Tom’s Story

My story begins just 18 months ago, before which we were a typical middle-class family who always paid our bills on time and were otherwise totally oblivious to the physical, emotional and financial havoc a catastrophic illness brings.

In April of 2018 we received the dreaded news that cancer had entered our lives. I was diagnosed with appendiceal cancer
(cancer of the appendix), a rare and strange breed of cancer that slowly produces a mucous-y biproduct that gradually compresses the digestive system. At the outset my wife and I decided that we’d do whatever it took, no matter the cost. We waged the battle while bills piled up.

Come October I began having gradually more intense pain in my abdomen, which led to a major “HIPEC” surgery with a specialist in Spokane. They essentially reconfigured my digestive track and saved my life in the process. An excruciating 22 days of slow recovery, far away from family, took place at a Spokane hospital.

While focused on healing, the constant shadow that followed me was the mounting debt that my situation has caused. I have been on disability since October, which has cut my earnings by over 60%. That, combined with the hefty medical bills as well as the regular bills that keep us afloat have had a devastating impact on our financial stability. The kind people at Compass Oncology referred me to several financial support resources, including Komak, and I readily reached out for help. My first contact with Komak, following submittal of my application, was from Dr. Barrett Strasburg. Once my information and documentation were complete, he dropped by my home with RN Rosemary McDermott for a home visit/interview. Shortly thereafter I got a call from Barrett with the good news that I had been approved for financial support from Komak in the form of mortgage payments. The timing of this support was so critical to me and my family’s staying afloat for a few months while I continued to recover (the doctors say I should be able to return to work in September). My wife and I cried with the news, such a relief it was.

We are so grateful for the work of Komak to relieve the financial burdens of Portland-area families struck by the dreaded cancer. I have never had a more difficult and challenging year, to be sure. But at the same time, friends, family and strangers have combined to affirm the goodness and compassion that is there, and we have been incredibly moved and inspired. Komak has been a big part of our support and we cannot thank you enough!