Jesse's Medical Bills & Lost Wages

In July 2017, my daughter, Jesse Pittinos Tennyson,  had her annual OB/GYN exam, which revealed concerning lumps in her breasts but a clear pap screen. In August 2017, Jesse had a bilateral ultrasound of her breasts that showed the lumps as benign. However, she was informed by her doctor that she had tested positive for the high-risk human papillomavirus 18 (strains 16 and 18 are the two most common HPV strains that lead to cases of gynecological cancer). Her doctor advised having a Colposcopy, which is a procedure that examines an illuminated, magnified view of the cervix and is used to diagnose abnormal cervical cells, precancer, or cancer of the cervix, vagina, or vulva.

The Colposcopy was done in mid-September and showed no visible lesions or areas of concern. But, "just to be extra careful," the OB/GYN asked Jesse if she could perform a brush biopsy of the interior of the cervix. Jesse agreed and, less than one week later, she received an urgent call from her doctor and was told that the biopsy had detected adenocarcinoma cells, which meant she had cancer. This extra cautionary step taken by the OB/GYN let Jesse finally know what was happening in her body, and she knew she had to prepare for the fight of her life.

 At the end of September, she had her first Oncology appointment with Dr. Michael McHale. It was her good fortune (and a little bit of begging to be seen right away) that she got assigned to Dr. McHale, who is one of US News & World Report's Top OB/GYN's in the nation. He specializes in Gynecologic Oncology and practices at University of California at San Diego. Dr. McHale said that a cold knife cone biopsy of the cervix would be the next step and that it could possibly be curative. On Nov. 7, Dr. McHale performed the cone biopsy/surgery, but the results only confirmed that Jesse’s cancer was worse than they had thought.

Towards the end of November, Jesse was asked to make the painful choice between having six weeks of radiation (with intensive internal radiation to follow) or a radical hysterectomy with the possibility of the need for future radiation. Because she was hoping that the cone biopsy would be the end of her cancer nightmare and that one day she might still be able to have a child herself, this was a terrible setback for her . With much prayer, sadness and anxiety, Jesse chose the radical hysterectomy to avoid going right into menopause at age 35 as well as the many long and frequent drives to receive radiation.

On December 7th, she had PET and CT scans with and without contrast to look for metastatic cancer cells, which, thankfully, came back all clear. The first available appointment for the radical hysterectomy was scheduled, and the surgery took place on January 16, 2018, at Jacobs Medical Center in La Jolla, CA. The surgery removed Jesse’s pelvic lymph nodes, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, fibrous septa in the area, and part of the vaginal floor too. After her hospital stay, she had to go home with a catheter for almost two weeks, which was incredibly painful to deal with due to constant bladder spasms. She was ordered not to work by Dr. McHale for a minimum of at least six to eight weeks.

All during this time (and after a long two years of searching) Jesse finally landed a better (full-time) job in the San Diego Public School System. What made all of this extra stressful is that September 2017 was the last month Jesse had Medicaid coverage through California and was moved on to an HMO through her work on October 1st. The new HMO’s coverage requires $3,500 out of pocket for each calendar year. Because she just started this full-time job, there were only partial vacation and sick days for her to use from before and few for the school year.

This has forced Jesse to lose significant income, because, even with using all of her vacation and sick leave for the entire year of 2018, she only had enough leave to cover two weeks of the six to eight. Currently, Jesse is still recovering at home and facing urology specialist appointments due to bladder and urinary problems, including kidney stones that have developed. The possible six weeks she was supposed to be out of work will be stretching into at least eight. 

It is certain that Jesse will have to take more unpaid time off this year for cancer monitoring, anesthesiology, and urology appointments (or if she is sick for even one day). Collection calls have already been coming for the bills for the first surgery, and the second surgery is only going to increase that medical debt. Although usually a positive person, the stress of this financial strain added to the significant psychological and physical pain she's dealing with has devastated her.

Any help you're able to give will help Jesse pay her medical bills and offset the loss of income she's dealing with. As many of you know, it's truly heartbreaking to have your child or family member go through the trauma of an illness that will forever affect their lives. My most sincere thanks in advance for all who are able to help Jesse. Your kind thoughts and prayers are also deeply appreciated. Much love to you all...  Stacy
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Organizer and beneficiary

Stacy Herring Pittinos
San Diego, CA
Jesse Tennyson

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