I am writing to tell you my story. In October of 2007, my husband underwent testing and exploratory surgery and found that a large aggressive soft tissue sarcoma had pretty much taken over. He had several surgeries to remove his prostate and bladder. He was fitted with a urostomy bag and suffered many setbacks keeping him in the hospital until February.
He was finally able to go back to work in April, however his company had cut him down to 30 hours due to the economy. The loss of 10 hours a week took a toll on our family and I tried to work as many hours as I could to try and make up the difference. This also proved to be a challenge as he continued to have more setbacks and follow up visits, necessitating many trips to the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, MA. Although we are grateful for our state insurance coverage, his illness required visits to urologists, colorectal surgeons, oncologists and plastic surgeons, all specialists, all with a higher co-pay; not to mention the gas used traveling to Burlington and eventually Dana Farber in Boston.
Fast forward to 2011. He is still working reduced hours and still having quarterly follow ups with his specialists. During a routine CT scan it is determined that the tumor is growing again. This time it has taken over his intestines. They schedule another surgery, this one to remove his intestines and rectum and give him a colostomy bag. During a routine pre-op echocardiogram, it is determined he has a problem with his heart and has to have stents put in.
On the same day, I was having nose reconstruction surgery as I had been recently diagnosed with squamous cell skin cancer and had surgery to remove cancerous cells. I had a large area of my nose removed and it was necessary to have plastic surgery to achieve some sort of normal appearance. To make matters even worse, my 17 year-old daughter had seen a neurologist for severe migraines and was determined to have a cyst on her brain. She was now seeing a different neurologist at Mass General to determine if surgery was possible. In January of 2012, my husband was finally determined to be healthy enough for his colorectal surgery and spent another month in the hospital recovering. Luckily my daughter was treated for her cyst with no surgery necessary and my surgery was successful, as well.
In March, my husband returned to work, however by June it was obvious that it was too much for him and he applied for disability. He was now making monthly visits to Dana Farber in Boston being treated with a chemotherapy pill, which was very expensive. Again, luckily our insurance only required me to pay $25.00 a month co-pay, but the frequent trips to Boston during the peak gas prices really took a toll on our finances. By this point I was the only one working and his disability was in the approval stage so no money was coming in from him. We now had 2 kids in college and could not help them out at all. My daughter eventually dropped out and my son has graduated from Keene State with $80,000 in student loans on a teacher’s salary.
Well, it is now 2015. He still has the tumor and is hanging in there. We are still making trips to both Lahey and Dana Farber. He is on weekly infusions of chemotherapy, but luckily he is able to go to Dana Farber in Londonderry for his treatments. My cancer has not returned, his heart is pretty healthy, my daughter is doing well and he is receiving a fraction of his previous salary in disability. We’re doing okay, not great, but okay, we’re alive.
That is why that cost of living raise is so important to us, as well as numerous other state employees. We work hard. I work for 911 and work rotating shifts, holidays, snow storms, you name it. I have missed a lot of events in my children’s lives because these things are scheduled around normal work schedules, not mine. We are still paying off debt from all of our financial setbacks due to my husband’s illness and subsequent job loss. Hard work should be rewarded and with this last contract negotiation, I thought that it was. You have no idea what a difference that raise can make in so many lives. Please reconsider this in your budget negotiations. You can make a difference.