Graham, with Stage 4 head and neck cancer, is still working as best he can despite the pain. Graham, his family and friends have launched a gofundme site to help him meet his extraordinary healthcare expenses. Please help.
For the average 12-year-old Little Leaguer, hitting a home run is fairly unusual.
But this strapping kid stepped up to the plate and hit the ball so hard to straight away center field nearly 200 feet away, the little sphere didn’t go over the fence, but mocked the fence. The ball broke clean through the wooden planks and dribbled beyond the field to be recovered by a coach later.
Babe Ruth would have been proud of the kid.
The kid is no longer a kid but still “swinging for the fences.”
Graham Baldwin, 49, is a hardworking environmental building and development inspector in Maryland and father of an 18-year-old girl, who is a college student. He’s a widower who lost his wife to breast cancer in 2005 and mother-in-law who also had cancer and died a month before her daughter. Graham’s daughter was 6 when his wife died.
Graham has always loved nature and has even owned a fishing store for a while. To pay his wife’s medical bills, he juggled two jobs for years, and occasionally a third. Those bills included the cost of medicines, medical equipment, extensive surgeries and nursing care.
He’s an amazing guy. He tries to unravel the nuts and bolts of healthcare by himself to get through the maze of bills and insurance, and what procedures to get next. He needs care and support, and money too.
A Serious Diagnosis
In 2006, soon after his wife’s death, Graham was diagnosed with benign tumors in his head and throat. For the next several years, he was treated by an ENT and underwent 5 surgeries to remove tumors. Around 2011, he noticed a lump in his neck. The lymph node lump kept growing, but the ENT reassured him it was not cancer, a conclusion supported by several negative biopsies.
Graham insisted on removing the lymph node and the day after surgery, the doctor told him it was, in fact, cancerous.
Cancers that are known collectively as head and neck cancers usually begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck (for example, inside the mouth, the nose, and the throat), according to the National Cancer Institute.
Head and neck cancers account for about only 3 percent of all cancers in the U.S. These cancers are nearly twice as common among men as they are among women.
Graham’s cancer began in a tonsil, and he underwent a double tonsillectomy and was aggressively treated, no doubt because cancer hit the lymphatic system.
He received almost daily doses of radiation for approximately 30 treatments and concurrent weekly chemotherapy treatments. Due to the many high doses of radiation, his salivary glands and teeth were killed, with resulting dangerous abscesses and infections.
“The pain in my mouth makes it very hard to eat,” he says. “The lack of saliva also allows infections to occur in your mouth, which is very painful. I need all of my teeth surgically removed.”
There’s one word to define the pain: extreme. And so when he’s hungry, he really has a tough time eating or drinking. There are times when Graham can barely talk; it’s just that difficult to move his mouth because of radiation damage and the procedures doctors perform to support the jaw while they work on it.
Looking for Answers
For a long time, he used to fish commercially in the Patuxent River when he owned a fish and crab store. He can’t keep the part-time job anymore, or fish, and he’s still working as best as he can, despite the pain. “It is physically impossible” to maintain both jobs, he says.
Oh, I didn’t mention Graham also had an accident two years ago that shattered his left arm, which may not have happened if it wasn’t for the chemotherapy. Unfortunately, he fell a second time, again shattering the arm and necessitating another long surgery.
As he says it, every cent he earns goes to medical care, co-pays, surgeries, prescriptions, the ones that insurance doesn’t cover. And there are the many trips he must make to the hospital and the physician offices, not exactly the kind of traveling he enjoys. Now he’s fishing for answers.
Complications in Health, in the System
Unfortunately for Graham, the American healthcare system doesn’t always help the sick, even those with health insurance.
Graham and others experience many delays and uncertainties: some of those unfortunate experiences are wrapped around perceived or actual lack of care as symptoms of illness aren’t pursued; precautions which are not taken by hospital personnel before treatments; or required physician forms not filled out in a timely manner with the doctor’s signature.
You want more? Ok. Then there are disputes between doctors and insurance companies over what procedures would or should not be covered, or whether brand name or generic drugs should be used. Graham has reached out to many people, from politicians to bureaucrats, and sometimes he gets answers, mostly not.
At the center of these silent storms in hospital rooms and physician offices throughout the country, is the patient, like Graham, who bears the consequences.
Graham’s life is on the line. Because of treatment delays that have resulted in a morass of financial difficulties, his doctors now tell him he must move forward promptly to remove his remaining broken teeth and repair his jaw before the
Increasingly resistant infections prevail. The surgeries, Graham’s doctors say, are imperative to save his life, but the lack of coverage forces him to postpone treatments. The infections aren’t pausing for billing arrangements to be resolved or insurance coverage extended. They keep coming.
Please help Graham
Graham and his family have many friends, who are trying to raise money for his care. Graham established a gofundme page, which friends have supported.
Graham writes about seeking monetary help: “I was always a proud person, and now am overwhelmed and exhausted. If you are able to help in any way, I am ever so grateful.”
He has defied the odds so far. A friend writes how “his doctors are amazed at his courage, fortitude, and perseverance.” But now he needs your help and support to keep pushing through.
Please give this extraordinary man the chance to keep fighting.
Graham has hit home runs his whole life. It’s time for another.