Michelle Jongekryg and her husband
GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - Cancer rates in West Michigan are the highest in the state and above the national average. That means more families are trying to deal with the cost of cancer.
Michelle Jongekryg is just one of thousands of families trying to deal with the cost of cancer. When she was diagnosed in July of 2009, she was thankful her husband had good health insurance because learning she has cancer was hard enough.
"Really kind of in shock at first you don't really know what to think," she says.
Michelle has multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer, she will have to under go treatment for the rest of her life.
"We're the lucky ones he has pretty good health insurance but it's just that it was 80/20 and that 20% is just like overwhelming," says Michelle.
Overwhelming because just one blood test costs $5,000 and Michelle needs several of them for updates on how the cancer if progressing. She also needs bone marrow transplants, chemotherapy, and pain medication.
It only took three months to realize that the cost of treatment was more than Michelle and her husband Jim could afford.
"You get a big bill for $3,000-$4,000 from Spectrum Health and it's like, wow, that's our portion of it," she says.
In six months, their bills had reached $11,000. Right now, they have 37 unpaid medical bills.
"We've always taken pride in paying our bills every month and being on time and there comes a point when you just can't do it any more," says Michelle.
The painful part for her is that she knows her form of cancer can't be cured and it brings her to tears when she thinks about the future and her husband.
"I worry about leaving him financially devastated," she says.
They tackle each bill, paying a little at a time, knowing it's the best they can do.
Because the cost of cancer seems small when you're trying to save the life of someone you love.