Neighbors help cancer patient pay bills


My editor's name for this column and those of my fellow correspondents is "Neighbors."

A call last week made me think seriously about what "neighbor" means, and I even checked in a couple of dictionaries. The definition that best fit my feeling was No. 3 in the American Heritage Dictionary: "A human being like oneself; a fellow man."

Which leads to thoughts of Annapolitans Pat and Roger Stenson, who are in their prime and active in their community, with three children and their share of challenges and dreams. Except that Pat is in a cancer clinic in Houston fighting for her life and Roger is with her, fighting for his family.

Pat Stenson had malignant skin cancer removed in January 1986. As a precaution, she had her underarm lymph nodes removed, and a subsequent negative biopsy gave her, Roger and their then two children reason to celebrate life as triumphant survivors.

In August, Pat was feeling truly lousy, and very scared. Her doctor thought she had the flu and told her to stop worrying. She discovered a very large mole on her scalp. The growth was biopsied and removed, and a CAT scan was done.

Shortly after Labor Day, the Stensons got the news that Pat's cancer had gone underground, attacking her liver and other organs. Big words: metastatic malignant melanoma. Also: pain, fear, money and nothing even resembling a promise for a cure.

With help from a friend who had access to worldwide research records, ("An angel to watch over us," said Roger), the Stensons determined that the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston has a far-above-average remission rate for treatment of melanoma.

The Stensons went to Houston. Their insurance company said )) good-bye -- if the treatment isn't done in Maryland, it isn't covered.

Pat has begun the first of probably several 42-day chemotherapy treatments, with Interleukin-2 and Interferon enhancements.

Late last week, the Stensons got a small nugget of good news: The insurance company made a partial exception to their out-of-state exclusion and authorized payment for the first nine days of evaluation and treatment, with the possibility of further payment.

Even if significant coverage becomes a reality, the family still faces thousands and thousands of dollars in bills.

This is where we neighbors come in.

Michelle Allan, the Stensons' friend who initially contacted me, said a bank account has been opened, and the Stensons' church is active, "but what we really need is networking, people who can take the message to their own groups, then on to another and another."

To find out where you're needed, or to offer help, call (202) 783-4367. To send money directly, make a check payable to: Friends of Pat Stenson, account 66809184 11, Signet Bank, 400 Seventh St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004.


Craftsmen and women are invited to enter a juried competition for the 8th Annual Christmas in the Country Arts and Crafts Show at Hillsmere Elementary School.

The show is Nov. 5, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Information: Cathy Maggio at 263-0716.

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