According to his doctors, those were the odds Webb Smith, Jr. had of surviving the next 24 months. The diagnosis was stage 4 colorectal cancer – an extraordinarily rare condition for a 44-year-old man like Smith. Although colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in America, the median age for those afflicted with the disease is 69.
“The day before I’m diagnosed, I’m at church, and I think I might have Crohn’s after there was bleeding in my stool,” said Smith, who lived with his wife and two daughters in the small coastal town of Delray Beach, which is located about an hour’s drive north of Miami. “You just don’t think it’s going to be you.”
In November 2013, when Smith learned of his diagnosis, he was among the 40 million other nonelderly uninsured Americans in 2013 who “didn’t think it was going to be them.” And with a pre-existing condition as severe as his, Smith said he would have likely faced insurance premiums and medical bills upwards of $20,000 a month – that’s if he were able to obtain an insurance plan at all. Throughout his initial diagnosis period, Smith’s only recourse was to make regular emergency room visits – visits which had cost him $25,000. As the proprietor of a local window treatment company living “paycheck to paycheck” with little savings, these bills threatened to cripple his family financially. What’s worse, the only thing he had to show for that $25,000 was a diagnosis of cancer and an even grimmer prognosis from doctors who, after discovering 22 separate cancerous legions in his liver alone, told Smith he was “not a good candidate for surgery” – not that he could afford it anyway...