Dee family seeks help

Mom: ‘cancer won’t rob us of hope or home’ despite $2 million non-covered expenses

The Dee family of Farragut has faced serious struggles during the last 10 years as its patriarch, Patrick Dee, bravely fought brain cancer.

Although not cured — “it never goes in remission,” his wife, Kate said — Patrick was still able to work as a pharmacist, which helped as his treatments amassed more than $2 million in non-covered medical expenses.

But earlier this year, Patrick suddenly was let go from his job, even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and doctors almost simultaneously diagnosed him with early onset dementia, likely caused by the strenuous chemotherapy regimen he endured.

Kate has since been looking for work, a task made difficult by not only COVID-19 concerns but also because she has a 15-year employment gap, as she has stayed home to raise the couple’s three sons, Connor, Henry and Jack.

“We have found ourselves at the end of our rope just trying to hang on,” she said last week, explaining she set up a GoFundMe account to hopefully save the family home.

“Our greatest concern and desire is that we might be able to stay in our home that we have been in for the last 16 years, the home that our kids have grown up in,” Kate said.  “We have had to refinance and take out mortgages just to work with all the medical bills that have been coming in at an unstoppable rate over the years.     

“We are asking for kindness and generosity to help pay off our mortgage in order to save our home, and also to cover the note on our mini-van so that we can finish raising our boys in the only school system that they have known,” she added.

The goal is $300,000 — and in only the first four days more than $9,000 had been raised.

“(The total) amount would allow us to sleep at night knowing that this burden has been taken from us,” she said. “The rest, we will have to figure out as we go while finishing the process of claiming medical disability and seeing what that brings in.”

Patrick, originally from Massachusetts, and Kate, a native of Connecticut, have been married since 2003. Sadly, brain cancer is no stranger to Kate, who lost her father to the disease on her 25th birthday. She said that experience “prepared me to care for my husband, but it didn’t prepare me for the after effects.”

Since Patrick lost his job, the couple cashed in their 401(k) to help get them through, and it has fallen to Kate to wade through vast amounts of paperwork, trying to get her husband’s unemployment and long-term disability filed.

Glitches at the state level, exacerbated by millions of unemployment claims being filed due to COVID-19, were especially frustrating until she was able to connect with a pro-bono disability attorney, who helped with the process.

The family, always close, has grown even more so over the last few months, even as the boys have seen their father struggle physically, and their mother struggle emotionally.

“I am worried about my kids and how everything has impacted them,” Kate said. “However, I have always been honest with them and what has been going on with their father. They know they can ask me anything, or tell me anything they are thinking.”

Her immediate family, which locally includes her mom, Judy Johnson; her brother, Town Fire Marshall Dan Johnson; and sister-in-law, April; along with her sister and brother-in-law who still live in Connecticut, are continuing to lend support.

“Right now, my brother-in-law paid for Patrick and our youngest, Jack, to visit them so I could focus on filling out paperwork,” Kate said. “It has been a huge help, and my in-laws have been so helpful, too.”

A local chapter of The Mom’s Club, to which she belongs, has continued to step up to help, just as it did when Patrick was first diagnosed in 2009.

“I’m so grateful for our Farragut family — they have always been so supportive of us,” she said, as she found supplies and food on her front porch from a helpful neighbor. “Right now we are not in a good place, but I hope we can stay here — and hopefully, one day, pay it forward for someone else.”

For more information, or do donate, visit the Dee GoFundMe page, “Cancer Won’t Take Our Home or Hope.”