Cancer no ‘one-way ticket’ for retired public servant

Leading the Way

Cancer no ‘one-way ticket’ for retired public servant

Cancer didn’t run in Richard Garrett’s family. Not in the last 100 years, at least.

But three years ago, more than a decade after retiring after a 32-year career with the state government in Illinois, Garrett started having pain in his hip.

A doctor’s appointment turned scary following a blood test. The hematologist said his blood count was dangerously low, and they needed to run additional tests.

A bone marrow biopsy confirmed the worst: multiple myeloma. Formed by malignant plasma cells, multiple myeloma typically occurs in bone marrow. About 30,000 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year, and it results in more than 12,500 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

“It was kind of like a slap in the face,” said Garrett, now 69 and a resident of Evansville, Ind. “It felt like a one-way ticket. It was quite a shock.”

But doctors didn’t waste any time in treating the cancer. A stem-cell transplant was followed by chemotherapy and several trips to doctors in St. Louis, about 150 miles away. He stayed 17 days in a hospital while undergoing treatment.

It’s wasn’t easy, the treatments, the travel, the cancer. But Garrett battled each step of the way. And it wasn’t cheap.

The hotel bill for his wife to stay nearby while he was at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis was close to $3,000. Treatments were hundreds of thousands of dollars. And he still takes 12 pills each day.

But he didn’t have to worry about how his family would pay bills, keep a roof over his head or pay for the best treatment.

He has Colonial Life to thank.

“You’ll never know what you’ll face tomorrow,” he said. “I would have been bankrupt had it not been for Colonial Life. It’s been a God-send.”

Garrett is not alone. In 2013 alone, Colonial Life paid nearly $100 million in claims to 17,000 individuals battling cancer. In addition, nearly $25 million in wellness benefits was sent to 200,000 individuals for procedures to help detect cancer.

For many years working the transportation department in Illinois, Garrett carried accident and disability policies from Colonial Life. But in 1996, despite not having any history of cancer in his family, he bought a cancer policy as well.

Most-importantly, Garrett visited the doctors in St. Louis in mid-January and learned that the cancer is still in remission. He will repeat the journey in 2017.

“I know what the cost of cancer is,” Garrett said. “I feel good most of the time. I have a few aches and pains. But I’m very lucky. I have a lot to be very thankful about.”

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