Saving Mark Rosenthal
Once on the list, he knew it was still going to be several months before he could begin treatment. Then came the rude awakening about how much it would cost. It was $49,500 at the time, and increased to $54,500 on Jan. 1. That fee would be due up front, and of course insurance isn’t going to pay for any of it (experimental treatment in a foreign country? Yeah, right).
“I had only raised about $13,000 when they told me the price was going up $5,000. And I was devastated. I probably need around $60,000,” he thought, figuring in not only the $54,500 due to the clinic but other associated medical and travel costs.
“Which seems impossible. I know very few people that ever raised $60,000. You can look on GoFundMe – unless you’re a dying kid with cancer or a soldier with some story on the news, you just don’t raise a lot of money,” Rosenthal said. “I went back to God, ‘God, you showed me the way, but if this is really you God, I need your help.”
He started with a video asking people for help. “I actually had made three videos, but I deleted the first three because I didn’t want anybody to see me crying and getting upset,” he said. “I had an ego. I thought I was Superman. And I didn’t want anybody to know what had become of me and how bad it was. MS is the kind of disease you can almost hide from people. You can’t look at me and tell I have MS.”
But you can’t always hide it. People with MS have a hard time doing things like eating, using the restroom, and even thinking.
“We have brain farts. Some days I don’t remember my wife’s name. There’s some days I don’t want to get out of bed, he said. “I cannot get hot – if I get hot I’m like Jell-O, so I’m constantly staying cold (he wears an “ice vest” to help him stay cool). I can’t overdo my body. If I was to do something really hard for 10 minutes, I’m going to pay for it for the next 6 hours.”
It also forced him to pull back on not only working, but his frequent contributions to threads on Insurance Forums. “I was a good salesman. I was a good IMO. I recruited lots of people and I was on fire,” he said. But the progressing symptoms forced him to sort of quietly fade away.
“I just kind of snuck out of the picture. Even on Insurance Forums – I guess people wondered, ‘where’d Mark go?’ I didn’t want anybody to see me weak or brain fog or looking like an idiot – I had to kind of sneak away from a lot of things in life.”
Rosenthal didn’t want to tell anybody unless he thought he had a chance of getting better instead of worse. But if he needed people to help him, they had to understand why he really needed the help.
“Look God, I’m willing to do whatever it takes,” he said. “I’ll humble myself, I’ll let people see how weak I am – which is hard to do.”
Progression sucks. But money needed to be raised – and fast.
Starting with a video led to people sending in money to get him started down the path to $60,000. The GoFundMe campaign was started, and fund-raising events were scheduled.
“We’ve had a lot of successful events – everything from yard sales to auctions to prom night for adults,” he said. “My local community in Griffin really came together.”
The owner of three McDonald’s restaurants in Griffin came to him wanting to help, and held community “spirit” nights that raised over $1,000 for him.
By the way, his friend Erika attended the first McDonald’s event in a wheelchair, walking occasionally with the help of a walker. She also attended a McDonald’s event just a few weeks ago in March, where her progress after the HSCT treatment was on full display. “This time she came in running and doing exercise, and me and everybody at McDonald’s cried,” Rosenthal said. “We couldn’t believe the woman we saw with that walker was running.”
Rosenthal has done a lot for his community in the form of volunteering for various causes, and now it was the community’s turn to help him. And the same thing happened with another community he has contributed to – Insurance Forums. Members raised over $6,000 for Rosenthal.
“Let me tell you, two or three of them were my competition. They were IMOs of what I used to do. They came and helped me. And I was so blown away by, you know – I was their competition and they couldn’t wait to help me. Ain’t that crazy? I was blown away!”
He stressed he wanted to be sure to thank Insurance Forums members for all their support. “I can tell you, people might say, ‘Oh, they’re just a bunch of old people arguing all the time! No they’re not! They love people; they care about people,” Rosenthal said. “You better be proud of Insurance Forums. It’s amazing.”
Insurance Forums member David Duford (Rearden) recently announced he is donating profits from the first month of his new book’s sales to Rosenthal, and is closing in on being able to present him with a $1,000 check.
While the fund-raising was coming along slow and steady, there was also a hard and fast deadline approaching for when the clinic in Mexico required its fee.
“I was about $16,000 short, and I had to give them $54,500 by April 10. I didn’t have it,” he said.
The financial difficulties as a result of his MS started years ago. He had already maxed out credit cards and taken a loan. Right in the midst of all this, his stepmom went into hospice care. “I couldn’t really fund-raise and do what I wanted to do. I was miserable dealing with that,” he said.
If he didn’t make the payment by April 10 in advance of his treatment starting April 24, his spot would be given to somebody else. “They are now getting over 60 apps a day coming in asking for treatment. So I knew I’d be at the back of the list,” he said.
Rosenthal, among his many interests, ran a bunch of garage sale groups in his community. As soon as those groups heard he was up against a serious deadline, a benefit garage sale was quickly organized.
“And here I am with my stepmom dying, and somebody keeps calling me – I’m like damn, I’m with her! Quit calling me!”
He finally relented and answered, and it was the organizer of the garage sale. “She said, Mark, all I want you to do is look at your GoFundMe page.” In just two hours, that garage sale had raised $16,000. He had hit his goal, and could make the payment to the clinic.
“I was just blown away,” he said. “I was also able to tell my dying stepmom, ‘Look, we did it!’”
On GoFundMe and Facebook he proudly posted the receipt from paying the $54,500 to the clinic.
“A lot of this is just overwhelming. I never thought we’d raise the $60,000 to do the treatment, and all I was focused on – if I get this treatment, I don’t care about anything else in life to be honest with you, just as long as they fix me.”
Next page: The treatment & recovery
• Thoughts or comments? Please visit this new thread: Mark Rosenthal begins HSCT treatment next week
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