Back to Top

The Puzzle Master


In spring 2004, Marlene and Bill were enjoying retirement and preparing for their third volunteer camping trip to Yosemite National Park. Then Marlene’s doctor uttered the words “multiple myeloma” and plans changed.

Marlene says she was in a state of shock.

“I wanted to ignore it, but my husband, doctors and two children said, ‘you have to pick up the pieces and fight it,’” Marlene said.

And so that’s what Marlene and Bill, her husband of 54 years, have been doing ever since.

They drove their camper 250 miles to San Francisco, and Bill stayed in the camper for several weeks while Marlene underwent surgery, six weeks of radiation, two strong bouts of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant at UCSF Medical Center.

“When we got home from San Francisco, that’s when the financial implications of my disease really started to hit me,” Marlene said. “Between thinking about the hospital expenses as well as the ongoing expense of the medications I would need, it was overwhelming.”

The medication Marlene currently takes to control the cancer can be upwards of $10,000 per month. Private insurance covers about 70 percent of the costs.

"Between thinking about the hospital expenses as well as the ongoing expense of the medications I would need, it was overwhelming"

“We just don’t have the kind of money to cover the rest,” she said. “I try to not let my family know when I’m worried, but paying for the medication is a huge worry.”

Marlene has found support from various resources over the years and was thrilled when in 2010, she heard about PAN. She now calls PAN a savior.

“Even though the medication is extending my life, I would probably refuse to take it if I didn’t have this help,” Marlene said. “I start to tear up because I’m just so thankful that PAN is helping me.”

Marlene says PAN’s assistance let her focus on the things that are most important to her: her family and volunteering.

Marlene and Bill were able to enjoy a recent trip to visit their granddaughter in Kentucky, time that was all the more special because Marlene had been unable to attend her granddaughter’s high school and college graduation due to her illness.

While they haven’t been able to reschedule the volunteering trip to Yosemite, Marlene and Bill stay busy offering their time at the local cancer center office, serving on a cancer board and doing woodworking to make toys for underprivileged children. It’s fitting that Marlene’s favorite thing to make is puzzles. She’s become an expert at putting the pieces back together.