My friend TJ finds herself in a struggle she never could have imagined. Retelling the circumstances is painful and, no doubt, humbling but she is desperately out of options and does not know where to turn.
She has been at the mercy of cancer and treatment and living with physical changes she does not recognize. Consequently, losing her home for unpaid real estate taxes. She believed she’d be able to pull herself out of the slide but it seems that, despite actual breaks in some regards, she cannot cure this financial crisis in the time given. This woman works and has throughout but repeated setbacks have taken the ultimate toll.
The blame for this crisis could easily be put on cancer but it is difficult to accept that. Her first cancer diagnosis was August 2011. She came through that ten month ordeal fairly unscathed, or so we thought. Out of work for eight weeks, had excellent health insurance and chose to be a model “survivor”. This happened to be the year she moved to her own home, living alone for the first time in her life.
The next year (2013) she was diagnosed with a second cancer, stage zero. She was determined to breeze through this without resentment. She had bought a home was just beginning to settle so treatment began four months later when she was, again, out of work for eight weeks. Because she is a state employee she does not have employer provided disability insurance. At the same time it was becoming clear that the house she purchased had been misrepresented and would need a good amount of work. She intended to get back to full health and make it right, disappointed not defeated but was realizing the challenges of being alone. She has no family, children, siblings or other. It was taking its toll.
Within weeks of returning to work she began having new symptoms she could not ignore. It took months to diagnose but the gynecological cancer was found with unexpected colorectal at the same time. Two more cancers within three years. All of 2015 was spent treating these with much radiation and chemo, working all but the weeks following the abdominal surgery. She lost much strength and hope that year, yet kept on just the same.
At the beginning of 2016 it was devastating to learn the cancer remained. It was stage four and she was told there was no further treatment. Skip to the good news in this chronicle. She sought help at another cancer center, 250 miles from home, entered a clinical trial and was disease free by September. I did my best to contribute by driving her to her treatment every three weeks for as long as I could. Her spirit was restored and she began to think of the future.
In 2017 she had to have major abdominal reconstruction to address the damage that was done by radiation of the previous treatment. She had conquered the cancer but she was very physically destroyed. When it was suggested that she stop working she denied any possibility. Vastly behind financially, and facing new expenses, she was trying to be optimistic about being able to recover.
With her home being most important in life, she struggled to get a payment plan with the county for taxes in arrears. This meant an additional $2000 every three months. She was sure she could find the strength of her great determination to keep her home.
And now, in 2018, while pushing to get back on track, cancer struck one more time. The first week of last year she found another breast cancer, the result of radiation in 2011! Angiosarcoma is rare and aggressive but with what she survived she wasn’t ready to quit. This surgery was extensive and took her out of work for eighteen weeks. It was then that she defaulted on the property tax agreement and began the downward spiral.
TJ continues to work as much overtime as she is physically able but with a large sum from taxes in arrears, in addition to past years’ taxes, she is beyond what she can pay in a sum or borrow. She’s attempted to sell but moving and managing this all alone seems insurmountable. There are no hardship options. Disgraced by what this has become and five cancers in eight years carries little weight in financial survival terms. She has exhausted all options. We cannot ask acquaintances for such funds. She actually discloses her plight to very few people for a number of reasons. It is excruciating to hear people’s reaction to her medical maladies. People do judge. It is defeating to hear others make it sound so hopeless that it questions whether she should be alive. The attitude toward cancer is defeatist not supportive in her single handed struggle to survive. She has difficulty being labeled or reminded of how unfortunate this is.
So, she’s at a total loss and I’m hoping the kindness of people we don’t even know, in a last resort, will give promise and get her through so Sheldon, her nurse of a dog, and she will be able to keep their home. And remain cancer free. And pay it back to the next soul in need to keep faith. We know this is desperation but believe there’s a way. This can’t be the last chapter after the survival she’s accomplished.