No Help for Those Who Help Themselves
Two weeks after surgery for tonsil and lymph nodes
How to Get Financial Assistance?
I am sitting here wondering what my next move should be; cancel life as I know it and try to find minimum wage job or to have a moment of self pity and try to ignore the facts as they really are. Are you thoroughly confused now? I guess I am too, to a point, the point being I have always been self reliant, worked hard and tried to provide for my family without asking for help from anyone, until now.
You see about eight weeks ago I was diagnosed with tonsil cancer that had moved to my Lymph Nodes and had created a tumor that had to be removed. There is good news however; I had surgery to have it removed on April 5th, 2011 and all went well and they say it is curable with treatment. This means daily radiation treatments and weekly Chemotherapy treatments which they say will be a lot worse than the surgery, but I’m sure I can get through it.
Don’t feel sorry for me, I am only telling you this for a little back ground for what I am about to talk about. My wife works for a company that we get our health insurance thru, but at our age it cost us dearly, about ten thousand dollars a year because of our age, and that just our portion. You see we are both in our early fifties and we have a teenage son, it expensive, but right now I’m glad we had it to help defray the hospital and treatment cost. Hospital deductibles’ was another out of pocket expense, insurance doesn’t cover all the cost, but it helps, the out of pocket cost for us has added up to around ten thousand so far, and this is just the beginning.
Because of the fact that I have to have treatments everyday for six weeks or more (30 to 32 radiation treatments), even though they only last about fifteen minutes, you have travel time and expenses just getting back and forth. Have you looked at gas prices? On top of that, I will have Chemo once a week and it will be for up to five hours per treatment. This will really hamper my ability to schedule and perform any work once treatment starts (they begin May 4th, 2011). Then there will be the real recovery time once the treatments stops, they are saying it could be up to six months before I will be strong enough to resume my normal life. With the type of cancer that I have, the treatment to the throat area is really hard on your eating and maintaining your weight and energy levels. They actually say Tonsil cancer is probably the worst curable cancer you can have just because of how they have to treat you. It requires radiation to the throat area, which kills your taste buds, saliva glands and gives you an extremely bad sore throat. Most people require a feeding tube to maintain their weight, so far I have decided to fight having the tube for as long as possible to keep my throat working as much to normal as I can. The Chemo provides its own set of challenges, it last 4 to 5 hours on the day, and I’m there every Wednesday. Again, don’t feel sorry for me, I look at it like this, six months from now, this will all behind me and I should be in full recovery mode, they say it takes nearly a year to get as close to normal as I will ever be, again this is just back ground to what I am say.
Ok, you have the back ground, now here’s the dilemma. How does my family survive as I go through my treatments and when I’m unable to work? My wife works, that’s where the health insurance comes from, but her check after taxes and insurance is hardly enough to cover her gas, utilities and groceries, must less the house payment. . There is also the co-pay we have to pay every doctor visit, family physicians is $40.00 a visit, specialist are $60.00 and right now that equals $60.00 dollars a day for radiation, on the one day a I have chemo and Radiation $120.00 week, you figure it out, that’s $480.00 month in co-pays just on chemo days.On top of everything else, gas prices have reached approximately $4.00 a gallon and the trip to the radiation and chemo is about a 70mile round trip daily. The only transportation that I have is my Ford 2007 F150 truck and it cost me around 20 dollars a day just getting back and forth. That’ an extra 400 to 500 a month, put on top of this the co-pay for prescriptions and you are l looking at an extra 600 plus a month in just related expenses. So add up the cost of office visits and related expenses and you are over $1000.00 month in out of pocket cost, plus other incidentals as the arises.
Now we start getting into the subject at hand. The money I have spent on medical cost was my rainy day money to get us thru during the times I am waiting on jobs to come in. The thing about my life, I have been in the construction service industry for about the last twenty years. In the late nineties I built houses and wound up filing for bankruptcy in 2001 due to problems with a lake house I had built. I had been a spec builder and was building a house on Lake Lanier when they drained the lake, some blamed by faulty gauge at the dam, some say to bring river levels up for Georgia Power to float barges to the Columbus, GA, during the drought. In turn, lake properties quit selling and lake property plummeted. I had several builder friends that were caught in the same situation I was in, I held on to the property as long as I could, I was paying $2600.00 a month interest payments, I tried to hang on for a year with no luck, and had to let it go, I could explain this more, but you get the point.
Over the past ten years I have been in recovery mode trying to rebuild my life as well as my credit report and some kind of financial security. I have never really had employees, just part time help as needed, and I basically have had jobs that I was the “hands on type of work” contractor and always worked for a living. I worked as a sub-contractor for Home Depot, Lowes, Sears, did handyman and small remodel projects trying to support my family. Mind you, it’s not that I’m complaining, I always liked to work because of the feeling of accomplishment I had when I finished a job and could look back and say “I done that.” But now, that “I can do it by myself,” attitude has caught up with me. I have lately been able to set enough money set back to cover expenses for another six weeks, after that, then what. We haven’t been able to put money back over the past couple of years because of the economic downturn that everyone has been going through and the construction industry has been particularly hard. I did manage to work enough to get through it better than some, even though I had a few bad months; we were never late on payments and were surviving up till now. I even got to the point of liquidating unwanted or unneeded items to get us thru two winters ago, just so I would have to ask anyone for help.
But now, here we are. Financial regulations have changed, I looked into refinancing my house, I was going to try to pull enough cash out to get us through the summer, when I could get back to work. Guess what? They said that we didn’t qualify due to the new Obama financing guide lines; my net income on my tax return wasn’t enough along with my wife to get it done. So, we call the mortgage company to see if they could work with us to modify the loan or if there was anything we could do during this time of dire financial difficulties? Guess what? No luck, the response from the mortgage company, we can’t do anything until you are at least 60 days past due on the payments. To me this makes absolutely no sense, when a customer has been paying his bills on time to the same company for over seven years, why would they want you to destroy your credit before they would work with you?
Ok, now we are going to need help for while, at least for probably a few months until I get back on feet and get going again. For the first time in my adult life I am actually asking for someone to help me, it’s more for my family than myself. I have done research into maybe receiving help from Social security disability program, yes I have always paid into it, and being self-employed I have had to both sides, employer and employee. But it can take up to six months to see if you even qualify, by then it will be too late. We are checking into maybe getting food stamps for a while, but they say we have too many assets, a house, a car and a truck. Mind you none of it is paid for and I have to have the truck for work and my drives back and forth to her job, which is the opposite direction that I go. I explained the house situation above. In other words because we have worked and have things, there is no help to get us over this unexpected hump in the road.
The lady at the Social Service Office of the hospital explained it to me like this, “If you didn’t have a job, if you were already on the government subsidy program they could help.” In other words if you were a person that had always depended on the government for help, never depended on yourself, they would make sure you got through it without a problem. Wow, what a system! Live off the government, they take care of you, never take anything from the government and when you need help they won’t give it to you.
Does anyone have any suggestions on what my family can do for support over the next six months? I am looking for a helping hand, not a hand out. We are getting what little help we can from family members, but they really don’t have the money or the means to help without putting themselves in a bind.
Once again, I have talked to the Social Service person at the Cancer Center, have to talked to everyone I know talk too and now I am asking my readers. Please any advice would be helpful and very much appreciated.
One last thing, I am going to have to get out of the construction business due to my illness and would like to go to insurance adjuster school to get my nationwide license, does anyone know of education grants that may be available to Veterans of the Armed forces? Right now cost and Dr. Appointments are prohibiting me from getting started if I could. Dr. Appointments, like I said, are daily for the radiation and all day on Wednesday’s, which really screws things up. Any ideas?
I thank God daily for the blessings that he has given me and my family and I know the good Lord looks after those who look after themselves.
Thank you and God bless.