Air Force Veteran Soars Above Financial Challenges of Colorectal Cancer Diagnosis Thanks to JAF

Dan M.

When Dan Martineau of Warwick, Rhode Island was in the Air Force, he was always known as someone in phenomenal shape. He ran 10 miles a day, three days a week, and always tried to stay fit. Even with his days in the service long since passed, he always tried to keep his strength up in the gym.

But none of that mattered in early 2023.

Dan was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Dan has no family history, but life as a chemist and in the Air Force may have exposed him to dangerous carcinogens. Whatever the reason, at first, Dan couldn’t believe it.

“I was in denial,” Dan said. “You have misnomers as a kid, oh, that won’t happen to me…But then [I] said, well, I’ll go through and do what they say, and pray God will take care of what I can’t.”

Dan’s treatment plan was hard enough on its own. He started a course of radiation and chemotherapy at Miriam Hospital in Rhode Island that at first kept him out of work.

“Radiation just laid me out; [I] felt like I swam 2.5 miles a day from the radiation.”

But as hard as that was, the financial strain was the most significant thing weighing on Dan.

“For me at least, being the breadwinner, [the financial piece] was the most stressful thing…and it is not good for you when you have cancer; you don’t want to be under more stress than you need to be.”

That’s where JAF came in. Dan looked at lots of resources. He had to pay his deductible and continue to pay his insurance through his employer on top of the rent and utilities, which doesn’t stop for anyone. Not only did Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) not pay as much as he made, but he also knew he had to save some of it for a potential surgery. It is like so many stories across New England where patients are forced to manage both the strains of treatment and the financial toxicity caused by a cancer diagnosis.

JAF, through its Financial Assistance Program, tried to ease the financial burden of cancer patients by paying a month of Dan’s rent. His co-workers took up a collection at work and contributed to a second month, and through TDI, Dan could find enough to cover a third during the height of his treatments. Even with a sympathetic landlord, Dan never wanted to seem like he was taking advantage of their situation.

“It took the pressure off,” Dan shared.

Dan went back to work in July. He’d take vacation time on Thursdays and sick time on Fridays to get infused with chemo through Saturday. Miriam Hospital worked with Dan on this schedule so he could use the weekend to bounce back and go back to work on Mondays.

For Dan, this has led to a happy outlook for the New Year. Doctors didn’t operate in September because of how much scar tissue there still was, and when he returned in December, thankfully, there was nothing there: no tumor, no cancer, no surgery. Dan will continue to be monitored every three months, but for now, Dan will be a happy man in 2024!

“From the bottom of my heart, I can’t thank [JAF] enough because for me, the most stressful part was not the chemo, not the radiation, but it was the financial element and being the provider from the home. How am I going to do this? And the answer was I couldn’t, and I needed the help.”

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