A young cancer patient’s GoFundMe account gave the family new hope when it raised thousands of dollars that could help them through some of the difficulties that accompany treatment. Unfortunately, the young woman was relying on Federal assistance to cover her medical bills, and when government officials learned that she had received money through the online donation site, her mother says, the assistance came to a screeching halt.
Demicka Gilmore set up the GoFundMe page in November, a few days before Thanksgiving. On the page, she explains her circumstances. She says she’s a single mother with an adult son who has an intellectual disability and a 15-year-old daughter. The daughter, TavLeen, called Tavi, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at age 12.
According to the American Cancer Society, osteosarcoma is a relatively rare cancer, with about 800 new cases diagnosed per year, mostly in people between the ages of 10 and 30. Survival rates can be good with proper treatment. This can include following surgical removal with chemotherapy to prevent the cancer from coming back.
Tavi’s cancer was aggressive, her mother says. Some months after diagnosis, her prognosis changed — instead of chemo and a knee replacement, Tavi would have her lower left leg amputated. She turned 13 only days before the surgery.
Her battle still wasn’t over. In 2014, the cancer came back — in the young patient’s lungs. The third recurrence was in September of this year, and the struggle is ongoing.
Demicka spoke with King5 recently, sharing the newest development her story.
She lost her job due to the amount of time she had to spend at home caring for her daughter, then became homeless when she could no longer meet the rent. Demicka finally set up a GoFundMe account to help with immediate needs. She also turned to government assistance to cover her daughter’s medical treatment.
To her astonished relief, the GoFundMe was successful, and has raised over $15,000. Unfortunately, the government considered this money income, and determined that the family was no longer eligible for assistance.
Demicka may have the option of simply not accepting the money from the GoFundMe, and instead keeping the benefits that cover her daughter’s treatments. She has considered the option of accepting the loss of government aid, using the money until it is gone, and then reapplying, but says that she’s uncomfortable with that choice. Those who donated did so with intent of helping the young cancer patient in specific ways — the GoFundMe money was intended to get the family out of subsidized housing, cover rent on an apartment, and help with expenses on a trip through the Make A Wish Foundation. Demicka says it seems wrong to take the money and not use it the way givers intended.
State and Federal programs such as Medicaid and Social Security do have an appeals process, and there may be exceptions for funds that are considered a “one-time gift” rather than regular income. Appeals can take time, though, and could still be denied.
The Gilmore family has received other suggestions, such as having the GoFundMe set up in someone else’s name, or directed to the church that is currently helping them, but these options may not be legally valid, as long as the family is still receiving the money.
In the meantime, Riverton Park United Methodist Church has stepped in to do what they can for the family, including accepting donations of food, clothing, and furniture. The church can be reached here. King5 notes that, while donations through GoFundMe might affect the family’s medical aid, certain type of donations do not — gift cards to specific stores (as compared to debit-card-style gift cards through banks or credit card companies) are not counted as income.
The family hopes that by taking Tavi’s story public, they may get enough response to help push for an exception in the case of the young cancer patient’s GoFundMe.