Imagine living in a foreign country, where you don’t speak or understand the language, and you are barely meeting your mortgage and other living expenses, and then you get sick. So sick that you can’t work, and you can’t afford to pay for the medical bills.
This is what Khamsay Chanthasaly, who came to the US from Laos, is experiencing. In December 2015, he was diagnosed with a rare case of breast cancer in men. It started on Christmas Eve, when he was admitted to hospital following an unbearable pain in his back and legs. After surgery and radiotherapy, he became so weak that he was unable to continue his job.
“At first, I was depressed and hopeless. We didn’t have enough money to pay for the treatments. Even before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, we could barely cover the living cost with the money that we earned. We both had to work to be able to pay for the mortgage and other living costs and my wife’s company downsized, so she is now only working part-time,” he says. The situation was devastating and Khamsay, who is 58, was very upset that he could not work and provide income for his family.
Fortunately, he has the support and encouragement of family members and the Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS). A private nonprofit, CPACS promotes self-sufficiency and equity for immigrants, refugees, and the underprivileged through comprehensive health and social services, capacity building, and advocacy.
With the help of interpreters, he was able to communicate with his healthcare providers. CPACS helped him to successfully apply for Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.
He learned the importance of getting regular health screenings and of having good health insurance. Today, he is still undergoing treatment, but is still unable to work. Still, his advice to others is to “be optimistic.”
He and his family are very grateful that he is a cancer survivor and that there are non-profit agencies like CPACS to support people in need.
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