Jenna Stone, a cosmetologist at Metropolis Salon, was diagnosed in October with endometrial cancer. However, that was only the beginning of Stone's worries. Two years ago, Stone was laid off from a job and lost her health insurance. Her biggest focus is figuring out a way to pay for the surgery and treatment. Stone and her friends have put together "A Day in the Park With Jenna Stone" on Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Reid Park bandshell (aka the DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center), from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more info, visit jennastone.com, or search on Facebook for Jenna Stone's Cancer Fight.
How were you diagnosed?
It was the first weekend of October. ... I was hemorrhaging. I went to (the UA Medical Center), and they checked my blood and found out my count was low, and gave me a transfusion and some progesterone to stop the bleeding. That didn't work, so I had to have another procedure, and that's when they found out that I have cancer. At least when they told me about the cancer—the staff at UMC is incredible—the doctor gave me information on how to get on the PCIP program set up by Obama.
What is PCIP?
It's the Pre-existing (Condition) Insurance (Plan). I have to go through an application process and send them proof that I have a pre-existing condition. I just found out ... I have to reapply and give them new information. It will take another four weeks. Once I am approved, I'll qualify for insurance I have to pay $325 a month for. But once I receive this, I can receive the treatment I'll need after surgery.
Do you think your health is worse off because you haven't had health insurance for two years?
While it's true that I hadn't had a pap smear in two years because of a lack of insurance, the kind of cancer I have shows few early symptoms until you start to bleed. Right now, it is inside the uterus. If it makes it to the cervix, then you are at Stage 2. But they can't "stage" me until we do the surgery.
That's the big issue right now—getting the money for surgery.
There's another program that goes by income and gives you a discounted rate. I qualify, and on that rate, it will be $5,000, but I have to pay that up front. ... I (already) owe the hospital $7,000. Because I owe, they can't do the surgery unless I pay for the cost up front.
How are you feeling right now?
I'm living in pain, and just trying to do the best I can every day. I changed my diet. I'm losing weight and doing everything I can day by day to maintain a healthy lifestyle to slow the cancer's growth, but other than that, there's nothing I can do.
How is the fundraising going?
I am making denim blankets out of old blue jeans, and we are selling those. The salon is selling a couple of things to raise a little money. Mama's Hawaiian BBQ did a fundraiser for me, and that raised $250. Chick-fil-A at El Con did a fundraiser and raised $300. So far, I've raised about $2,000, so we still have a long way.
Did you apply for AHCCCS?
I didn't qualify for AHCCCS. ... On July 1, they changed the qualification process. I don't have a dependent deprived child. If I did, I'd qualify,
Are you nervous?
The doctors are concerned about my blood pressure; my anxiety is starting to show. I am trying really hard to keep positive, and my friends have been a great deal of help. I just believe it will work out. I am going to have the surgery, and it is going to be OK. I am not the kind of person who takes "no" for answer. I'm not the kind of person who is going to lie down and die.
But at the same time, it must be frustrating.
People say to me, "I can't believe you're out there talking about it." In my mind, I don't have a choice. I can't be secretive about it or sit back and say, "Poor me." I have to survive. There's not much of a choice. I can't work after I have the surgery for six weeks. That means I have to pay rent and expenses until I am able to get back to work. There's not a lot of help out there for that. My biggest frustration from this experience is that if insurance is the only way, then there needs to be something affordable for everyone.