The Other Side of the Mountain: Brave Mom Faces Financial Struggles with Cancer Diagnosis

Kate R.

Kate and her family love doing a wide variety of activities. Whether she and her husband bring their six-year-old son to an adventure park or soak in a sunny day at the beach, the family enjoys having fun anywhere and everywhere.

One such activity Kate has wanted to get back into since the birth of her son is skiing. Having been an avid skier and regular at mountains in Vermont, such as Stowe and Killington, Kate hopes to get back there and teach her son the slopes.

“He’s never been skiing, so that’s on my husband and my list for this winter,” said Kate.

In early January 2022, Kate felt something was off in her body. She consistently had trouble going to the bathroom and experienced stomach pain and cramps.

For the next couple of weeks, the Warwick, RI native underwent numerous doctor exams and scans that revealed nothing serious. When Kate went to the emergency room later that month with the same symptoms, the doctors told her she likely had an abscess in her stomach. Kate, however, believed it was something worse.

“I told [the doctors] that I don’t think it’s that,” Kate said. “I had to put my foot down with the surgeons since they would send me home with antibiotics, so I asked them just to go in and check.”

Kate’s intuition proved right as she was diagnosed with rectal cancer at 37 years old. When asked about the importance of advocating for your health, Kate mentioned reminding yourself that ‘you know your body best.’ As well as pursuing answers to find out what’s going on if you feel any symptoms or think something is wrong.

At the time of her cancer discovery, the doctors didn’t know how much progression Kate’s cancer had made. In Kate’s words, hearing the word cancer was a surreal and out-of-body experience.

“When you find out something like that, your mind just races everywhere,” said Kate. “It’s a really scary feeling.”

Once diagnosed, Kate began six weeks of treatment at the Lifespan Cancer Institute at Rhode Island Hospital. The plan consisted of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, with Kate undergoing radiation five days a week.

That beginning stretch of treatment was challenging for Kate, with the first week involving a large amount of chemotherapy and difficult side effects. She went through bouts of insomnia, nausea, and mouth sores that made it tough to eat and drink. Looking back, Kate explained she only averaged about two hours of sleep a day during that time.

“By the end of the week, it felt like I was hallucinating,” Kate said. “I was so exhausted mentally and physically. It was awful.”

The physical impact of her cancer journey wasn’t the only thing Kate and her family faced. The financial stress of treatment grew on the household. While Kate had been working as an Uber driver, the family’s joint income soon struggled to pay for multiple items such as utilities and groceries.

While at Lifespan, Kate talked to her social worker, Laura, about finding a way to ease the stress. Laura mentioned contacting the Joe Andruzzi Foundation (JAF) for help and applied to JAF on Kate’s behalf.

In a short time, those worries Kate had disappeared as JAF stepped in through its Financial Assistance and Food Security Assistance presented by AmpliX. Hearing the news of a Stop & Shop gift card coming in and being able to make car payments was a dream come true for Kate.

“It honestly felt like a miracle,” Kate said. “It was the best thing ever. I was so unbelievably thankful.”

Kate also added that the significance of a contribution to JAF leads to ‘one of the nicest things you could ever receive’ as someone going through cancer.

“You’re helping someone out more than you’ll ever know,” said Kate. “It’s very stressful having cancer and going through all the treatments. To know that there’s support, it’s nice.”

In May, Kate will go in for a scan to determine where her cancer is currently. She’s hoping she’ll get more good news and be able to go back to work full-time and ski with her family again.

“It’s been almost seven years since I’ve been skiing, so hopefully, cancer will be behind me, and I can get back up to the mountains.”

With the help she received from JAF and her ability to access her treatment, the Foundation has no doubt Kate will be back on the slopes with her family soon.

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