Photo credit: Jay Janner (Austin-American Statesman)
Marc is a nine-year-old boy diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Marc, along with both of his parents and his 3 siblings, is deaf.
Like most families caring for a kid with cancer, they have mounds of medical bills. Since the family is deaf, they face additional challenges in terms of school, jobs, assistive devices and more. Marc’s father also has medical needs that keep him from working and living in the same town.
Marc’s mother, Diana, is doing the best she can.
As part of Any Baby Can’s Candlelighters’ program, Marc and his family receive resource navigation, emotional support, assistance with medical needs and school advocacy, as well as help accessing any and all available support services to better handle the cancer diagnosis and its financial and emotional hardships. This year, Diana was selected as a recipient of the Austin-American Statesman’s Season for Caring campaign to help with the financial burdens the family is currently facing.
Diana’s youngest children attend the Texas School for the Deaf located in Austin, which offers them a wonderful network but narrows where they can live, limiting the jobs and affordable housing available. Finding work as a deaf woman is difficult, but Diana recently took on a third job. She works over night at Texas School for the Deaf, goes home to sleep for a few hours, connects with her children after school, then leaves for her job at Fed Ex. She also works at the post office on Sundays. She does all of this while taking care of Marc’s many appointments and tending to her other children.
Her work keeps the family over income to qualify for benefits such as SNAP and Medicaid, but they are still unable to pull out of debt due in large part to the family’s heavy medical expenses.
Diana tearfully describes having to put off birthday parties, graduation celebrations, and family activities for a lack of money. Despite working three jobs, Diana has had to pawn personal belongings to make ends meet. Recently she pawned the family’s iPad which they used for video relay communications (a technology that allows people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing to make phone calls).
“I love my family,” Diana says. “I just want my kids to be happy.”
Diana is proactive and works collaboratively with Any Baby Can to support her family. She is motivated to apply for assistance, grants and any programs that might help provide for their basic needs. She is an advocate for her family and manages to emotionally support her children despite the extreme stress and challenges she faces.
Family’s Financial Needs
The average cost of treatment for a child with acute lymphoblastic leukemia is about $103,250 for a two-year treatment period. This only includes medical costs incurred at the hospital, and does not count the cost of gas to drive to and from appointments, special dietary restrictions, medications, and follow up visits.
Currently the family does not have reliable transportation, which is critical to attending Marc’s medical appointments and for Diana to commute to her three jobs. Her truck was repossessed and their other vehicle needs more than $1,000 worth of repairs.
In addition, they owe more $4,000 in an outstanding balance to the City of Austin for utilities. Diana is worried they won’t be allowed to re-sign their lease, as the financial hardships have led to late payments on rent. The stress and worry about losing their housing has intensified their situation.
Her eldest son attends Galludet University, an all-deaf university out of state. Much of their money in the past has gone to tuition and supplies.
You can see a list of all of the family’s wish list items at the Austin American Statesman.
The Power of Community Support
This wonderful family strives to meet their needs, but is constantly bumping up against what seem to be insurmountable challenges.
Helping this family would allow them to focus on their physical and mental health. Diana would not have to pawn her belongings or work three jobs in order to provide for her children. She could spend more time with Marc, which is want he wants from his mom most of all. And Diana could work toward her dreams of owning a home and going back to college.
You can donate to Diana and her family through the Austin-American Statesman by selecting “Diana Castro, Any Baby Can” here: https://community.statesman.com/programs/statesman-season-for-caring
To donate in-kind items, please call Any Baby Can at 512-454-3743, extension 101.