I usually only write about gaming stuff here. Very rarely we examine something more serious. The other day a story came to my attention (via The Main Man) about a 30 year-old gamer named Steve Fillmore who has Stage III-B colo-rectal cancer. Not only has this terrible illness required surgeries and chemo-therapy, but it has taken an enormous financial toll on him and his fiancé, Lindsay. In fact, they had to launch a Giveforward campaign to pay down some of his medical debt, to avoid cancelation of insurance and termination of his treatments. Steve’s story really struck a chord with me, because of my own struggles with Crohns disease (a far less serious condition I have talked about here in the past, but one that occasionally requires similar treatments). Thankfully, I have never run into a problem with insurance. But I can only imagine what it would be like to have to deal with the reality of a life-threatening illness while also fending off the debt it generates. So I thought it might be a good idea for him to talk about his Giveforward campaign here in a brief interview. I encourage readers to give what they can. This is a genuinely good cause and you can directly impact someone in a positive way.
(Steve’s Giveforward campaign can be found here: GIVEFORWARD CAMPAIGN)
BRENDAN: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview Steve. How are you feeling and how are you and Lindsay holding up?
STEVE: Thanks for the willingness to do the interview. I am feeling good. I had the surgery recently to reconnect my small intestine to my rectum, so that means that I no longer have an illeostomy bag. Lindsay and I are doing fairly well. It has been stressful and I know she is tired, she has been working way more hours than someone should to help make ends meet.
BRENDAN: Can you tell our readers about your Giveforward campaign and what you are hoping to achieve?
STEVE: The Giveforward campaign was established by some friends of mine. Gamer friends in fact. I had never actually met them in person until this past Thanksgiving. Andre and Jennifer Martinez, good people. They started it to help Lindsay and I have the ability to pay down doctor bills. I don't know what we are hoping to achieve. Anything, any amount that the site raises is great. It is all going to pay down debt after this ordeal. Well not all of it. A part of it I am donating to Rock Solid Foundations. It is a local organization that builds playgrounds for children with cancer. And that is something I can get down with.
BRENDAN: For those who might not understand what it is like to treat a serious illness, can you tell people why the medical costs became such a burden, even with insurance?
STEVE: Well the hard part of this is that the treatments have been worse than the disease. So even with insurance paying for a good portion of my treatments I was not able to work for a large portion of that time. In fact I almost lost my insurance. Even with the insurance the bills have piled up. I have been through Radiation, Chemo-therapy twice and have had at this point I think 6 surgeries. All of which have multiple bills associated with them and that’s not even counting the doctor visits. So you keep getting more and more bills and working less and less. Lindsay has been a blessing beyond belief, when I couldn't work she really stepped up.
BRENDAN: If you lose your insurance, what options do you have for treatment?
STEVE:None. I was turned down for partial disability, citing that my condition was not debilitating. I challenge the lady that told me that to go through a month of my chemo.
BRENDAN: You work two jobs. Where do you find the strength to remain so active?
STEVE: I find the strength in my family, my friends and Lindsay. She has been amazing. We had only been engaged for 4 weeks or so when I found out I had cancer. She didn't have to stay, she had every right to say that this was not what she had signed on for and run, but she didn't. She has stood by me, through the sick, the tired, and even the mean.
BRENDAN: I did notice you are a gamer. Has your relationship with gaming changed during the illness? Do you find it helpful to game?
STEVE: I haven't gamed in a long time in person. It has all been through Google Hangouts, so that part has changed. I have always had a love for the hobby, my dad is a gamer. But I have really come to learn that there are some incredible people out there. You hear the hobby being talked poorly about all the time, but I would again issue a challenge to people to see what these folks have done for me, how they have rallied behind me, come to be my friends, to love me and be loved by me. How many of you can say that about your hobby?
BRENDAN: What has the hardest part of all this been?
STEVE: The hardest part? 1) My dad telling me that he felt guilty about it because it was his job to protect me and he couldn't. 2)Seeing my mom hurt by it. 3) Perhaps the worse. The shear amount of anger I have taken out on people like Lindsay when they did not deserve it. I came really close to losing myself. Not physically, not talking about dying, but mentally. I was not who I wanted to be any more.
BRENDAN: What would you like people to know about cancer? Is there anything you’ve learned that you want to share?
STEVE: Its real folks! Sit there and say not me all you want, but yes even you. Please Please Please, men, get checked. I was 29 when this started, this is an old man's disease and I was 29. The other thing I will share, is be patient. It has been said before but I will say it here. You do not know what the person next to you is going through. Please be patient and try and share a kind word.