Erin Briggs, St. Louis, MO

Total eligible bills
$315,458
Provider discounts
$288,338
Total bills shared
$27,120

I’ve been a member of Christian Healthcare Ministries since August 1993. I’m so grateful for the financial help I received during a health crisis this past year.

I first felt ill in summer 2011. I tried changing my diet and even visited the emergency room, but nothing helped. In September I had abnormal blood test results. Follow-up tests revealed a large mass in my abdomen.

I underwent surgery and received pathology results that rocked my world. At 29 years old, I had small-cell ovarian cancer, a very rare disease (only one or two other women in the United States were undergoing treatment for it at the time) with a not-so-great prognosis.

Keeping a positive attitude was tough. I found it odd to think that my body—typically so good at maintaining and healing itself—was working against me. It certainly made me realize how little control I have, but it taught me a lesson of faith in the One who is in control. I knew that trusting Him didn’t necessarily mean that my body would be healed; however, I clung to the knowledge that He would do what was best for me, ultimately healing me regardless of the outcome.

Many people prayed for me during my illness. The staff at Christian Healthcare Ministries was part of that group; they meet to pray for members who have submitted medical needs. I called a few times on Thursday mornings and heard the automated message that no one was available to take my call because the staff was in its weekly prayer meeting. I found it comforting to think that they were praying for me.

Also, they always knew who I was when I called! It was great to have a personal relationship with my health care ministry rather than being a cog in the machine of a health insurance company.

I was fortunate to receive significant discounts for my medical care. My treatment included six rounds of chemotherapy, followed by a round of high-dose chemo with stem cell rescue.

All parties—including the doctors and the hospitals—were incredibly helpful when I filled out financial assistance applications. Initially, I was leery of the “stigma” associated with being a self-pay patient. However, my health care providers were more willing to work with me after I explained how CHM works and received notice that I didn’t qualify for government assistance.

The bills from both hospitals totaled more than $300,000. More than 90 percent of that was reduced through discounts! My doctor bills were all for outpatient visits, which aren’t eligible for sharing at the CHM Silver level. However, the doctors’ office was kind enough to bill me at its Medicare rate.

One of my doctors was particularly helpful in finding resources, putting me in touch with the right people and encouraging me not to be hesitant about saying I was a self-pay patient. She also got me approved for a clinic at one of the hospitals where I could get free prescriptions.

Time was of the essence throughout my ordeal; in many cases I was blessed to be in the right place at the right time. However, I encourage CHM members who have more time and flexibility to seek out good doctors and hospitals. Don’t avoid hospitals with excellent reputations simply because they appear to cater to wealthier people.

As of March 2012, I’m cancer free! I’ll continue to undergo periodic testing to be sure that the cancer doesn’t recur, but after five years of monitoring I won’t need to have any consistent treatment related to this illness.

I’m so grateful for CHM and all of my fellow members whose monthly financial gifts contributed to my need. I also greatly appreciate all of the fellow Christians who prayed for me and sent me cards and notes of encouragement. I plan to write thank-you notes to each one of you; I ask for your patience in responding to so many kind people.

It’s wonderful to know that I’m part of something that makes such a significant difference in people’s lives. Thank you!

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