. Fortunately, Medicare paid most of the medical expenses for chemo and radiation.

In January 2012 a few days after her 52nd birthday, we were at the emergency room again because she was having trouble breathing. She was admitted that day and spent the next four weeks bedridden. At the end of the fourth week we arranged to have her home in her own bed. We lived in Beaverton Oregon, so her mother had traveled from Fresno California to be with her, our son Jeffrey and I were also home with her. On February 11th 2012 around 2am, she died peacefully in her sleep.

Chris and I had been together 28 years when she died.

The expenses for the hospital stay were unbelievable, even after Medicare and assistance from a charity foundation I was now deep in debt. Eventually, some of the doctors simply wrote off their part of the debt as did some of our creditors. I’d been raised to pay my way and the remaining debt was my responsibility. I didn’t know how or when I would pay it off, but I was determined to try.

It’s been a little over 4 years and my debt is now $20,000.

My credit is ruined and combined with the current economic climate I can't get a loan to cover the remaining debt.

Recently my son and I had to move and what little we had saved went to moving expenses. We had lived in the same place for 10 years and we had accumulated a lot of stuff. We gave a large amount to charity and sold some to help with the expenses. It also took 2 trips to the dump and a local recycler. I don’t like to ask for help, I like to do things on my own and try to help others when I can.

If somehow I reach my goal of paying off this debt, my hope is to send Jeffrey to Community College or one of those job specific colleges.


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Sean Helms

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