Overwhelmed, defeated, like nothing is working in her favor, frustrated and angry is how Kashala Forbes feels as she tries to find a way to pay for much-needed radiation treatment as she continues to wage war with cancer. Despite her feelings and what she is going through, the one thing she refuses to allow herself to feel is depressed.
“I’m never trying to reach that point,” said Forbes. “I’m not trying to let breast cancer defeat me, so I won’t let depression defeat me.”
Forbes, 32, and a mother of three, is facing a $15,000 bill for radiation treatment, and is in need of $2,500 to complete a $7,500 deposit which would allow for her to begin the treatment that her oncologist told her in May she needed to start right away.
“You have no time to wait or waste,” she was told when she saw the oncologist one week after her last chemotherapy treatment in May.
Forbes started chemotherapy in August 2020 and continued receiving treatment until May 2021.
After her first course of chemotherapy, a PET CT scan showed cells affecting her lungs, which prompted her second bout of chemotherapy at a stronger dosage. And at which point, she was told radiation was needed to kill off any remaining cells.
“I just can’t get rid of this disease,” said Forbes. “When you take one step forward, it’s like you’re going 10 steps backwards.”
During her chemo sessions, she also had to come up with funds out of pocket to pay for blood work every week, which she said were mandatory to ensure she was able to take the chemotherapy.
Five months after her last chemotherapy session, Forbes has still not started radiation treatment due to a lack of funds.
Initially, her radiation treatment was quoted at $15,000 with a $5,000 deposit requirement – money she did not have. Because she could not make the deposit, she did not receive treatment.
The mother, who, in June, said she fights to live for her children, sought assistance from the Department of Health and Social Services for her medical bills, specifically radiation treatment. This month, she received $5,000 for her down payment at the medical facility and was looking forward to starting radiation treatment.
“Since they have the $5,000, I called to find out when I could make the appointment to start and what to do. I was excited because now I would have a chance to rid my body of this killer disease. Unfortunately, my excitement was short-lived as now I’ve learned that I still won’t be able to get radiation treatment because according to the business department of oncology, as of July 1, the deposit is $7,500.”
At hearing of the increased deposit required to begin treatment, Forbes said she was livid, upset, frustrated and overwhelmed.
“How was I expected to find an additional $2,500 to give on such short notice on top of my existing bill from the chemo
Forbes was flummoxed.
“They’re making me feel like money for my life,” she said.
“It’s now October and I haven’t started. I was already held up getting the chemo, and now I’m back at the same position I was in before.”
It took Forbes a year after her bilateral mastectomy to receive chemotherapy treatment.
“I feel like I’m being failed because I do not have the money. Money actually comes before human life in dealing with this disease.”
In the interim, she has developed a lump in her neck and said her doctors have told her the cancer cells are spreading.
She also noticed dark marks that look like burn marks on her neck, which she said gave her cause for concern, because she had an aunt who succumbed to breast cancer in February and who she said had the same marks on her.
As she is left floundering as to how to come up with the balance of the deposit money, so that she can begin treatment, Forbes who, prior to her cancer diagnosis, surgery and treatment, cooked and sold food, said she considered cooking Thanksgiving meals as a way to raise funds to pay for radiation treatment, but that her father had to remind her that she would not be able to put her “best foot forward”, considering the condition she is now in.
After taking chemotherapy, she suffered with lymphedema in her arm (swelling caused by an accumulation of protein-rich fluid that’s usually drained through the body’s lymphatic system).
“I like good food, and I won’t sell people bad food,” she said. “I need to make the money, but when I thought about what my dad said, I knew I would be doing more harm than good.”
That led to her turning to crowdfunding and creating a GoFundMe account in March, which, to date, has raised $7,634 of her $35,000 goal.
Not able to work to help herself, she said she could think of no other solution, and is thankful for all donations that have been made because she knows people are going through their struggles.
At the same token, she has always prided herself on being independent, and does not like “begging” for help.
“I didn’t ask for cancer. I didn’t ask to be in this situation to be begging for help. Nobody knew I had breast cancer until I spoke about it [to The Nassau Guardian in October 2020]. People came up to me and said, ‘We did not know … You were always smiling and happy.’ But there’s no other way I can be than smiling and happy.”
And while she would love people to assist by donating to her or through her GoFundMe account, she also thanks people for their prayers and well wishes. She said she also thanks God daily that she is still here with her children – a sixth-grade-aged son, fourth-grade-aged daughter, and two-year-old baby – because many people aren’t.
“I’m at my wit’s end, [but] holding on to hope, prayer, and faith that something will work for me. I just sit down, look at my children and say Lord, you know me. I pray and leave it to God going forward.”
It was in October 2019, that Forbes had a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. By August 2020, the cancer cells had aggressively reappeared in her left chest cavity, found after she sought medical assistance after suffering chest pains and breathing problems.
“I started chemo a year after my breasts were removed, not knowing cancer was still in my body. I’m at my wit’s end, holding on to hope, prayer and faith that something will work for me.
“I’ve sat and listened to many cancer patients opt to go home and die, and I would look at them like they are insane. Now that I am experiencing it, I know how they feel and what they must have been going through. I understand that healthcare, research and development is expensive, but life is more precious.”
Forbes was seven months pregnant with her third child when her fiancé felt a lump under her left arm. Knowing she has a family history of breast cancer – three paternal aunts and her grandmother were all diagnosed with breast cancer – and she had already battled the disease before, she immediately sought medical attention, to be told it was probably her breast milk developing. Medical personnel decided to wait until she gave birth before they began treatment.
Prior to her breast cancer battles, Forbes had cryosurgery for cervical cancer in 2016, after which she took one round of chemotherapy.