Cancer victim faces high medical bills

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 24, 2011

By Joanie Morris
For the Salisbury Post
WOODLEAF — The Harkey family is no stranger to cancer. Mom June had breast cancer in 1994. Now dad Hugh Harkey has bladder cancer.
Things aren’t as easy this go round for the family. In 1994, both parents were employed and their insurance was great. In addition, they had cancer insurance. With bills in excess of $100,000, a vast majority was paid through their insurance.
This time, what insurance Hugh Harkey has is “just sorry,” daughter Leigh Ann Scruggs said.
“My dad was laid off two years ago,” Scruggs said. “With that went his insurance and also my mom’s. My dad has high blood pressure and high cholesterol and my mom is a cancer survivor.”
With pre-existing conditions like that, Scruggs said, good insurance is hard to come by. Her dad’s unemployment has run out and he can’t find another job — he worked in construction — and her mom is self-employed.
“They had to take what they could get,” she said. “Of course, when they have this sorry insurance, something is going to happen.”
To make matters even worse, the type of bladder cancer that Hugh was diagnosed with is very rare, with only about 30 diagnosed cases nationwide right now. Hugh was diagnosed with cancer in December and his bladder was removed in January. With only two more chemotherapy treatments left, the family is optimistic for recovery.
“It all came up very fast,” Scruggs said. Her dad takes a medicine that requires him to visit the doctor every three months for blood tests. It was during one of those blood tests they noticed something going on with his kidneys. “Thank goodness for that because that’s how they found it.”
Because his type of cancer is very rare, Leigh Ann says doctors aren’t even sure what it’s going to do.
“In those 30 or so cases, there have been some (cancers) to come back in other places,” she said. That’s why Hugh is going through chemotherapy even after his bladder was removed, to keep the cancer cells from spreading to other parts of his body.
The insurance company hasn’t paid for any of the treatments, Scruggs said.
“I don’t know how much the treatment is,” she says. She does know one thing. “There are 14 doctors they owe, and that’s not including the hospital.”
While in the past, patients could set up payment plans of $10 or $25, now they expect more. Scruggs said her parents got a bill from the hospital where the surgery was done for $700 a month.
“It’s very hard to concentrate on what I feel they should be concentrating on, which is his health,” she said.
To help, family friends Doris Steele and Tim Wilhelm have set up a fundraiser to take place this Saturday at the Woodleaf Community Building. The “dine and donate” fundraiser will be held from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, with all proceeds going to the Harkey family to help with medical expenses.
Plates include fried fish, slaw, French fries, bread, drink and dessert and will be given for donations that attendees feel are appropriate.
Other than the fish fry, Scruggs said, friends and family have held other fundraisers for her dad. At the Cleveland Town Festival in May, friends held a bake sale with ribs and chips; and other friends are currently hosting a Thirty-One catalog party online which has raised more than $500 for the family.
Scruggs admits her parents are torn on all the donations from friends, family and strangers.
“They have been very emotional about it and they didn’t want anybody to do this for them,” she said. At the same time, they know they need help. “We’ve been so incredibly blessed. …
“We’ve had so many people praying,” she added. She stresses that if people can’t donate, the family appreciates all prayers they can offer up. “I’m convinced without prayer, it could be so much worse.”
If you are unable to attend the fish fry, but would like to donate, Doris Steele has set up an account through her church, South River United Methodist Church. Donations can be mailed to Citizens South Bank, 401 W. Innes St., Salisbury, NC 28144. Checks should be made to South River UMC and have “Harkey Account” written on the memo line.
Joanie Morris is a freelance writer. She can be reached at 704-797-4248 or