Just about a year ago, Mark Ortega met Rocky Mountain Health Plans’ Eve Pressler at a homeless shelter in Durango. The 59-year-old had worked as a seismographer for eight years. He worked other jobs in Colorado and the Four Corners area since, but work wasn’t on his mind in June 2018. He had recently discovered he had kidney cancer and needed help with a place to stay so he could recover after surgery. Eve, an RMHP care coordinator, arranged for a hotel room and other resources he needed, and then Mark moved on to stay with his friend, Clint Morton in Dolores County.
Soon after, RMHP care coordinator Aaron Hankins caught up with Mark again.
“Aaron picked up the ball and is trying to get me into this program to take care of my cancer,” Mark says. “And I’m scared.”
That’s because, after accompanying Mark to a doctor’s appointment at his request, Aaron explained to Mark that his cancer didn’t go away with the surgery. In fact, the stage 4 cancer requires more therapy for Mark to get better. The doctor prescribed a round of oral chemotherapy to treat the cancer. But Mark also understands that the side effects of the treatment could be more than he wants his friends to bear—and he has delayed his treatment.
“Where I’m living, Clint has to take care of his mom and dad,” he explains.
Aaron has been working to arrange for a short-term stay at a nursing home so Mark can safely take the treatment and get the support he needs. “He’s been calling me on pretty much a daily basis,” Mark says. “Aaron has come over here to Clint’s house and seen me depressed and said, ‘let’s go take a short walk,’ just to talk and make sure I’m OK.”
Mark has to decide whether he will do the chemotherapy, but he knows how to get the support he needs to make his decision. “I have to find out, if I don’t take this pill, how long do I live?”
Aaron says Mark has done a lot to help himself in very difficult circumstances.
“I have a lot of friends in my life, but Aaron and Eve have been at the top of the list,” Mark says. “They have totally stepped up to the plate. Thank God that I have Eve and Aaron to push me in the right direction.”