The Cost of Cancer | Beyond the Report

Oct 14, 2019

On this Beyond the Report, we meet Lupe Cooks whose second cancer diagnosis left her with a six-figure medical bill. She’s a Lubbock native She’s found a community of support within the walls of this small church overlooking Buffalo Spring Lake.

“I Mentioned to my husband that I was having some pain in my right breast…and he was like you need to go to the doctor. You need to get that looked at. And I was like I don’t have a lot of time right now to be sick.”

Nearly 82 percent of women in Lubbock have health insurance, and Lupe is one of them. She has great coverage. But even with it owes over 600 thousand in medical bills for cancer treatment. At 36 doctors found a lump in her right breast.

“The phone call. It was after Labor Day. The phone call that came from doctor ronahan telling me that it wasn’t just a fibroid tumor. What do you do? When you’re 36 years old and they’re talking about a tumor and cancer and you’re too young for this.”

“[My son] said, mom you have to do whatever it takes to live.”

Together as family, they decided that a double mastectomy and reconstruction was their best option.

And it was a good call. During surgery they discovered the cancer had spread to her left side.

“There was a point right before thanksgiving where we weren’t sure I was even going to get to have the surgery because of insurance. The hospital wanted to make sure that they were going to get their money. And you have to be able to pay the deductibles. Thank god I have a husband that works, I have a job, I have health insurance, I can’t imagine if this is happening to me, and I don’t have health insurance.”

Not long after the surgery, doctors discovered a cancerous tumor in her stomach. The treatment for this rare form of cancer involves an extremely painful injection called Sandostatin. Each inject costs 45 thousand dollars and she gets it every month.

We accompanied her to her treatment in January. The bulk of the time spent in the hospital was waiting for the injection to thaw. The actual 45-thousand-dollar treatment took about two-minutes. 

“I never look forward to this because it’s so painful. Just the injection the medicine going in, it’s still cold. So it stings and it’s painful. 48 hours from now I really start to feel it. The pain from the injection. The fever and chills, joint pain and muscle pain. I’ll just want to crawl into bed but I know it’ll be Wednesday and I’ll have to be at church. And I’ll push through it, but it can be difficult dealing with this injection, and I’ll have to come back and do it again.”

After a year of paying full price for this treatment, Lupe Received significant financial assistance from the manufacturer of Sandostatin. A year of free injections. Shortly after her last appointment, she got news that the offer has been extended to another year.

“I’ve learned that we have to be advocates for ourselves. You have to work together with the doctors and you have to make decisions for your care, for your health and I think that was a vital time in my life learning to take control of that.”

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