A Father's Illness, His Daughters' Plea

Our dad Steve, 59, is entering the fight of his life. Almost exactly 3 years ago he found out he had non-small cell lung cancer. They removed half of his lung and some lymph nodes and told us he was cancer-free. He had one PET scan about 6 months after the surgery that came back clear, but his insurance refused to pay for any further tests. After a long and painful recovery, he was getting back to life as he knew it, until mid-October when he began to have severe back pain. Having had surgery on his back and with various hardware in his lumbar spine, he is used to back pain. But this was different. After being shoo-ed out of one ER (no x-rays, no bloodwork) he went home and after two days with no improvement he went to another ER. Here they took the issue seriously and on October 17th they discovered a 5cm x 6cm mass growing in the bone over L4, L5, and S-1. A biopsy determined that it is stage 4 adenocarcinoma that has metastasized from the lung to the spine.

Our dad has lived in Florida for 7 years, in an RV. He works at the restaurant where he lives and, up until this tumor forced him to stop working, was a very hard worker. The insurance through his employer costs about $500/month, which takes about half of his monthly pay when he can work. The deductible for this "insurance" is $5,000 - of which they say he has paid only $34. He is seeing an oncologist that the hospital referred him to, and the co-pay is $80 each time. Although they started radiation a couple of weeks ago, they have told us that they will not start his chemotherapy until he gives them $796, which he simply doesn't have. We are trying to get him into a hospital where they will do the chemo and bill him for his portion (which will be 100% because of his deductible). At this point, we still don't even know if the cancer is anywhere else in his body as the insurance will still not pay for a PET scan.

There are so many things he needs right now and doesn't have. It's quite a startling and terrible reality to hear your father say to you, "I don't want to die - I want to fight this and live to see Xavier (my 7 year old) graduate". When we learned that he, at 5'9", only weighs 135 lbs because he hasn't had money to buy food, we decided we would do whatever we could to help him. At that weight, who knows if he will even be able to withstand the treatments that will try to save him.

I am a single mother and don't make much money, but I'm helping all I can by paying for his prescriptions, sending money for food, and gas to get to appointments. My sister Anna (shown with him in the picture above) has been between jobs so she's been working on getting funding while she's looking for work - we're all the family he has other than a brother who has also been ill and lives in Wyoming. Our goal is to get Anna down there to help take care of him, but also to raise funds to help him pay for medicine, food, and treatments. The RV he lives in has a leak and has developed mold that we will need to get cleaned up as well. Anna has called the American Cancer Society as well as numerous other agencies and done much research on options for helping him out, and he has applied for state medical assistance as well, but all these things take time and that is a luxury I believe we don't have.

Although, as those of you who are close to us may know, our dad is anything but Ward Cleaver and we had a pretty rough childhood. He has shaped us in ways that are sometimes not the best, but has tried to do things to make up for that - at the end of the day, he's our father and we love him. Mixed in with those bad things are the good memories - taking us fishing, watching scary movies with us and jumping out from around every corner, driving in the mountains on the famed "Oh My God" road, and always dancing around in the living room to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and any of the other hundreds of albums he had. At the end of the day, he's our Papa and we love him, and we'd like to keep him around for a while.

So for anyone who may find it in their hearts to help us win this battle, we are eternally grateful.

With hope,

Jen and Anna
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Jen Bridge 
Littleton, CO
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