Living Beyond Breast Cancer Fund is a lifeline when you lose your job: Leslie Ruminski
- 7 Min. Read
The Living Beyond Breast Cancer Fund provides one-time grants to women in active treatment for breast cancer and facing financial hardship. These grants go toward vital expenses such as rent and utilities. In January 2020, the Tutu Project of the Carey Foundation provided a $70,000 grant to the Living Beyond Breast Cancer Fund to help provide assistance to women in need.
Leslie Ruminski, of Lake Oswego, Oregon, a career healthcare worker was diagnosed with stage I breast cancer in October 2019 when she was 44 years old. While in active treatment the COVID-19 pandemic caused much of the country to shutdown and she was let go from her job, losing her employer-sponsored health insurance. In this blog she shares what it means to struggle financially during breast cancer treatment and how the Living Beyond Breast Cancer Fund helped her.
I have sat down dozens of times to write this message, but have not been able to get very far — not from a lack of appreciation but rather a lack of ability to sufficiently articulate my feelings of appreciation and gratefulness.
Having worked in health care my entire career, I understand and stick to recommendations for preventative care. I consider myself to be a rule follower. I get my annual mammograms during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My results were always “clean & clear” until October 2019, when they were not. Without any family history of breast cancer, any symptoms, or any lumps to be felt, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I consider myself to be a walking public service announcement to get your annual mammograms — cancer does not discriminate.
I have worked my entire life. I am a career woman. I have never not worked. My professional self is a significant part of my identity, so when I was diagnosed, it was my goal to work at full capacity through all of my active treatment. That was my plan and I was sticking to it.
From the day I was diagnosed to the beginning of the pandemic in March I had missed a total of 5 days of work – 1 day to get surgery, 1 day to recover from surgery, and 3 days for chemotherapy infusions.
A cancer diagnosis is (hopefully) a once in a lifetime experience. I hope a global health pandemic is as well. I experienced both simultaneously when still another first happened to me – I lost my job. I was unemployed for the first time in 27 years. Beyond losing my employer-sponsored health insurance and regular income, I lost a large part of my identity.
I believe in the saying, which some may consider a cliché, that everything happens for a reason. If cancer did not cause me to do a significant life review, navigating a pandemic with a suppressed immune system and the additional identity crisis of unemployment, did. Three once-in-a-lifetime events occurring at the same time was mind-boggling for me. I had to make sense of my stacked challenges.
Since March, I have been squarely in the role of a breast cancer patient, completing the remainder of my active treatment. I have allowed myself to learn the life lessons that this time was, and still is, teaching me. One of the primary life lessons for this fiercely independent, proud, career woman — who had usually been in the “giving” role all of her life — was how to ask for, and learn to receive, help and support.
To realize I am not alone in my suffering, to realize there are fantastic organizations, such as Living Beyond Breast Cancer, helping women like myself, someone who never envisioned she would be where she was, is one of those silver linings of cancer. I didn’t envision that my employment or finances would be affected by cancer. After losing my job I began seeking out organizations whose mission and purpose is to help women like me who find themselves in unimaginable circumstances. The existence of Living Beyond Breast Cancer allowed me to be vulnerable, share my struggles openly, and accept support. What I learned from LBBC only makes my success story all the more beautiful.
While I have made it through active treatment, I am still without employment and employer-sponsored health insurance.
I was in active treatment when my three once in a lifetime events occurred and I had to pay out of pocket for COBRA health insurance, so as to not disrupt my treatment plan or change my treatment team. Paying for COBRA and my very modest mortgage exceeded my monthly unemployment benefit. Being awarded a grant from the Living Beyond Breast Cancer Fund, allowed a significant portion of my mortgage to be paid for 1 month, and for that I am very grateful.
Thank you, LBBC, for being there to help financially, but also emotionally, as I continue to heal from the effects of cancer and coronavirus.