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When Fighting Terminal Lung Cancer is Only Half the Battle

By: Sue E., Citrus County

My name is Sue Eland. I am a mother of three sons. I am a grandmother. I am a neighbor. I am a nurse. I have terminal lung cancer.

I’ve worked my entire life. I’ve always had health insurance. I was a surgical nurse until I had to leave my job in February of last year. That is when I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. I had not been sick at all. I went on short-term and long-term disability through my employer so that I could undergo chemotherapy and radiation. When you’re working you never think about needing or using your short- or long-term disability. You don’t’ realize that there are time constraints. It runs out. Last month my long-term disability ended.

The premium for the COBRA insurance through my job was $1,200 a month. My current income is my social security disability payment which is barely enough to cover my rent and electricity bill; never mind my car payment or car insurance. The disability payments started this month, but my payment came at an odd time during the month. This caused me to be late on my car payment and rent. I’ve never been late paying my bills, but what can I do? Now it seems that I will be perpetually behind on paying my bills, and I don’t make enough to cover my bills. I make too much money to qualify for food stamps. There are very few social services where we live, although I was able to find a food bank last week. Sometimes my extended family helps me with meals.

I moved to Citrus County from the city because they have great schools. They’re “A-rated” which is important to me because my youngest son is five years old. He’s a big boy for five! Looking at him you would never know that he was born prematurely and drug addicted. I adopted him to keep him out of the system. He has had several surgeries in his young life, but he is a fighter and eager to learn his site words. Only recently has he started to share his fears about my cancer.

It’s really beautiful out here in the country. I’m able to sit on my porch, listen to the birds, watch all the different wildlife go by. My son and I planted a garden last year. It felt good to go out in the garden with him to pick fresh string beans and cook them for dinner. He really loved it. I’m glad that I can give him that experience. I’m hoping to get another garden started soon. Some days my body is just tired.

I’m still undergoing therapy to treat my cancer. I have another surgery scheduled this week. Last week I had to borrow gas money to get to a doctor’s appointment. The Cancer Center where I get my treatment has a financial lady that has helped me figure out my insurance situation. I didn’t think I had any insurance after my work insurance ended. However, she was able to find out that I have Share of Cost Medicaid or what’s called Medically Needy. I have a high deductible that I have to pay before Medicaid kicks in to help with cost. I’m not at all sure how it works, but the Cancer Center is helping me navigate the system. No one teaches you this stuff and there’s nowhere to go to learn it.

I applied for Medicaid for my son. I received two denial letters from Healthy Kids and, what I believe is, an approval letter for his Medicaid. However, the letter requested additional documentation, so I’m planning to go there today to talk with someone. I never call them on the phone. I take my big bucket of documents into their office and pull out what they need when they ask for it. It’s a hassle, but it’s what I’ve go to do to make sure he’s covered.

It’s not easy to navigate the system. I admit that I don’t understand the system, and I’m a seasoned nurse. Something has got to change. Florida has got to change. I paid into the system my whole life. It’s not that I don’t want to work. I like being a nurse. I wasn’t done being a nurse. I just can’t work right now. The minute I can, if I’m able, I’m going to work, because I can’t survive like this. Some days I think that I may have to just go back to work as I’m recovering. I’m not as well as I want to be, but I don’t want to be homeless either. I’ve got to get through this somehow because this kid’s gotta have me.


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