I am a bladder cancer survivor of four years. I support the Family Paid Leave Act. It is legislation that not only supports the structure of family unit, but that is an affordable means for managing care when other options run out or are not available.

When I was diagnosed I was working full time hours at three different part time position and was not offered employee benefits or leave. The cancer I had was rare and the procedure necessary to remove it meant traveling to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota twice in a year and living near the hospital for a month after surgery for follow-up appointment while I recovered. I had to quit working entirely in order to avoid being exposed to common diseases that could’ve been life-threatening for me with my compromised immune system. My partner – now spouse – is a public employee, but because we were not yet allowed to be married she was not legally allowed to take federal Family Medical Leave to care for me. Instead we used up all of her sick time and vacation time so that she could join me for surgeries and recovery. Additionally, because we were not married my partner could not request donated vacation/sick day donations from other employees through her workplace in order to be my caregiver.

We relied heavily on donations from community, charity care form hospitals, and the great gifts from friends, family, and fundraisers to get us through an entire year of my being out of work.

Many people don’t have the luxury of communities that were as engaged in our survival as ours. Without the income that essentially gave me the time to pursue treatment and recovery, I may not have been able to pursue life-saving treatment.

I don’t think patients should have to rely on their communities in order to get lifesaving care. I also believe that we should allow families, caregivers, children and their spouses time to spend together during treatment and recovery so that families can have time to get their bearings around illness, or even a new arrival.

This option will give employers and employees the ability to pay into an insurance fund and receive the leave they need. The current options for the ill or the new family are insufficient. Montana should put families first and allow us this option so that we can return to work better and have our families be well enough to come along with us.