Doctors have told "Heather," a mother of three, that she has, at most, three years to live. David Grace photo.
Raising three kids can be tough on anybody. Now imagine raising three kids while you have multiple sclerosis and lupus and have been diagnosed with cancer.
“Heather,” who asked that we not use her real name, confronts this situation on a daily basis. Some days, she can’t even get out of bed.
“There’s times where I can’t even walk,” she said. “It’s hard to look at your children and say, you know, things are going to get better.”
Heather was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis shortly after she had her first child. For the next four months, she was physically unable to take care of her newborn baby. After going to the emergency room and being admitted to the hospital to figure out what was wrong with her, she was diagnosed with MS.
She said she was floored when she heard the diagnosis.
Doctors told her she had the worst kind of MS and it wouldn’t get better. In order to just walk, she has to take twice daily injections and have IV steroids every three months.
If she doesn’t take her daily injections, she will end up in a wheelchair. The medication for the daily injections is $4,000 a month.
After the birth of her second child, she went to get some routine lab tests done. After she explained some of the problems she was having, doctors did a special test and diagnosed her with systemic lupus.
“It just took a really big toll,” she said. “Because at that point, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had two children and financially things were strained. I was just floored.”
When she had kids, she didn’t know she was sick or didn’t expect to become so sick. She had graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and wanted to work with children in state custody.
Things would only get worse for Heather. Her third child was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth. Children who are born with CF only live to the age of 13, on average.
Since her first child, she had been seeing a gastroenterologist because stress, whether financial or health-related, can cause ulcers. On one appointment, she was diagnosed with cancer. It started in her cervix, moved to her breast and is now in her stomach.
She is currently receiving chemotherapy treatment for the cancer. Doctors have given her, at most, three years to live.
All these illnesses make it hard for Heather to work. Some days, she needs a caregiver to take care of her and the kids. She is currently on disability, which is about $700 a month. Most of that check goes out the door as soon as she gets it because she has to pay about $600 a month in rent.
So she depends a lot on places like the Salvation Army for help. Heather already signed up her children for the Angel Tree this year. She said sometimes it is hard to get assistance when a person is sick because a lot of it has to be done in person.
Christmas is especially difficult for Heather.
“It’s very hard,” she said. “You know, my kids will say, ‘I want this or I want that.’ You know, financially with the expenses, it’s impossible to get them everything they want and need.”
The Times-News Rescue Fund is currently accepting donations to help families like Heather’s. The fund has raised $60,000 each of the past two years for needy families in the area.
Tax-deductible donations may be sent to Times-News Rescue Fund, P.O. Box 479, Kingsport, Tenn. 37662.