UPDATE [31 July 2012]: On July 27, 2012, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini directed Aetna to cover the full extent of bills I accrued while uninsured ($118,000 and counting). 100% of proceeds from all items sold here will be donated to charity: The Wellness Community — Arizona, University of Arizona Cancer Center's Patient Assistance Fund, and the Colon Cancer Alliance. The money raised previously will go to The Wellness Community — Arizona and University of Arizona Cancer Center's Patient Assistance Fund.
Hi, my name is Arijit. I’m 31 years old, a PhD student at the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, and for the past year I’ve been fighting Stage IV colon cancer. Now, having been dropped from coverage by my health insurance provider, I’m waging a war on potential medical bankruptcy and I’m asking for your help as I try to raise the funds necessary to help pay for my on-going treatment.
Last January, my wife and I returned from a trip to India and soon after our return, I was beset with intense pain in my abdomen. After numerous visits to the ASU student health clinic failed to uncover what was going on, I eventually headed to a gastroenterologist, who did a colonoscopy and discovered I had a 6-cm-wide growth in my colon that was nearly completely obstructive. I soon learned the tumor was malignant and then, when in surgery to remove the cancerous growth, my surgeon discovered that the cancer had spread well beyond the colon and small tumors had metastasized throughout my abdominal cavity. The extent of the disease meant my colon could not be re-connected and I emerged from surgery with a colostomy. In a matter of weeks, I went from thinking I had a bad stomach bug to learning I had metastatic colorectal cancer.
Since that initial diagnosis and surgery, I’ve been through multiple hospitalizations, an additional, highly invasive surgery to remove much of my abdominal lining along with my gallbladder, and many intensive chemotherapy treatments.
Fortunately, in part due to my young age and the extraordinary care I have received at the University of Arizona Cancer Center, I’ve been able to cope quite well so far despite the difficulties of treatment. Unfortunately, cancer treatment is quite expensive, and recently the ASU student insurance plan stopped covering my cost of care. The Aetna student health insurance plan provided by ASU caps the lifetime insurance benefit paid out at $300,000, which the high cost of treatment used up in less than one year.
Though Aetna is no longer covering my healthcare costs, my treatment still continues. I am currently undergoing bi-weekly chemotherapy treatments and will continue to need treatment for the foreseeable future. Consequently, my medical expenses continue to accumulate despite the lack of insurance reimbursement. So now I am left responsible to cover the costs for all my medical expenses myself, which leaves me at the mercy of charity care — a combination of what the hospital is willing to write-off or provide at reduced rates, drugs provided by pharmaceutical companies at a free or discounted rate, as well as money I can raise to help offset the costs of treatment — in order to avoid medical bankruptcy.
I’m hopeful that this will only be a short-term problem; come August, I should once again have insurance coverage, either through a newly negotiated student health care plan or via the more expensive federal government-run Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. Nevertheless, between now and August, I still need to undergo treatment and the bills will start piling up. Though it’s hard to predict, we expect that six months of treatment will potentially cost as much as $100,000, assuming that my current treatment regimen continues as planned.
Through all this, I’ve been lucky enough to continue with school and, in many ways, I’ve been able to continue living life normally and do the things I love. That’s not to say that life hasn’t changed: two surgeries, losing a nearly a foot of colon, and the continuing chemo treatments have taken their toll, both physically and emotionally. While I like to think I’ve remained optimistic throughout everything that has happened, having to deal with these financial stresses when my main task should be taking care of myself has been frustrating and draining. However, I look forward moving beyond all this and being able to focus on my research and working to find answers the sustainability questions I’m interested in. I’m positive that things will get better and that I soon will return to a life where I am not constantly worried by how to pay for treatment and avoid bankruptcy.
The “Ways To Help” page has information on different ways you can help:
You can buy the t-shirts, bracelets, and other merchandise here on the Poop Strong website; all the proceeds beyond the cost of printing the shirts and shipping will go to charity.
If you're not interested in any of the products we're selling here, but still would like to contribute to fundraising efforts and help my fellow cancer survivors, you can make a tax-deductible donation to three very worthy charitable groups I love: the University of Arizona Cancer Center's Patient Assistance Fund, The Wellness Community — Arizona, and the Colon Cancer Alliance. For more information on making a donation to these groups, please see the “Ways To Help” page.
Thanks for checking out the website and for helping me out.