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Losing a Lifestyle but not a Life: Recovering and rebuilding with help from Sherry's Run

It’s a parent’s dream to see her children on their own, successful and working, in college and building their own future. It’s unexpected for that parent to suddenly be forced into a battle against cancer, unable to work and have her life “going backward,” but that’s what happened to Heather Bailey when she got the news in late 2011.

Heather is the single mother of three adult children, becoming single again in 2011. That summer she had to move out of her beautiful log cabin home in Watertown and into an apartment in Mt. Juliet. Her oldest daughter graduated from Cumberland University in May, her son Nick enrolled there and played football on a scholarship while working two jobs, and her youngest daughter is following Heather’s footsteps at MTSU’s School of Nursing. In October of that year, Heather was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a bi-lateral mastectomy. It was a year of changes and transitions, both full of blessings and bad news.

Heather began chemotherapy in early spring 2012, but she was unable to maintain her workload at Kindred Health Care in Nashville – an ironic twist to a devastating diagnosis. Heather took FMLA (Family and Medical Leave), received short term disability but was unable to qualify for State aid. Her income dropped dramatically, so she cut her expenses – disconnecting cable TV, internet, home telephone and cutting corners where she could.

In the midst of medical, financial and mental turmoil, Heather contacted Sherry’s Run in April 2012. Kathy Fyke met Heather at her apartment, which Kathy said was very nice, and overflowing with the remnants of Heather’s former life. Heather wore a head scarf to cover her scalp since chemo had resulted in hair loss, was struggling with the physical pain of chemotherapy and the emotional pain of “losing her lifestyle.”

“She was devastated at the thought of ‘going backward’ and having to move in with her daughter,” Kathy said of this role reversal in Heather’s life. Not only was this health care professional fighting for her life, she was fighting for her independence as well.

Her son Nick, in school and also working two jobs, would come stay with her to cook, clean and take care of her every three or four days. It wound up being too much for a woman battling cancer to handle: Heather has made the decision to move, temporarily with her oldest daughter when her apartment lease ends later this summer, as she was unable to pay her rent or health insurance, and her children began providing financial assistance for their mother.
“When you are fighting for your life the last thing you need to be worried about is how you’re going to pay for medical bills when the insurance stops,” said Heather’s daughter, Andrea Ives.

In May, the FMLA provided by her employer ran out, and Heather lost her group health insurance coverage and took on COBRA for the short term. For someone still in active treatment for cancer, however, medical insurance is critical – so Heather had to drop Nick from her coverage because of the added price of insuring him as well. This was emotionally difficult for her to do since Nick works two jobs to pay both his and his mother’s bills, travelling between Lebanon and Mt. Juliet often to work and care for this mother as often as he can.

“A huge shout-out to Sherry’s Run for helping us when no one else would,” Nick said. “When insurance stopped you guys didn’t.”

Since learning of her plight, Sherry’s Run has provided health insurance premium payments, provided help with living expenses and paid for prescriptions that Heather’s insurance wouldn’t cover. Heather has been very grateful and is working to regain her strength.  She has completed her chemotherapy treatments, and is looking forward to returning to her nursing job this fall.

“Sherry’s Run gave us hope and made it possible to have peace of mind, and took some of the burden off our shoulders,” Andrea said. “We could never thank you enough. Your generosity will always be remembered.”

Nick said he is grateful for what Sherry’s Run has done for his mother – giving a hand up to a woman who has striven to be independent and work to pay her bills, take care of her family and enjoy each day given to her.

“We are truly blessed for your foundation,” Nick said. “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Sherry’s Run is truly making a difference in the lives of those who are battling cancer.  The funds raised go to help cancer patients like Heather who have worked hard for a good life but because of cancer are hurting in our community.

The ninth annual Sherry’s Run is scheduled for Saturday, September 8, 2012 at 8:00 a.m. in Lebanon, beside the main office of Wilson Bank & Trust, 623 West Main Street.  Mark your calendar and make a commitment to join us.  Registration is open now.  Log on to www.SherrysRun.org to sign up.

The mission of Sherry’s Run:  Through faith and love create an environment for all those affected by cancer, which provides hope, knowledge, assistance, support and compassion.  To learn more about Sherry’s Run or to refer someone who might qualify for assistance, please call 615-925-9932 or visit www.sherrysrun.org.