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Battling Cancer And Social Security

One person with cancer details their challenges with fighting for social security while battling a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis.
BY Tammy Summers
PUBLISHED May 26, 2020
In February of 2014, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. At the age of 45, cancer had spread through my body into my lymph nodes, liver and both hip bones. My prognosis was only a 27% chance to live five years.

I had a young son, so I decided to fight by keeping normalcy in his world. I chose to throw on my wig and continue working at my stressful 40-hour-a-week administrative job. My treatment regimen included surgery, biopsies, scans every four months and intravenous chemotherapy every three weeks — for the rest of my life, or until my body can no longer tolerate it. I have had over 80 rounds of chemotherapy in less than six years.

Praise God, I am blessed to have been in remission since July 2014! I exceeded the five-year prognosis but have to be realistic knowing that I have even less than a 27% chance of living 10 years. Unfortunately, I am forced to spend over a year of my time left in this world fighting Social Security.metastatic breast cancer

I can no longer work due to daily exhaustion. My first attempt to get Social Security disability benefits was filed in June 2019. I was turned down in August 2019. I retained an attorney and appealed the decision. Seven months later in January of 2020, I had a hearing and was notified in February 2020 that I had lost my appeal. At the recommendation of my attorney, I am appealing again. I provided my medical statements and records, and my attorney told me to expect a 12 month or longer wait for a decision.

My husband and I are afraid to go so long with missed income, in fear of having to file for bankruptcy. I cannot even apply for unemployment. The attorney did say we could request to have my case rushed, but only if hospice is called in for me. Really?

There has to be a better way to screen out those trying to abuse our system. I would much rather work than have to request Social Security benefits, however, God sometimes has different plans for us.

How can Americans battling the disease and serious health issues being forced to stress over bills in a country as grand as ours? I urge you to encourage guideline reviews of the Social Security system and be an advocate for change.

If I wasn’t married, I would’ve lost my health insurance and wouldn’t be able to pay a mortgage, electric bills or even buy food. Even being married, we had to sell my car.

We cannot share quality family time together if it costs money, due to our depleted budget. We were a two-income household, and now my husband had to get a second job just to help cover our normal bills.
There are many Americans suffering through these issues who are worse off than me. I choose to be their voice.

I had no idea how bad the Social Security system was until I needed it. I have been working for over 35 years, some- times at two jobs simultaneously, and contributing to Social Security the entire time. The attorney said if I had just filed in 2014 when first diagnosed, it probably would’ve been approved. It is crazy that I am being penalized for trying and fighting through the sickness to continue working.

Most Americans who haven’t experienced health issues preventing employment may not realize these problems exist. I ask for you to please consider assisting, being another voice and advocating for change in our system that is desperately needed by those who have acquired disease and infirmity.
Continue the conversation on CURE’s forum. >>
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