"It's like the town spread its wings and scooped us up—it feels like we fell off a stage at a concert and have been crowd surfing ever since," said Tracey Pagan of the support she's received from the Katonah community since her husband was diagnosed with cancer.
It was Aug. 3 when Noel Pagan learned he had a cancerous chordorma growing in his neck. He underwent a nine-hour surgery in September to remove the growth rooted in his skull. Since then, his wife said, friends, neighbors and members of the Katonah Elementary School community have provided the family meals, rides, and care for the couple's two children while they drive to daily radiation treatments over an hour away.
"People are amazing. It's hard to express. To feel so vulnerable and yet so cared for is incredible. I wouldn't wish our experience on anyone, but if everyone could feel what we have felt—how we have changed as a family and as human beings—what a world it would be," said Pagan.
Though Noel Pagan's position as a systems technician at Mercedes Benz of Manhattan offers health insurance, out of pocket expenses have piled up. And continuing her work as a yoga instructor has been impossible, she added.
Friends have offered financial help for their staggering health care bills. Their landlord has said they should focus on his recovery and resume their rent obligations when they can. And a website has been set up to accept donations to help them meet their financial obligations.
Tracey Pagan acknowledged that the bills had become "overwhelming." But, she added, "we're nothing special."
"There are tens of thousands of other families just like us in this country," she said. "We work, we pay taxes, we have insurance. I hope if anyone else going through something similar reads this story, they will reach out to their friends. People really do want to help," she said.
Noel Pagan is slated to receive the last of 41 proton radiation treatments in January, followed by a surgery to remove his thyroid. "It's lucky we found out about it when we did," Tracey Pagan said of the rare disease.