Faye Harris, 52, recently emailed the Huffington Post about losing her job as an accountant at Emory University Hospital in April. Reached by phone, Harris explained what happened:
I got cancer. I started getting sick in January or February of last year. I was in so much pain and I had a heating blanket and heating pad and all kinds of medication just trying to be at work. I got so sick that I was laying on the floor of the bathroom. I went to the bathroom to try to make myself throw up. Went to lay on the floor, felt good, then couldn't stand up. My supervisor checked me into the hospital.
What kind of cancer?
Rectal cancer. What happened was, I didn't know I had it. They said I had diverticulitis. I went in for a colonoscopy and that's when they found it. I went through radiation and chemotherapy and then the surgery. I had the surgery in August of last year. I finally healed up. I was getting through and all of the sudden my blood sugar started going up.
I lost my eyesight for two months. It was blurry. I couldn't drive. I couldn't read. I had to have help. But I got my blood sugar under control, my eyesight came back a month ago.
The people that I worked with really helped me out. There are some good people. People were saying, "We'll drive you to help you get your radiation." They helped me with my daughter. They joined hands, they helped me out so much. They took up collections. I even got a call the other day, "We're thinking of you." That brings tears to my eyes when I even think of it. My family and my friends here and out of state -- somebody's always calling me. That makes me happy.
How'd you lose your job?
That was the bureaucracy. I went on leave after I was diagnosed, tried to stay in touch at my job, tried to work from home, but soon as a year of Family and Medical Leave Act time went out I got a letter of termination, and that just hurt. "You've been terminated. Take this to the unemployment office." My health insurance was canceled.
That's what had me scared. Do I just lay down and die? Am I not worthy anymore? I've worked all my life. Put myself through school, raised four children, played by the rules, saved money, and this one illness has just wiped me out. Talk about being suicidal.
I had to use up all my sick leave, all my annual leave. I had hundreds of hours, and then my short-term disability kicked in. And then in December my long-term disability kicked in. It pays me about $2,800. Continuing my benefits through COBRA is $900 a month, but due to Obama signing that Recovery Act it reduced my payment to $300. I live in a trailer that's owned by my son. At the end of the month I'm watching pennies.
In your email you wrote that you're happier now than before.
I really am. I have to get up and say every morning I'm alive. Being above ground is a good thing. That girl Neda in Iran really moved me. She got killed for something really noble. Even though I'm suffering, people in some places have it a little worse, so get up off your butt and start your day.
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