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Vernon rallies around family battling throat cancer news

Vernon Morning Star - 11/15/2018

It's a story many know all too well: a friend or loved-one, seemingly healthy, is diagnosed with late-stage cancer.

It's also a reality for one Vernon family.

Jocelyn and Carlos Thomas have lived in Vernon for about 14 years. Both are self-employed; small business-owners. Jocelyn is a hairdresser and Carlos is a well-known, self-employed painter of 12 years. Recently, they were hit with some bad news. After weeks of uncertainty, Carlos was diagnosed with a rare form of throat cancer.

"About four months ago, my husband started feeling a little bit ill and then there's the process of going to the doctor and not knowing what it is until it got serious and we went to the hospital and once he got his first CT scan and that showed a tumour in his throat," said Jocelyn. "So we were in the ICU for about a week waiting for results and then at the end of the week we found out that it was indeed a throat cancer, but it was what they call a rare or a hidden throat cancer since its viral and it's located on the base of the tongue. So now we're just waiting because they don't have the resources at the hospital here and it is a late stage [of cancer]."

Carlos is at the ICU at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital, waiting to be referred to a specialist so his family has an idea of what the course of action will be to fight the cancer.

This news is exacerbated by the fact that he is the main breadwinner in the family and is self-employed. This means he won't be receiving a paycheck for sick leave and, with because he only has MSP coverage — the Medical Services Plan is the provincial health insurance program that covers health care benefits for B.C. residents — treatment and travel to the appropriate physicians are expected to be expensive.

"We are well protected, my husband and I, but with life insurance. So if anything happens and he was to pass or I was to pass, our kids are well protected but we aren't protected for illness and that's the hardest one because no one thinks about it," said Jocelyn.

A 2017 study from investment firm Edward Jones revealed that many Canadians are financially vulnerable to unexpected personal financial crises, such as sudden illness or extended disability. While stats show that the majority of Canadians have some form of insurance, less than one-third are covered for serious unforeseen life events.

Hearing this sad news, a family friend started a gofundme page to support them. As of Wednesday morning, the page reached $8,160 in donations. The goal listed is $25,000.

Jocelyn's sister, Jennifer Burton, also decided to take action. She, a registered massage therapist, decided to hold a massage fundraiser event this Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Taking place in unit 27 of Arise Chiropractic and Wellness in Vernon, she will be offering massages at an affordable price: $20+ for a 30-minute massage. Her family will also be bringing baked goods for sale by donation.

"It by donation so we're not charging and everything that is made through the massage and the donations from the bake sale will go to my sister and brother-in-law," she said. "It's really nice, everyone has stepped up and I'm going to start a waiting list. All 20 slots filled within 24 hours.

Though fully booked, Burton still encourages people to stop by and say "hello."

"Come out, have some treats, say 'hi' and sign the get well card," said Burton. "I just want to do anything I can to help. They've both done so much for me so, if this event is successful then I do want to do it again either in December or January."

Family and friends are doing all they can to help support the Thomas' as best as possible while they remain in "limbo" uncertain what will happen next.

"The community support has just been amazing," said Jocelyn. "You live every day and you say 'hi' to people and you talk to people and then this happens and it's crazy the amount of messages and people who reach out. It's pretty amazing and we're very lucky."


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