Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX


February 5, 2014

Community rallies around Rusk cancer patient

RUSK — Friends and family of Dickie Joseph Bellanger, 46, are rallying around the Rusk resident, who is battling Stage IV lung cancer, by raising funds to offset costs of an upcoming surgery and accompanying medical expenses.

“God bless them for being willing to help, especially right now when things so tight for everyone,” said Bellanger's

wife, Candi.

The family has been paying out-of-pocket for medications, doctor visits and “anything extra that happens outside the oncology place, but when they do (the next) surgery, it won't cover hospital stuff,” she said.

During the past months, Mrs. Bellanger said she has been looking for insurance that will help meet that need, and only recently found a policy where they only need to pay a $500 deductible.

“We got it down from looking at $5,000 to $500,” she said, describing the frustration of trying to find a policy that was do-able. “And there are so many others in this situation, too.”

Her husband was diagnosed in November, 2012, with Stage III lung cancer.

Dickie had been having problems with acid reflux – “he was getting it really bad, and it started messing with his kidneys,” his wife said – and the couple were “going back and forth to the doctors,” at one point making four trips in one week to the hospital.

Emergency room doctors at Mother Frances Hospital found the tumor in Dickie's lung that fateful November, as well as one this past month in his brain, she said.

Dickie received radiation and oncology treatments at Texas Oncology in Tyler, undergoing a combined 38 treatments during a four-month period to shrink the mass in his lungs.

The treatments were working … or so it seemed: A scan the following August revealed a tumor growing in his spine, and several months later, on Jan. 4 following a seizure, Dickie was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Surgery was performed immediately, but the cancer had spread. “They found that the tumor in his spine was growing at a rapid rate, obstructing his T2 and T3 vertebrae,” Candi said.

The lung tumor is still there, she said.

“Dr. Todd Patrick did brain surgery, now he needs to do spinal surgery, and he needs to do it fast because it is cutting off circulation to his spinal cord, and he will be paralyzed.”

Enter the generous donors of Cherokee County, who have been stuffing their loose change and dollar bills into cans set up at stores in Jacksonville and Rusk, as part of a fundraising effort for Dickie Bellanger.

“We're raising the money for insurance, because he doesn't qualify for government (assistance) or anything like that,” his wife said. “We're trying to raise money now to meet the deductible and the premium.”

The good news? Initially, the family was going to have to raise $5,000 to cover their portion of the surgical procedure, but now, Candi said, their immediate concern is to raise $500.

“We want to thank everyone who has donated to the jars that have been set up, because that's how we've been able to pay for expenses,” she said.

As Dickie grows weaker from the cancer, it becomes harder for him to get around, so now the Bellangers must address those growing needs.

“We're needing to find stuff to help him move,” his wife explained. “In the last week, the tumors in his spine have grown a lot worse, and he can't get around (as easily), though he tries to do as much as possible: He can't pull himself out of the bed, so we want to find a bar (to suspend overhead) to help him get out of bed, and we want to equip the house so he can move around more easily. He can't do much anymore, though he tries real hard.”

The couple, parents to five and grandparents to nine, have been helped greatly by their children, who ensure Dickie makes his doctor's appointments and help with practical needs around the house, Candi said.

“They've been trying to do as much as possible,” she said.

An account for “Dickie Bellanger Surgery/Medical Bills” has been set up at Capital One Bank, as well as through the website, www.gofundme.com.

The family also will hold a bake sale fundraiser, from noon to 5 p.m. daily, Feb. 13-15 in the parking lot of CJ's Convenience Store, across from the Tomato Bowl on Rusk Street.


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