Unit Zero
Five weeks ago, Unit Zero published a diary about beginning his unexpected and exceedingly unpleasant sojourn in the land of cancer. A suspicious lymph node in his neck discovered in November wound up leading to a serious diagnosis in April: Stage III Metastatic Squamous Neck Cancer with Occult Primary. Response from the community here to this staggering news was, as one might expect, very kind and encouraging, with some commenters urging him and his family to fundraise to help meet their large medical expenses, and the shortfall in meeting other expenses while he is too ill to work.

Not quite two weeks ago, Unit Zero published a follow-up diary to do just that.  He and his family are facing heavy financial stress as a consequence of his illness and the temporarily disabling treatments he is undergoing for it. I'll let his wife, Jen, describe it in words from their YouCaring site.

Even though the doctors would have excused him from work immediately if he had said he wasn’t up to it, Eric wanted to keep working as long as possible.He needed to work as long as possible for financial reasons. While the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) should protect his job security during his time off, during the early weeks of diagnosis, surgery, and recovery he exhausted his limited amount of allowable paid Personal Time Off. All that is left is to work or rely on Short Term Disability (STD), which only pays 67% of his normal pay and only for 12 weeks.

Combining radiation and chemo is brutal. And Eric managed to work only two weeks before he couldn’t make it through the workday anymore. The 12 weeks of STD are going to go fast since the doctors have said to expect anywhere from 2-6 months after the end of treatment to recover.

Everyone expects nausea, hair loss and overwhelming exhaustion from chemo and radiation. What we didn't expect was a severely painful throat, internal blisters and sores, and difficulty swallowing which means he needs tube feeding for all his nutrition for the next few months. It's crazy but the medically necessary and very expensive "liquid nutrition" somehow isn't covered by insurance.

On top of this expense, we're faced with a catastrophic deductible before the insurance covers anything. And then, the insurance plan year changed over in the middle of treatment, May 1, and that means we need to once again meet that $10,000 deductible. Add to that, there are all sorts of added expenses: non-covered bills for over the counter meds, bathroom improvements, gas for medical appointments, and special dietary needs. Meanwhile, we are trying to get by on 67% of his pay, knowing that there is a distinct probability that income will dry up before Eric is healthy enough to return to work.

As if the cut in pay combined with meeting the deductible at the worst possible time weren’t enough, when it rains, it pours. We’ve also experienced unexpected household repairs (furnace, hot water, air conditioning, vacuum, bathtub leaking through kitchen ceiling, aluminum siding repairs, dehumidifier, washing machine). Needless to say, the small savings we had worked so hard to establish has been wiped out.

Because the short sale on our old house ravaged our credit rating and we would not be able to recover again, it would be disastrous to become unable to pay our bills.

That was the situation ten days ago. And then things got worse.

Please join me after the jump for more details about Unit Zero's recent crisis. I hope you will understand that I will also put the first request for donations here. The easiest and quickest way to help them out is to send a contribution to this YouCaring page. However, contributions via PayPal are also welcome, to eric.guy@eguy.info

On Monday the 9th, Unit Zero had to be admitted to the hospital, because he started to run a high fever. I'm not sure if they know yet what caused it, but neutropenic fever is not an unusual side effect from chemotherapy, which as you may know is toxic to all rapidly-growing cells, including white blood cells.

They managed to bring his temperature down after a couple of days, which was at least some relief. (If any of you have endured a high fever as an adult, I'm sure you can relate to how horribly uncomfortable it is.) But despite extensive lab work, they couldn't identify a reason for the fever. That itself isn't unusual, or necessarily troubling. But--his white blood cell levels took their own sweet time rebounding, which was another source of worry altogether.

Fortunately, Unit Zero was able to return home yesterday, with much better lab results. As you can imagine, however, this week in hospital simply added insult to injury. He was in considerable discomfort, and because they didn't know what was wrong, they had to postpone his regularly-scheduled chemo treatment.

Here I ask for commiseration from everyone who has had to go through chemotherapy, either for yourself or for a loved one. The damn process is so miserable, that all you really want is to get through it. Any delay or detour in that process is the last thing you want. It's not unusual for such to happen, and it's not necessarily a bad sign when it does, but it adds much more stress to an already near-intolerable situation.

Basically, it's some scary shit to get even sicker than you expect from the treatments that are supposed to make you well in the long run.

And, obviously, this latest medical crisis adds to their financial burden as well. Longer time off from work, additional hospital and doctor bills, extra anxiety all the way around.  

So here is where we-all come in. Before I re-post that crucial link, however, let me share some of my own travails with a serious cancer diagnosis by way of illustrating the problems Unit Zero and his family now face.

Not long after my diagnosis with advanced uterine cancer, I lost my job, and with it, my family's health insurance coverage. (Fortunately, that does not appear to be a risk for Unit Zero, but please bear with me.) The only way that my family weathered that additional layer of catastrophe was that I was not the primary breadwinner in the household. My husband rose to the challenge heroically, working as much as he could to bring in extra income during those first two awful years. Still, I estimate that we lost well over $150,000 in those three years, due to my lost wages (only partly recompensed by SSDI), out-of-pocket health insurance premiums, and additional health care costs, both those covered by insurance and those not.

Unit Zero is the primary, indeed the only, breadwinner in their family. And Jen is now responsible for the care of their five children, three of them still very young; her aging parents; and Unit Zero while he recovers. It's not possible for her to work for pay. They are on the edge.

No way are they looking for $150,000. Somehow or other they will get by, even after absorbing such a big financial hit, as hard as it may be to believe that right now. But they are looking for some financial support.

Their YouCaring site has a goal of $20,000, of which $1365 has come in to date. Can we Kossacks get them to about 1/3 of the way there? That would mean an additional $5460 above and beyond their current donation total. Here is their donation page.

Something else that Jen wrote lately beautifully captures the spirit behind these fundraising appeals:

When someone you know needs help, the human response is to offer, "Let me know if there's anything I can do." Helping people is a natural high. But casseroles, carpools for the kids, lawn care--I've got all that covered. What we need is hard cash to help cover the enormity of medical bills flooding in. I decided that it would be better to let our friends and family have the opportunity to help, and feel good about themselves, rather than to withdraw, lose financial solvency, become enmeshed in bill collectors and austerity budgets to the point of no longer being able to participate with our friends and community.

We have always been self sufficient even through tough times. I look back on the times we've supported others with words of encouragement and comfort, tangible items, and money; I know that impulse within our hearts will endure beyond our current crisis, and we will once again be on the giving end.

I thank you, and I know Unit Zero and Jen and the rest of their family thank you, for all you can do -- recs, tips, tweets, FB posts, and donations of any amount -- to support their fundraising campaign.

3:02 PM PT: To follow up on a request for PayPal information, for those who prefer to use that method: Please send donations to eric.guy@eguy.info

Many thanks once again!

NEW OFFER: Our generous and talented Kossack, Fineena, has offered to split the sale, 50-50, of any of the scarves currently listed at her Etsy site, WillieRu Designs, with Unit Zero. (This offer does not apply to gift certificates.) Thanks for checking out Fineena's beautiful work.

Originally posted to Community Fundraisers on Tue Jun 17, 2014 at 02:10 PM PDT.

Also republished by Positive Intention and Lovingkindness, Kossacks helping each other, Kitchen Table Kibitzing, Street Prophets , PWB Peeps, Monday Night Cancer Club, Motor City Kossacks, and Michigan, My Michigan.

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