Living As A Cancer Survivor - Disability

One of the many lifestyle changes cancer survivors might face is what to do if you can no longer work. After making a solid career for myself as a researcher at ESPN, the long term side effects of chemotherapy and radiation left me unable to complete my assignments on a consistent basis.

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In my case, being a researcher was one of the few career opportunities that were perfect for my skills. Instead of climbing a career ladder that would eventually see me being able to advance and help my then wife prepare a stable financial future, I now was unable to work.

My Scars Tell a Story
By Mark Everett Kelly

Before I continue, I don’t mean to compare any of these issues to what you face during treatment. All of these situations are part of everyday life that survivors have to account for. While not having to sit through chemo and radiation any longer is a joy in itself, that doesn’t mean that because you know what it’s like to suffer through treatment that it diminishes the stress you face trying to make ends meet getting back to regular life.

I was now faced with having to survive on what long-term disability would pay me. At first I was receiving long term pay from “The Hartford” which I paid into during my 10 years at ESPN. As I stated in my previous blog, they would pay me 60 percent of my salary through 2037. However, that does not ever increase. Those on long-term disability from your employer, must apply for long term disability with social security after a year.

Applying for disability benefits with social security is a nightmare. Since there are so many that take advantage of the system, they are very tough on approving new applicants. A lawyer is also needed for you to make your case, which can be very expensive. The Hartford provided me with a lawyer, since it was also in their best interest that I be approved by social security.

Since the process is very detailed and thorough, the lawyers at the Hartford explained that just about everyone gets denied in their first application. So did I. In my second application I had to appear before I judge who I explained my health conditions to. If it’s not humiliating enough to be unable to control your ability to poop, explaining it to a judge in front of others was worse. I wanted to bury myself in floor. Making my case included admitting to having to wear a diaper at 35 and that some days going to the bathroom as many as 30-40 times before noon. Unlike the first application, I was approved the second time,

The Hartford paid me every two weeks, which makes in much easier to separate your bills and prepare for payments. However, social security pays out once a month (second Wednesday of every month which can be a eight day difference in some months) . The other major difference was that they only awarded me 2/3 pf what The Hartford was paying me, which reduced my income even more. The Hartford, however, made up the difference, so I still was making the same amount I made before applying for social security disability.

The long-term side effects that destroy your body can leave survivors without much hope. After beating cancer. some doctors, lawyers or other professionals who spent as many as 8-10 years honing their skills can find themselves unable to work and with mountains of student loans, Where is the help for ?

NEXT BLOG DATE: June 27, 2019

Living As A Cancer Survivor - The Beginning Part II

Nearly everyday you live with a autoimmune disease is a day at some point you want to physically harm your body or at least think about how unfair it is that a once healthy, strong and attractive body can turn against you.

Such is the case with dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation that leaves you with scars that will never heal. One of the most hopeless feelings you experience in your new life as a survivor that is faced with these realities, is how to live within the means of something you were never prepared to live with.

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After being forced to retire from my job at ESPN in April of 2008, I now had to fo face the harsh realities of living off disability. This restriction was made easier by the fact that I was recently married in July of 2007 and had my wife’s insurance and salary to fall back on. I did not have to have money taken out of my social security disability.

My Scars Tell a Story
By Mark Everett Kelly

Well, that\s not totally true yet. When you go on disability you first receive it from your employer, which in my case was ESPN who I paid into during my years working. I received a check every two weeks from The Hartford, which would pay me until the year 2037. Required in that is a significant number of checkups that they require with your doctors to update them on your condition.

Now, the downside of being paid LTD from your employer is two-fold. First, you only get 60 percent of your salary at the time of your leaving work. The second thing is you are required by law to apply for social security disability.

For those of you who are not familiar with the process of applying for social security disability, the fun is just starting. In my next post, I will share what the experience was like for me.

NEXT BLOG DATE - June 24, 2019

Living As A Cancer Survivor - The Beginning

Today marks the first day of a blog I am starting to help share my daily experiences being a cancer survivor.This blog is dedicated to the countless brave soldiers that are fighting or have sacrificed their lives to this horrible disease. This is for the parents that face the daily agony of watching their flesh and blood fight for their life. This is for the survivors who have “beaten” cancer, but because of the side effects of treatment can no longer work. Men and women who spent their lives building a career they can no longer depend on. They “Stood Up To Cancer” but now face the prospect of being destitute.


I was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma on December 12, 1990. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a very rare skeletal muscle cancer that at the time only produced 66 cases a year in the United States and of the 66 cases most dealt with kids between the ages of 2-6. The doctors initial diagnosis gave me six months to live.

The Dorrance Publishing Company has published my experiences during my ordeal with cancer in “My Scars Tell A Story” (now available on Amazon and other sites).. I started writing the book back in the summer of 1994 and its been a long and difficult process getting it edited and published. I am very excited to share my story of perseverance, prayer and patience as God carried me and my family through the worst times of our lives.

I am now 45 years old and have been on disability since 2008 due the side effects of the chemotherapy and radiation. About 18 months after my treatment finished I started to suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. That grew worse and eventually grew into Crohn’s disease.

Along with chemotherapy and radiation, I also had lymph nodes removed in my groin in December 1990. This resulted in the onset of lymphedema, the effects of which started to become obvious in 2003. Not long after that I was unable to travel to my job in Bristol Connecticut at ESPN. My bosses in studio production and the research department then allowed me to work from home. During the last three years of my employment (2004-07) I was working full-time from home.

I had the privilege of working for some wonderful people at ESPN. I am so grateful for the incredible patience and graciousness of people like Craig Wachs, Ed Macedo, Jeff Bennett, David Brofsky, Mark Gross and Norby Williamson, who always supported me in my health issues.

After being promoted in 2006, I was given a lower grade in my next evaluation in 2007. Despite my disappointment in my performance, I knew that I had performed at the best level I could considering my circumstances which were now a lot worse, Since I could no longer consistently accomplish very reasonable job responsibilities, I had to make a very hard decision. After discussions with my bosses, I applied for disability soon after. I still depend on that today.

  • NEXT BLOG DATE - -June 20, 2019 - Part II of “The Daily Life of a Cancer Survivor”

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