John Perona, Gallatin, TN

Total eligible bills
Provider discounts
Total bills shared

A cancer diagnosis didn’t interfere with representing a National Football League team at the NFL draft—and my medical bills were shared thanks to CHM.

My wife and I joined the ministry in January 2016 after a friend recommended it. We were pleased to learn that it’s an eligible option under the Affordable Care Act. Even though Teresa and I had always been very healthy, we decided to sign up for CHM’s best programs: the Gold participation level and Brother’s Keeper for catastrophic medical expenses.

In March I began passing small amounts of blood in my urine. I thought I had a urinary tract infection or kidney stones, but I felt none of the intense pain that usually accompanies stones. I prayed for healing and hoped the problem would simply disappear, but symptoms grew worse.

In mid-April our family doctor recommended I see a urologist. After blood work and a CT scan, the urologist identified a golf ball-sized tumor on my left kidney. He wanted further testing to confirm the diagnosis.

I was devastated. I’d expected him to say I had kidney stones and instead heard him use the dreaded “C” word: cancer.

After a cystoscope procedure, the doctor determined that my cancer was malignant and wanted to schedule me for surgery the following week.

Then a small miracle occurred. I asked if the surgery date could be pushed back slightly because I had been chosen by the Tennessee Titans to represent the team at the 2016 NFL draft. I was scheduled to fly to Chicago and deliver the first-round draft picks jersey to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell—live on ESPN prime time.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I thank God that cancer didn’t get in the way!

The urologist agreed, with the stipulation that I undergo surgery three days after my return. After an incredible and memorable weekend, I surrendered my kidney to renal carcinoma.

By God’s grace, the tumor was outside the kidney and completely encapsulated, so there was only a slim chance the disease would spread. Though the kidney removal surgery was a great success, the doctor indicated my cancer could return at any time, so I could expect that multiple follow-up scans every year would become a way of life.

Throughout this time the CHM staff was empathetic and helpful. Jeri Ball, in particular, was responsive and reassuring. She even quoted inspirational Bible verses in some of her emails—quotes that were relevant to my situation.

Though I had some difficulty obtaining the correct forms from my healthcare providers, I was pleasantly surprised that getting medical bill discounts was easier than I anticipated. Most providers had a prepared “self-pay schedule” that was 35-to-50 percent off normal charges. I started making payments, knowing there would be an additional discount when I paid the balance with funds shared by CHM members.

In all, I received nearly $32,000 in discounts and CHM members shared the remaining total of about $29,000.

If I had to sum up my experience in four words, it would be these: God is awesome, period. I’m thrilled to now live an almost-normal life. My last three scans have been cancer-free and if my next one is also clear, I will only have to undergo one annual scan!

We all know someone who has cancer, but there are no words to describe what goes through your mind when that diagnosis is yours. There are some things only cancer sufferers and survivors can understand, and I think I’ve become a more sympathetic and considerate person because of my ordeal.

Between my family, friends, CHM members and acquaintances on social media, I know thousands of people all over the world were praying for me. I believe their prayers contributed to the warm sense of calm when God told me that this, too, would pass. I also felt so loved when many family and friends wrote kind messages and well wishes on my post-surgery Facebook post.

No matter what happens to U.S. healthcare legislation, I will remain a CHM member. This ministry is a perfect example of how I believe Jesus wants us to use our resources to take care of other Christians in need. The program really works and will continue to work as long as believers show the compassion and love of Christ. I pray that keeps happening for a long, long time.

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