Family caregivers month: Robin’s loving support system

At PAN, we believe no one should have to manage a serious illness alone. To honor the tireless work of family caregivers, we’re delighted to share stories from those who have benefited from their compassion and dedication.

Robin and Rick sitting together on a couch outdoors
This is Robin’s story—in her own words.

I was born and raised in Kentucky, home to my mother’s farming family. I met my husband, Rick, when we were co-workers at the local newspaper. Funny, we grew up just blocks from each other.

I enjoy gardening with my husband. I raise flowers, herbs and hot peppers. I’m the planner and he mans the shovel. For years I maintained three herb beds, but as my disease progressed, I was no longer able to get down to ground level to work. Rick quietly went about planning and building two beautiful raised beds, high enough to sit on. Now I can reach them easily and keep my hands in the dirt.

A devastating diagnosis

I was 50 when I was diagnosed with primary myelofibrosis. It was the day before Christmas Eve. I quickly went to Google—big mistake. Nothing but horrible news. The only thing ringing through my head was what I read—no cure, 5-year life expectancy, I’ll never know my grandchildren.

Years later, a local oncologist told my husband that I was in the end stages of my cancer and there was nothing they could do. Rick, my hero, just wasn’t having that and arranged to have me transferred to a different hospital over four hours away. He stayed by my side the entire time, doing what he could for his work and mine on our laptops.

A prayer warrior with endless patience

After six weeks, I came home. I was lucky enough to have family that could stay with me 24 hours a day. They learned to plug in the feeding tube in my belly while I slowly got back to a normal diet.

My sister-in-law, Becky, has been a giant among caregivers. She stayed with me daily for weeks, allowing my husband to get back to work. She has been so encouraging and gave me a friend to spend my days with. Her support helped get many troubles off my mind.

My entire extended family has been there for me—even taking days off work to help—but Becky can handle heavy lifting tasks and is a prayer warrior for anyone who needs care. God gives each of us one or more spiritual gifts. Hers without doubt is that of a caregiver with a loving heart with endless patience and stamina.

A relief from the cost of cancer

For years, I was able to use co-pay cards from the drug manufacturers to pay our $10,000 deductible. That all changed when my husband’s company switched to a high-deductible insurance plan that would not allow co-pay cards to count towards our deductible.

It was shocking to have a $10,000 surprise in January, but between our health savings account and other savings, we were able to cover the cost of my treatment. It had taken us years to build our savings and then they were gone.

That’s when a counselor at my pharmacy told me about the PAN Foundation. Now I pay for my January refill, send the receipt to PAN and they send me a check to cover the cost. I am over the moon!

I can’t describe what PAN has done for our family. There are still lots of smaller billing and insurance issues we have to deal with throughout the year, but coming up with a whopping sum for deductibles every January is not a worry on the list.