In a matter of 72 hours, a GoFundMe campaign in support of a Brandon mother battling cancer surpassed its goal of $10,000.
Wesene Wegaso said she is overwhelmed by the community support she has received since her story appeared in The Brandon Sun and the Winnipeg Free Press on Dec. 31.
"Oh my goodness, how incredible," she said. "It makes my cry when I see that. I wasn’t thinking it was going to be like this ... People are so nice."
Wegaso, 38, was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer when she was eight months pregnant. Her son David was born in February, about a month early. Wegaso and her husband, Mulugeta Atomissa-Negaro, have been struggling to stay afloat financially. In addition to working two jobs, Atomissa-Negaro is a nursing student at Brandon University.
To make matters worse, Blue Cross maternity benefits were denied because Wegaso missed the deadline to apply by two days amid the trauma of the diagnosis, and premature birth.
Gail Freeman-Campbell, CEO/owner of Daughter On Call, set up a trust fund for the family at Sunrise Credit Union. Following the article, a GoFundMe campaign was launched as many readers from across the province wanted to donate.
"I knew that we had a good community, but to have that type of money raised in three days was unimaginable," Freeman-Campbell said.
Wegaso, originally from Ethiopia, has been living and working in Brandon as a health-care aide with Prairie Mountain Health since 2008. Wegaso receives Employment Insurance, and while cancer treatment is covered through health care, pain pills are not. The extra maternity benefits would have helped cover medications, and may have included a clause for professional help, such as a nurse or a health-care aide.
PMH said benefit rules are set by the Healthcare Employee Benefit Plans, and referred our questions to HEB Manitoba. Our calls were not returned.
The family has been juggling finances, and at times had to turn to credit cards to pay bills.
"I’m hoping this will be able to catch them up on bills and set them up for a while so they don’t have to worry about how they’re paying their hydro or their phone bill," Freeman-Campbell said. "Hopefully it’ll just bring them a little bit of relief financially so that they can concentrate on Wesene’s health and their family time."
Atomissa-Negaro had been considering dropping out of university so he could spend more time working. But Wegaso is determined that he continue in school to make sure their son has a good future. Freeman-Campbell said when she heard this, she increased the GoFundMe goal to $15,000. As of Thursday afternoon, the campaign was just over $11,000 (gofundme.com/36cja3s).
"I thought that extra bit of money would definitely allow him to stay at school and get that career so that their future will look brighter with him being an educated professional," Freeman-Campbell said.
The Sunrise trust fund is gaining momentum, and an individual purchased a $500 gift certificate for Daughter On Call services.
Wegaso’s cancer has since spread to her bones and kidney. She will be meeting with her CancerCare doctor next week to determine what’s next, in terms of treatment.
In the meantime, Wegaso is enjoying her time with David, who will turn one next month.
"Seeing him growing is the happiest days. I forgot sometimes what I have when I play with him," she told the Sun recently. "He’s growing so fast, a very busy age now — running everywhere!"
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