Reed, Richmond, VA
When Reed Whitener was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare form of cancer that attacks the blood and bone, in September of 2007 the last thing on his mind was his finances. “We’ve been in a battle, a war. We wanted to get Reed well, back to normal and we have but now, the aftermath…” his wife, Ellen Whitener, said when asked about the worries that began to plague them when Reed’s recovery began. After surviving an 18 month ordeal of chemotherapy, two bone marrow transplants, multiple surgeries, and several life-threatening infections, Reed has survived something that historically has no cure and Reed is the only person that the VCU Massey Cancer Center has seen walk away from this deadly disease. Yet, on the road to recovery Reed began to find that his good standing with his company and his excellent health insurance were not enough to withstand the cost of battling his cancer.
“I exceeded my cap in November 2008 by several hundred thousand dollars…I was kicked off my CIGNA work plan and was told I owed a lot of money.” Reed had to get on his wife’s health insurance plan after he was removed from his. “I may not have had millions but I did have thousands and due to the unexpected cancer issue I lost it all and then some,” said Reed when discussing the financial issues that began to haunt him. Reed shares that he often would find himself stressing about how he would pay for everything. The medical bills were piling up, the creditors were hounding his wife, he had three children to put through college and his savings was gone. “There were times while in the hospital when I would think, ‘maybe it would be best for all if I did die’,” he said, reflecting on the moments of anxiety about his finances. “I just like to think in the wealthiest country in the world someone like me, in my situation should not have to be on the verge of bankruptcy or wonder sometimes what it would be like for my family to have all my life insurance money.” But for Reed, there was hope.
A lawyer gave Reed the number to LINC’s Client Services Director, Sarah Gonzalez, and recommended he talk to her about his situation. “She was so kind and reassuring,” he said of Sarah when he called. Sarah referred Reed to Charlie Atwill, a CPA and the Financial Chair of the Board for LINC.
“Charlie was so helpful,” said Ellen, “he was very optimistic about our situation and told us we might not have to go bankrupt after all!”
“We walked out of there feeling awesome, good and relieved. I wasn’t as anxious anymore,” said Reed after he took Charlie his financial information. Now Charlie is working with Reed and Ellen to help them get their finances in order. “We didn’t know what to do or who to ask without being charged a fortune. We were relieved,” said Reed, “I asked him how much it was going to cost for his services and he said, ‘Nothing, it’s pro bono’.”
Now that Reed and Ellen have some peace of mind they can return their focus to what is important: Reed’s continued health, their children’s continuing educations, and their family as a whole. “The entire experience has been a blessing in disguise. The drama of my medical bills has opened all our eyes to what is really important in life. I have the most loyal wife and kids and I have no idea what I did to deserve such wonderful people to share my life with,” stated Reed. Without LINC, Reed may still be up at night wondering what he would do but now that the burden has begun to be lifted Reed and Ellen are relieved to get back to normal.
Ellen, Spotsylvania, VA
Ellen contacted us seeking assistance with her estate planning documents. She had a will and living will that had been prepared in another state and she needed to have them reviewed and updated. Ellen was facing a Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis and knew that “an updated will is a must.” We were able to refer her to an attorney in her area who assisted her with revising and executing her documents.
Ellen is extremely appreciative of our assistance, sharing with us that “I could not ask for more. This gives me peace of mind as I am preparing for the worst but hoping for a good outcome after chemo treatments.”
Jenny, Blackstone, VA
Jenny was referred to LINC by a Johnston Willis Hospital nurse where she receives daily radiation to treat her breast cancer. Jenny travels from her home in Blackstone to Richmond and came to LINC seeking resources for financial assistance to cover the cost of transportation to treatment. A survivor of domestic violence, Jenny’s husband left her with little income and resources necessary to ensure she continue her cancer treatment. Working closely with LINC’s client services director, Jenny was awarded grants from the John’s Cancer Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and Cancer Care, all of which will provide her immediate relief and helps ensure she continue her treatment.
“LINC helped get my healthcare benefits extended after losing my job.”
Otto was diagnosed in 2009 with colon cancer and travels regularly for treatment between his home in Suffolk and hospital in Richmond. Otto was referred to LINC from the American Cancer Society because his request for continuation of COBRA benefits was denied. Plan administrators alleged that his Social Security Disability began after the deadline for the extension. LINC staff spoke with the Social Security Administration to confirm the date in which Otto was deemed disabled and to the COBRA plan administrator. After further review and to the relief of Otto and his family, the COBRA plan administrator recognized their mistake and approved Otto’s request for continuation of COBRA benefits. With LINC’s help Otto was able to maintain healthcare coverage, qualified for a reduction in the premium cost, and was able to get the necessary treatment for his cancer.
“LINC helped me by stopping the repossession of my car.”
Vivian was diagnosed in September 2009 with ovarian cancer. A friend referred her to LINC. At the time Vivian contacted LINC, she received notice that the car used to get to and from treatment would be repossessed. While undergoing treatment and surgery Vivian’s work and income was significantly reduced. The repossession of her vehicle would threaten her access to treatment and prevent her from returning to work, causing her to enter into a cycle of poverty. LINC staff worked closely with the lender to extend the deadline for payment, and with the help of a local foundation, secured payment to stop the repossession and assisted in establishing a payment arrangement that was manageable for Vivian. The help Vivian received from LINC ensured that she would have access to the care she would need to battle her cancer.
“LINC helped me understand my rights as a mother of a child with cancer.”
Reena, a single mother of a 13 year old daughter with Leukemia, was referred to LINC by a social worker at MCV. Reena came to LINC after her employer denied her request for leave to take her daughter to treatment. LINC staff and attorneys helped Reena understand her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the responsibilities of her employer. With LINC’s help Reena was able to take leave and ensure her daughter received necessary treatment.