High gas prices hit Yakima families seeking cancer treatment in Seattle

YAKIMA, Wash. — Some people are cutting back on trips to save money as gas prices continue to soar, but that’s not an option for Yakima residents who need medical attention. they can’t get close to home.

Kenneth Leach was diagnosed with leukemia in 2019 and must travel with his wife, NiColle, to Seattle for treatment at least three times a month. He said each trip costs them about $120 in gas, about $20 to $30 more than they paid last year.

“And then with the price of gas going up, the price of food, the price of everything going up, so it’s just a lot more expensive,” Leach said.

It is an additional financial burden that the family does not need; due to his medical condition, Leach has been unable to work for three years and his wife had to quit her job to care for him when he needed a bone marrow transplant.

“I’m partially blind, I can’t see out of one eye; I had a cornea transplant. It didn’t work,” Leach said.

Leach has a weakened immune system due to cancer, so when he came down with COVID-19, the complications hit him hard. He spent 16 weeks hospitalized in Seattle and was left with scarred lungs, which only regained about 60% of their capacity.

“I’m tired and I take naps every day,” Leach said. “It’s pretty pitiful, but that’s life now and that’s what we’re dealing with.”

With four children — two of whom still live at home — high medical bills, travel costs to get to appointments across the state and no income between them, Leach said they’ve had to use the almost all of their retirement savings to make ends meet.

“We’re still trying to get the disability passed because the doctors won’t allow me to go back to work,” Leach said.

Leach said one of his biggest pet peeves is the lack of support available for adults with cancer, compared to the resources available for families whose children have cancer.

Leach said while there are programs available to help with the cost of medical housing for families whose children have cancer, similar help is not readily available for adults.

At one point, Leach was forced to cycle back and forth between being hospitalized in Seattle or staying in medical housing for a total of nine months, costing him $720 a week.

“And then my wife had to stay with me and take care of me,” Leach said. “Fortunately, my mother-in-law came to take care of my children, but we still had to pay our bills.”

Leach said he was not a “pity party” and believes that there are people who are in worse situations and his situation could always be worse; what helps him through it all is his faith in God.

Back when he was at work, Leach used to tell his friends that when they’re feeling really down in a valley in the middle of a storm, life will get better and you’ll get through it. . He said that applies in this situation.

“I mean, the economy goes up and down all the time and gas prices go up and down all the time too, so hopefully they’ll come down and make it easier for people,” Leach said.

KAPP-KVEW contacted Governor Jay Inslee’s office to see what the state plans to do to help families struggling with rising gas prices and whether there are plans to suspend the gas tax from Washington, but received no response on Wednesday.

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