Cancer is a thief not only because it steals from you those good memories of loved ones and leaves memories of suffering in place, but because… sometimes… it keeps taking from you long after your loved ones have gone.
I am a seventy years old now, and as of this year I have no option but to retire. I support myself and my two dogs through the rental of two apartments at my home.
I lost my husband to cancer six years ago this January, and I’m appealing to you on grounds of compassion to help me out of the last 37% of debt and cost of replacement for a new roof. Over the last six years I’ve worked hard to repay nearly two thirds of the debt accrued by the cancer, but I’m running out of steam. Please hear my story.
A decade ago my husband was in the early stages of cancer, without us realizing it. His care was completely botched by a neurologist who diagnosed dementia and called in a team of specialists led by a psychiatrist.
There were bad consequences for this mismanagement. We could have had three years to prepare for the cancer, three years of treatment that could have added years to my husband’s life.
But there was a financial impact as well. I took reduced hours at my job to be able to care for my husband. We had to hire carers. The treatments and fourteen rounds of high-care hospital stays that were recommended by the team weren’t all covered by medical insurance and we needed to dip into life savings.
But things turned for the better when a collapsed throat muscle forced us away from the medical team that was failing us. We got the right diagnosis of cancer. Sadly, because it was serious, but also hopefully, because we now had the right diagnosis.
We opted to dip into our life savings for life saving neurosurgery. Sadly it was only then that a biopsy could be performed with the most accuracy--the biopsy confirmed the worst that it was Stage IV.
We’d bought only a few months, a year at best, rather than the years we’d been hoping for. While I watched my husband waste away, we deployed all the resources we needed to -- from occupational therapy to retrain his collapsed throat to swallow, to money for a carer again (who assisted with intensive daytime care), to money for protein supplements to ensure my husband’s nutritional needs, to draw sheets for the bed, to a wheelchair, bed pans and adult diapers. None of which were covered by medical insurance.
I quit my job in order to care for my husband, making sure to stay awake through nights and on weekends in order to lower the costs of the carer and the nurse who monitored medical data four times a week.
When my husband passed, I was devastated. I had married young, and in all my life only been married to him. Three months after the funeral I returned to work, and slowly over the course of nearly six years I’ve managed to work away most of the debt.
I sold our house, and downscaled to a smaller home. I support myself by the rental of two apartments on this property. But I cannot cover the last 37% of zombie debt that lingers from the cancer. And I can no longer enter the job market at the level I was able to even a few years ago.
Unfortunately during the sale, I was hoodwinked by the realtor and the previous owner. Despite contracts stating that everything about the house, including the roof, was in good repair, I soon discovered that the roof was completely dilapidated. And worse my roof is made from asbestos. The damage to my roof is now continuing to have a negative effect--many ceilings now need to be repaired or replaced, part of the house needs to be rewired, as rain water leaked into parts of the electrical wiring.
After the costs involved in winding up my husband’s estate, selling off the house and moving, then upgrading the two bedsitters to support myself, I do not have the funds to pursue the matter in a court.
I am frightened that the asbestos might be carcinogenic. I’m frightened that I might get cancer from this, and that my children might have to support me because I have nothing to support myself. I’m frightened that when the rains come in wet months of May through September, that my house will get ruined even further, that I will never be able to enjoy my new home, and that when I die my children will be burdened with zombie debt.
This is the desperate appeal for help, from a seventy year old pensioner, who battled to restore her financial grip for six years alone.
Thank you for listening. Any help will be appreciated, especially spreading the word. If you’re in South Africa, even materials and, or labour for the restoration of the roof would be welcomed. With deep gratitude.