‘They had empathy and they genuinely cared’
Lady Cubitt Compassionate this year celebrates 80 years of helping local families.
One of their major focuses is assisting Bermudians in paying for medical treatment overseas. Here are the stories of two families who have been helped over a difficult patch by the charity.
Mary and Dave, not their real names, weren’t the sort of people normally helped by charities. They both had good jobs, put their children through university and had money put aside for their retirement. Then Dave lost his job.
To save money, he signed up with government’s HIP scheme, thinking he would soon get another job and be able to upgrade. Then the unthinkable happened, Dave was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer.
Without telling his wife, he dipped into his savings to help pay for some of the treatment. The cancer spread to his brain and pancreas.
He needed treatment overseas that was not covered by HIP, and by then, there were no savings to dip into.
Mary did the only thing she could do. She looked for community assistance, and found it with LCCA.
“To go to them was wonderful,” she said. “We weren’t poor, but we just didn’t have cash and my husband needed treatment.
It was so reassuring to know that someone was there to help us.
They made my husband feel that his health was the most important thing and they were there for him.
It made him feel at ease and he was able to face the problem of cancer. It was incurable, but at that time we didn’t know.”
The couple had almost paid off the cost of first round of treatment before Dave found the cancer had spread.
Local insurance companies refused to help because of his now, pre-existing condition. Even if the pair hadn’t been refused, the cost of insurance would have been a hardship with only one of them working.
“He was still having treatment here at [King Edward VII Memorial], which was covered by HIP, but when the cancer spread we had to go away for radiation treatment,” said Mary.
After just ten days in the hospital overseas, Dave succumbed to his illness.
That was last winter, and bills are still coming in. So far they total over $90,000. Mary is now “hustling” to pay back the LCCA, as their assistance is given as an interest-free loan.
“Not everyone can pay them back,” said Mary. “But it is very important to me. I feel that if I don’t pay them back then there will be another person like my husband who won’t be able to get the help they need.
“The LCCA staff are the kindest people ever. You open the door and they are smiling and making sure you are okay. They couldn’t be nicer. I couldn’t be more grateful to them.”
For over 30 years the late Paula Wellman paid her insurance faithfully, and was without major illness. In 2008, at the age of 52, she was diagnosed with jaw cancer. Her insurers were British American — the company was about to fold.
“She had to go up to Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston to get surgery done,” said her sister, Liz Francis. “They cut out half of her jaw and rebuilt it using a bone from her back.
“By the time we got back here her overseas insurance allotment had been used up and the insurance company wasn’t prepared to help us the following year.
“They wouldn’t bend one iota. They went under. She needed radiation and I didn’t know where we were going to find the money for that.”
The sisters’ mother, Anthea Wellman, was also very ill at that time. Mrs Wellman didn’t know where to turn for help. Then someone told her about LCCA.
“That took such a tremendous burden off me,” said Mrs Francis. “They came through and boy, what a relief.
“I have always found them to be very understanding. Those ladies down there are wonderful. My main aim nowadays is to repay them, so that they will be in a position to help someone else.”
Ms Wellman died in November 2008, eleven months after first being diagnosed.
She didn’t die from cancer but a ruptured intestine. Her mother died six months later.
“People are always asking how I did it,” said Mrs Francis. “In hindsight, I say to myself, ‘how did I do it?’
“It was only by the sheer grace of God. Sometimes I didn’t know what to do. When things got too much I went into my room, closed the door and got down on my hands and knees and asked God to give me strength.”
She said she was disappointed to hear that Government had cut the charity’s grant from $2 million to $1 million.
“There are so many people walking around right now who are sick,” she said.
Today, she is working hard to repay the charity. She also volunteers to help them with tag days.
“The LCCA came through for me,” she said. “I can’t speak highly enough of them.
“They had empathy and they genuinely cared. They are some of Bermuda’s unsung heroes.”