Jim Gillin: giving thanks for each day

Jim Gillin looks forward to Thanksgiving every year.

He has been living with prostate cancer for ten years, so he recognizes that every holiday he gets to share with his seven children and ten grandchildren is a gift.  

Over the last decade, he has gone through radiation, come close to remission, and had the cancer spread to his blood and lymph nodes, trying different treatments along the way. Two years ago, his oncologist recommended a promising new treatment, but there was one major problem: even with Medicare and supplemental insurance, the treatment would cost Jim about $11,000 a month.  

At that price tag, he said he was planning to decline treatment, but his oncologist also recommended the PAN Foundation. Jim said that the financial assistance from PAN gave him a “new lease on life.”  

“If we hadn’t been able to get the grant funding, we would have had to look for alternatives and the oncologist said there weren’t a lot of alternatives for me,” he said. “The bottom line is that if I didn’t get it, the cancer was going to proceed.” 

It’s hard to describe, but basically the funding gave me a new lease on life.

So far, his latest treatment has been successful. 

“The doctor is pleased. He calls me a boring patient, which is what he’d like more of,” Jim said with a laugh.  

He is grateful for these “wonderful extra years” and for the peace of mind that comes with not trying to find a way to pay more than $100,000 a year out of pocket each year. The retiree, who lives in Florida, said he can now focus on trips to visit his grandchildren in other parts of Florida and on the west coast, or just enjoy going for walks with his wife, Denise. 

“We’re enjoying a life that we didn’t see [as possible] a couple years ago. We weren’t sure how long it would last,” he said.  

He’s also paying it forward. He has become a PAN donor and said each of his children have donated as well. He has made plans to leave a gift to PAN in his will too.     
“It just meant so much, what [PAN] did for me,” he said of his grant.

My donations are small, but I plan to continue them and hopefully someday be able to increase them—just as a small payback.

Jim served in the military for several years, and now has Medicare and supplemental insurance. He thought he had done all the right things to prepare for retirement. He said it’s disheartening, but all too common for people to realize that even with Medicare, supplemental insurance, and retirement savings, out-of-pocket costs for a serious illness could leave them with facing impossible choices. 
“It’ s a death sentence to a lot of people unfortunately,” he said.  

He would love to see legislation that eases the burden on older Americans, particularly those with Medicare insurance.  

“A person facing a decision whether they are going to live or die based on medication [costs] should never be a question we are asked in the United States,” he said. “I wish I had the full solution. I’d write up the bill this afternoon.” 

For now, he’s thankful for his extra years and looks forward to his next Thanksgiving holiday with the center of his world—his ten grandchildren.    

“I’m blessed,” he said. “It’s a really joyous time.”