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Dennis, my brave stepdad, is battling liver and bile duct cancer. He needs you to help in this fight! While the doctors at St Luke's Presbyterian in Denver keep changing tactics to try to halt the cancer's progress, Dennis's cancer has taken a turn for the worse and it's a hard fight right now for Dennis to even process food. But, we believe in miracles and need your help!
Who is Dennis Ortega the Gentle Warrior
The story of Dennis, my gentle warrior of a stepdad, is a story of grace, love and redemption. Dennis is the most tender of souls. Children and animals instinctively seem to know this and flock to him. He has a quiet presence with his friends and family and he just radiates peace and love.
Dennis wasn't always this way. He desperately craved love but instead found himself in bondage to addiction. He made many poor choices and hurt those he cared for the most. While he feels shame and embarassment at his past, Dennis hopes that by sharing his story, he may help others.
After 28 attempts at detox, something stirred in Dennis and he walked into Transitional Rehabilitation Program in Cheyenne as an addict one last time with nothing but a desire to be free.
Dennis remembers that one morning during his residential stay, in desperation and pain, he got down on his knees and begged, “God, I have to give this to you. If you’re not real, I am done. Whatever doors you open, I will follow. "
As Dennis tells it, "From there, the miracles started to happen.” When he wanted to quit, the members of his circle convinced him to make it one more week. And in that week, his craving for alcohol decreased and he got his miracle.
After 7 months of in patient rehab, the executive director pulled Dennis aside and asked to speak to him privately. Much to Dennis’s surprise, the director told Dennis that he saw how other men looked to Dennis for inspiration and that this was a gift that could be used for good. He asked Dennis if he would consider joining the rehab staff when he graduated. After decades of working as a roughneck on the oil rigs, it was the shock of Dennis’s life that he had spiritual gifts to offer the world.
While he finished the program, he volunteered at a day center for homeless men and began learning skills to mentor others. He then later earned his CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) to qualify as a detox technician to help men who are trying to overcome drug and alcohol abuse. He has touched many, many lives through this servant work.
Dennis always called himself a Christian but he knows now the difference between “saying” and “doing” Jesus. Among the miracles in Dennis’s life, Dennis counts reconciling with his children among the greatest miracles Jesus has ever performed for him.
With love and grace in his heart, Dennis is the quiet force in our family. Between Dennis's three children and 3 step-children, he is a grandfather 14 times over.
When Dennis was first diagnosed, his oncologist assured us this was a highly treatable cancer so long as Dennis received a liver transplant. And for the last year and a half as we waited for the transplant call, we believed this cancer would be nothing but a bump in the road. And it seemed like it was ! Dennis remained in relatively good health and continued to work full-time while juggling his cancer treatments. He even kept up his daily bike ride of 17 miles and continued volunteering with the Salvation Army. That changed in February 2017 when Dennis's bile duct stopped draining.
This was a sign that the cancer had spread. Because the cancer is now growing on a vein supplying blood, the canceris growing aggressively and treatment options are limited. We believe in miracles but the doctors are running out of options.
Expenses and Needs
Dennis has been unable to work for the last three months and his doctors have said he is no longer capable of going back to work. Because Dennis literally needs his insurance to live, part of this campaign will pay for COBRA to extend Dennis's insurance once his sick leave runs out.
At this point, Dennis has insurance until August through the generosity of his coworkers. When his boss, Cory, learned how sick Dennis had become, Cory petitioned HR and the Executive Director to allow Dennis's coworkers to donate their sick leave to Dennis. Employees who'd never met Dennis but had heard of him donated in spades. What kindness! The HR manager said she'd never seen such an outpouring of love and because of this they are going to formally create this as a program to help others who may face similar needs in the future.
Between bills not covered by insurance and high co-pays, the various costs of commuting the 90 miles back and forth from Wyoming to the cancer hospital in Denver, and the very real possibility of hospice in the next few months, Dennis and Patty are exploring all financial options including medical bankruptcy. What we most want for Dennis right now is peace of mind so he can focus on his health.
Anyone who donates to this cause should feel assured that their contribution is being used wisely. The major bills and costs facing Patty and Dennis right now include:
1) Multiple, weeks-long hospital stays at St. Luke's Presbyterian Medical Center
2) Emergency ambulance services from Cheyenne Regional Medical Center to St. Luke's
3) Multiple surgeries to determine how the cancer is spreading
4) Cost of COBRA to continue Dennis's insurance ($1300/month)
5) Cost of a zero gravity chair to help Dennis sleep more comfortably when he makes it home
6) Hospice care including home adjustments such as a medical bed and changes to the bathroom. Even though this is a tough topic, the doctors have encouraged the family to make this decision sooner than later.
How YOU Can Help Today
Dennis's family has created this GoFundMe campaign to help with the exceptional medical expenses that Patty and Dennis are now facing as well as to ensure that Dennis can retain insurance coverage. We know that insurance is a blessing right now but even with it, the costs are spiralling far beyond Dennis and Patty's financial ability. We are asking for generosity from Dennis's family, his friends, coworkers and any of those whose lives have been touched by knowing Dennis or by reading about his story.
Please consider helping in any of these ways:
1) Donate. No amount is too small and every single $ will go directly to support Dennis's medical care and wellbeing.
2) Share this GoFundMe campaign https://www.gofundme.com/dennis-ortega-gentle-warrior-fund on all your social media accounts. Tweet to #GentleWarriorDennis.
3) Pray. Please add Dennis and Patty to your prayer chains. If your church maintains a prayer list, please pray for Dennis's healing in body and spirit and for strength of heart for Patty. If this is printed in a bulletin, please send to the family so we can hold your prayers even closer to our hearts.
4) Share any ideas with us on how to get the word out! If you have any tips on how we can raise attention to this campaign, let us know.
Cancer can affect anyone and while we know that Dennis's future is in God's hands, we want to be sure that he has the best care and the best nurturing during the time he has with us. We believe Dennis is worth this!
Your donations will make all the difference!
- Gilbert Campbell
- Collin Kosiba
- Mary Billiter
Organizer and beneficiary
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