Story Bank: Dawna, Farmingdale

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Dawna, Farmingdale

Dawna is a 58-year-old single mother of five. When her youngest son was seven, Dawna and her husband divorced. She was left to raise her sons on her own all while operating a home-based child care center. Her sons were covered by their father’s state worker insurance, but Dawna was uninsured and paying out of pocket for yearly exams for many years. She couldn’t afford the cost of mammograms and pap smears, some of the most vital and highly recommended preventative screenings. She had applied for MaineCare but was denied. Once her youngest son graduated from high school, she closed her child care center and got a job as a Certified Residential Medication Aide at MaineGeneral’s Alzheimer’s Adult Day Services in Gardiner. She thoroughly enjoyed every minute of her work and absolutely loved the residents. Finally, after years of being uninsured, Dawna had health insurance. 

In late July 2016, Dawna received a long-awaited mammogram and was sent to Augusta for further testing. Within three weeks, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes. Her doctors swiftly scheduled her for a bilateral mastectomy. Three weeks after surgery, she began an aggressive six-month regimen of chemotherapy followed by almost daily radiation treatments that lasted for six weeks. Unable to work, she utilized her 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave. On November 30, 2016, her 12 weeks were up. Her job was terminated and so was her health insurance.

The Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care assisted Dawna in applying for and obtaining help from the Maine Centers for Disease Control Breast and Cervical Cancer program. Because the cancer treatments impacted her capacity to breathe, Dawna obtained Social Security Disability Insurance and now qualifies for MaineCare.

Dawna was uninsured for 13 years. She missed countless preventive screenings that would have identified her cancer at an earlier stage and minimized the medical debt associated with treating later stage cancer. Luckily, Dawna had access to the health care programs before her cancer progressed to an untreatable state, but had she been enrolled in MaineCare, she would have been receiving the health care she needed all along.