In 2018, I was Ramae Harmin –– a 47-year-old single mother, long distance runner, and high school math teacher. Then I was diagnosed with an incurable blood cancer called multiple myeloma. Now, for the rest of my life, I will be a cancer patient. 

I took a leave of absence from my job as a teacher to undergo several surgeries, radiation, an induction chemotherapy regimen, and a stem cell transplant. My slow recovery from the transplant coupled with the intense fatigue from my daily maintenance regimen has prevented me from returning to work. I have just enough energy to take care of myself and my son.

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I also have just enough money to live. For now, I receive long-term disability from my former employer and from SSDI. I am currently still on my private insurance plan through Cobra, but I will make the switch to Medicare at the end of the year. My only income is 60% of my former teaching salary and some child support that will end when my son turns 18. I also have two college-aged daughters that I help to support as well.

Other than a high yearly deductible and the monthly Cobra premiums, I have paid very little out-of-pocket for my medical treatments and medications. My maintenance drug, Revlimid, is not fully covered by my insurance plan, but I do qualify for $25 copays through my drugmaker’s assistance program.  The drug maker charges my insurer between $15,000 and $25,000. My assistance will evaporate once I start on Medicare. I’m terrified.

Myeloma patients on Medicare are paying as much as $3,000 out-of-pocket per month for Revlimid and other drugs. There are grants available for some, but not all qualify. I don’t know if I will qualify or if the grant money will be there when I need it. What I do know is that I won’t be able to afford this monthly cost without selling my home and using every penny I’ve managed to save –– and even that will only last so long.