Newly Unemployed and Uninsured Cancer Patient Juggles “Oppressive” Health Care System Producers: Ashley Hill, Dorian Folino, Lisa Van Benthuysen and Melissa Murray
After battling colon cancer 6 years ago, Mike Lyons told his friends and family he would never undergo chemotherapy treatments again. Fifteen months ago, he was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic colon cancer in his lungs, liver and other organs, so he made the decision to spend 3 hours every other week receiving chemotherapy treatments in Roseburg, Oregon’s Community Cancer Center.
Though different cancers require different treatments, the one thing they seem to have in common is extreme fatigue. Lyons says he had no idea what the doctors meant when they warned him about fatigue 6 years ago. Now, perpetual tiredness haunts him. Sometimes, holding a conversation or even watching television requires more thought than Lyons can muster. Staring at a wall requires much less energy. When he is tired, moments can seem eternal. “People think you’re going crazy, but it’s not that. It’s the chemotherapy.” He says, “Your mind goes to places you don’t want it to go.”
Cancer does not just affect your body and mind; treatments and health insurance coverage is extremely expensive. Lyons lost his job and health insurance after the company he worked for was sold and re-structured. The losses had the potential to devastate his family. Just one chemotherapy treatment session costs $25,000.
Lyons is now on COBRA health insurance and his treatments are 100% covered after his $20 co-pay per doctor visit. However, COBRA is only available for a limited period before Lyons must secure private insurance. “The stark reality of my situation is, I have 6 months of COBRA insurance,” he says, “and when I’m done with that, I will never have insurance again.” Lyons says the odds that he will qualify and be able to pay for an independent health insurance policy are astronomically slim.
He describes the health care system as "complicated and oppressive." Lyons says his family’s experience with the system has been a struggle and a juggling act.
Lyons doesn’t affiliate with either party, and has not kept up with the health care policies of either presidential candidate. He feels there is nothing he can do to change the health care system in the United States, but he is optimistic about his future. He is committed to battling his cancer and get healthy. He will continue racing Outlaw go-carts with his kids and wife and is going to enjoy life rather than mope around and die. He says, “I don’t want cancer to define me.”