Two months ago, an MRI revealed a golfball-sized tumor at the base of my skull. Given the location and my age, it's most likely a type of bone cancer known as a chondrosarcoma.
I have surgery scheduled for Friday, September 15th. A team of surgeons will endoscopically resect as much of the tumor as possible through my nose. However, there are a few complications. First, my surgeons have warned me that the shape of the tumor means it's likely I'll need to have a second surgery through my ear bone. Second, an angiogram revealed that I cannot live without my left carotid artery, which the tumor is currently pressed against. This means they even in the best case scenario, they will probably have to leave some tumor behind, and I will need to have radiation treatment on top of surgery.
Since the surgeons will need to open the dura mater---the tough covering surrounding my brain---to get at the tumor, recovery will be slow. For each surgery I receive, there is an estimated minimum of one month when I will feel very fatigued and will not be able to work. If there are complications, it may be longer.
Thankfully, my wife and I have good insurance with a low out-of-pocket maximum of $2,350, which means my treatment this year and next year will cost at most around $4,700---pretty reasonable for brain surgery! During this time, I'll also be unemployed, though, which will cost me roughly $2,500 a month in addition to the surgery fees. Furthermore, my wife (Maddock) will also need to take about two weeks off after each surgery to monitor and take care of me, so she will lose earnings as well.
Given all the financial factors, I estimate my cancer will cost at least $8,500 (if I miss only one month of work), but upwards of $20,000---mostly in lost wages---if I need multiple surgeries, have complications, or both. During this time, I'll still need to pay rent and utilities, feed myself, and purchase whatever other incidentals life requires. Thus, I set a goal of $14,000, or the average of the best-case and worst-case scenarios.
I saw the totality of the eclipse this past August, which means that since July---when I found out about my cancer---I've experienced two life-changing events. I like to joke that between the two of them, I definitely recommend the totality over cancer.
In all seriousness, I am in many ways fortunate. I have good insurance, something I never expected to need but am now glad to have. My cancer is, most likely, relatively benign---and were it not ready to crush my brainstem or give me a stroke, unlikely to cause me harm. Regardless of the success of this campaign, I'm not going to spend the rest of my life paying medical bills, though I will have severely depleted savings. Above all else, I was born in a time and location in which doctors can open my skull and actually remove the problem without killing me---how amazing is that?
In short, I understand---truly---why someone would not support me. But, I hope you do. Life will be more stressful for my wife and I in the coming months than ever before, and financial stress is just another worry tacked onto the medical stress we're already experiencing. Any amount you can donate will be greatly appreciated and allow me to focus more on recovery and less on the burdens of money.
- Dominique Jongenburger
- Kevin Cooper
- Emily O'Neill
- Margaret Mcclelland
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