May 27, 2011 was the last day I worked. Since that day I have been lucky enough to have been paid in full and NOT from my long term disability insurance carrier.When I left work on May 27th I figured I would be gone 3 months even after my doctor told me it would be 4 months. After all, he did not know me! Well, as it turned out, I did not know him either. Dr L took me down to the same broken stage where all cancer patients end up; he had already factored in the “Kim tough factor” into his treatment and recovery plan.
I had enough paid time off to get me through 14 weeks of time off, which left me out of a full paycheck for 4 weeks. I do have a long term disability plan that would cover my wage during this 4 weeks at 60%. After having bought a house 5 months earlier and having unknown medical costs things were going to be tight for SW and I.
At City of Portland, a type of leave exists, called Catastrophic (Cat) Leave, that will pay you your full rate of pay plus cover you for medical and life insurance while you are out on a “special” leave. Lucky for me leaving work for cancer treatment and recovery counts as “special”. The key to Cat Leave is that payment is made based on the DONATIONS of your co-workers. Individuals are able to donate their accrued vacation time to a coworker in need of time to be out of work for a special cause. How it works if a person makes $100 an hour and they donate an earned hour of vacation time that puts $100 in my bank! I get paid the equivalent in time that equals $100.
Before I left many people asked me if I was going to apply for Cat Leave. I said no. My thinking was I did not expect to be gone much past the 3 months AND I did not want to ask people for handouts. I could do this on my own!
I pretty much ate my own words- yum yum! After running myself ragged in the beginning of August I decided to apply for Cat Leave since I was not going to be back to work September 5th. It was a great decision because as it turned out I was hospitalized a week or so after submitting the Cat Leave paperwork.
When I returned home from the hospital I learned that I got enough donations from my peers that would allow me to get paid in full through October 3rd, my return to work date. I cried. I could not believe that I was the benefitiary of such kindness, while at the same time, I could not believe that I truly needed the help.
September 14th, 7:13 am, I learned from Dr L that my cancer metastasized to my adrenal gland on a voice mail message. It was clear that I would not be going back to work on October 3rd. Once a treatment plan was in place a new return to work date of January 3rd was designated. Extending the date by 13 weeks was necessary and scary financially. I was again going to request that my coworkers donate time to me.
One thing I must emphasize that I glossed over before – when you are paid under Cat Leave you also get full medical coverage and life insurance. This is a HUGE deal when you are facing a 40% salary reduction AND having to pay for medical and life insurance at $600 per person each month. The medical and life insurance coverage is what drove me to submitting the request initially and for the second time with the revised January 3rd start date.
I found out just a few weeks ago that I received enough donations to pay me in full (plus medical and life insurance) until January 3rd. Again, I cried. I have no idea who donated, the program is anonymous. The best way I can reach out to people to say thank you is by posting something here.
Thank you to each person who donated paid time off to me. The grand total of donations totaled 17 weeks of my pay. Incredible generosity. This took some stress away during the most difficult time in my life. Each individual deserves countless gold stars.