Last week Eugene Jeans owner and local bluegrass musician Tim Long finally received some good news: Because of his Gleevec medication regimen, the gastrointestinal stromal tumor he was diagnosed with in April has shrunk about 40 percent, from the size of a large orange to the size of a tennis ball.
“I think I have a pretty good shot at making it,” says Long, who does not have health insurance. “There are definitely cancers that are worse.” The tumor, which was originally misdiagnosed as a “stomach lining issue” last autumn, grew rapidly and is a type of cancer that does not “respond to normal chemotherapies.”
But according to Long, who has operated the secondhand shop Eugene Jeans at 132 E. 13th Ave. with his wife for more than 15 years, there is a long fight ahead. In preparation for that fight, he has hired his son to work at the store — the first official hired employee in Eugene Jeans’ history.
Long recently reviewed images of the tumor with his surgeon on July 17, and it is still too large to safely operate on. “When I saw the pictures it kind of depressed me,” he says. Long may have to take Gleevec, a drug that targets chronic myeloid leukemia, for another year before surgery is an option. For a person without health insurance, the fight is not only a health issue — it’s a financial one. Gleevec, according to an April 2013 story in The New York Times (“Doctors Denounce Cancer Drug Prices of $100,000 a Year”), is one of the most expensive cancer drugs on the market, costing upward of $90,000 yearly.
Long, who did not qualify for Oregon Health Plan, says that, fortunately, the PeaceHealth Bridge Assistance program at Sacred Heart has helped cover a lot of his medical expenses — but there is still a large sum that must be paid for out-of-pocket, including half the cost of the surgery. The Long family will be hosting a fundraising garage sale starting at 9 am Saturday, July 27, at 310 ½ E. 31st Ave. and they are still accepting donations. There will also be a benefit concert at Sam Bond’s Aug. 31.