Nation & World

Nebraska teen raising money for his own cancer care to help his parents pay the bills

Sixteen-year-old Martin Plascencia Jr. in Omaha, Nebraska, is undergoing chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. When he saw the medical bills start arriving, he started a GoFundMe campaign to help his parents.
Sixteen-year-old Martin Plascencia Jr. in Omaha, Nebraska, is undergoing chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. When he saw the medical bills start arriving, he started a GoFundMe campaign to help his parents. GoFundMe

He says he had “just found the upside to life.” He had a job, he’d bought a truck. Another year of high school was just a few weeks away.

And then on July 10, life pulled the rug out from under 16-year-old Martin Plascencia Jr. in Omaha, Nebraska.

He was diagnosed with cancer.

“I was finally beginning to feel the independence of being a teenager when all of a sudden it was all torn away from me,” Martin wrote online. “The independence and freedom that most teenagers have was taken from me in the blink of an eye, and i could do nothing about it.”

But there was one thing he could do when he saw the medical bills begin to arrive.

He put his internet savvy to work and started a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe to help his parents pay for his cancer treatments, a drive that has raised more than $12,000 from more than 300 people since Oct. 10.

Martin has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, a rapidly progressing cancer of the bone and bone marrow, as described by the Mayo Clinic.

“My family has been doing everything for me, and I can’t appreciate them enough for what they do,” Martin wrote on GoFundMe.

“They have tried to keep a smile on my face since the moment I was told I had cancer, but I really know they are suffering themselves as well.”

He wrote that he wished he “could just get a job to help relieve some of their stress but i know I can’t.”

According to KETV in Omaha, Martin is the youngest of Jovita and Martin Plascencia Sr.’s six children. The family moved to the United States from Mexico, and though he is the youngest, Martin has been both guide and translator for his parents, the TV station reported.

Martin was so anxious about how his diagnosis would affect the family that he asked his doctors if his parents would have to miss work because of him, his father told KETV.

“I told him ’don’t worry, everything will be fine as long as he keeps getting better’,” his father told the TV station.

But Martin, as well as other cancer patients, do have much to worry about when it comes to finances.

A new study published this month in the American Journal of Medicine assessed the “financial toxicity” of cancer and found that 42 percent of new patients lose all their life savings within two years.

Those patients spent an average of $92,098 found the study, called “Death of Debt?”

The study also found that 62 percent of cancer patients are currently in debt - even those with insurance, which doesn’t always cover deductibles and co-payments.

“Every day I see my parents wake up at five in the morning to go work at their demanding jobs, and get home late, just enough time to give me my medication,” Martin wrote on GoFundMe.

“I hate to have to see them get home from breaking their back all day to have to get home just to see their son in pain, and I try to hide my pain from them in effort to make their day a little better. They show me smiles but I know they shed their tears behind my back.”

People who are donating money for his care - $10 here, $200 there - have commended Martin for helping his parents in this way.

“He can beat cancer and help mom and dad,” wrote David Hudson.

“Fighting cancer is one of the hardest things you will ever do but someday you will look back proudly on how strong you were during this difficult time and how good you were to help your family,” wrote Sandra Kelly.

“I am sure they love you very much. You are a wonderful young man.”

Chiefs quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne and Chase Litton showed up at KU Hospital Tuesday afternoon to visit blood cancer patients. Hundreds packed the hallway of the hospital to cheer for them when they were about to leave.

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