In January 2010, Will learned that his melanoma was no longer stable. It had grown – significantly – and was now in his liver. Unless you’ve experienced this, it’s hard to understand just how it feels, receiving news like this. A strange fog of unreality descends; you are walking underwater. Fragments of sentences penetrate: “still some options…”…”obviously not what we’d hoped…” and you register them, but all you really understand is that this is very, very bad.
And so Will and I went to war with the cancer, seeking out clinical trials, arranging for DNA tests for mutations that might gain him entry into certain trials, calling hospitals and melanoma specialists and pharmaceutical company trial boards and signing up for some standard, unlikely-to-work-but-currently-available chemo for the time being. And Ray Graham went to war with Will, apparently determined to prevent him from gaining access to Medicaid Waiver funding, which would enable him to leave. They had other plans, which they’d revealed to Will after he was first diagnosed: if he got “too sick”, he could simply move into one of their group homes. The same type of understaffed, poorly run group home that didn’t help him when he was healthy – and Will was determined that would never happen. Ray Graham would get a higher rate of state reimbursement for Will in such a program; there was a strong financial incentive for them to see this happen. Aware he planned to leave Ray Graham when he got Medicaid Waiver funding, there was no financial incentive whatsoever to assist him in procuring that. And if Ray Graham ever acted out of a non-financial motive, we hadn’t been around to witness it.
The chemotherapy made Will tired and depressed. And having cancer in your liver (and bones, and lungs) also doesn’t do much for one’s stamina and disposition. We – Will’s friends – tried to shield him from Ray Graham’s attacks while simultaneously keeping his health and spirits as intact as possible. Kevin, the friend whom Will had designated to deal with Ray Graham and the Medicaid Waiver fight, kept insisting that Ray Graham contact him with their various issues, as Will grew upset and agitated when they would call him. Ray Graham kept ignoring this, apparently blocking Kevin’s email address in their determination to dismiss Will’s wishes and pursue him.
It all exploded in the very early spring of 2010. Will’s health began an ominous decline – was it the chemotherapy or the cancer? We feared both. Ray Graham announced they’d dropped Will from the group conversion list of clients applying for Medicaid Waiver funding, citing three, demonstrably false reasons for doing so. Their decision was final, and there was no recourse or appeal, they informed us, with all the compassion of Julius Streicher. Will’s only chance now was the Emergency Medicaid Waiver application.
And miraculously, it was not only approved but approved in record time. Well, I suppose characterizing it as “miraculous” belies the definition most people would accept. The miracle here seemed to be that there were people in the Illinois state government who heard our pleas and cared enough to act, and act fast. And Will left Ray Graham, though they continued their harassment and rights violations for many months, ignoring his requests for the returns of his documents, failing to provide adequate care for his roommate, and engaging in other outrages. But Will was out of their reach, at last, and had obtained the kind of funding that would finally let him pursue his dreams.