October 21, 2013

After cancer diagnosis, Maine teen puts life on fast track

Damon Haggan of Belgrade plans to get married next month and wants to establish a family and a legacy.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

click image to enlarge

Damon Haggan, 18, of Belgrade was diagnosed with mesothelioma in May. He plans to marry his girlfriend of two years in November.

Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The Damon Haggan Cancer Fund

Damon Haggan, 18, of Belgrade has been diagnosed with stage 4 mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the internal organs. Mesothelioma is rare, occurring in one of 100,000 people.

His medical care is covered by insurance, but his family is struggling to pay associated costs, such as the unpaid time off for travel to medical centers in Boston. He is also seeking support for his wedding, planned for November.

The family asks donors to send contributions to the Damon Haggan Cancer Fund at TD Bank, or to donate online at www.gofundme.com/damon-haggan-mesothelioma.

Haggan graduated from high school a year early and entered the military for a few months at the age of 17 before receiving an honorable medical discharge for a shoulder injury suffered during combat training.

For now, Haggan is trying to live as normal a life as possible, even though he can’t run a half-mile, do push-ups or lift more than 10 pounds at a time. Because of the illness, he has had a pulmonary embolism on each side of his body, he said, which has caused him to lose the use of the bottom third of each lung.

On the morning of Oct. 14, he was rushed to St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston for emergency surgery because of bleeding in his lungs. Doctors installed a filter to stop the blood clots from reaching his heart, but have been unable to install a port for chemotherapy because blood clots are forming elsewhere in his body. Haggan was released from the hospital that evening and returned home.

Haggan’s ability to accomplish his goals – wedding, child, car restoration – are limited in part by what he and his family can afford.

Even though his medical bills are covered by MaineCare, the family budget is being strained.

His mother has already taken three weeks unpaid off work so she could take Haggan to Boston for 10 days of medical treatments. In all, that trip cost them $2,000 out of pocket. They expect more costs in the future.

That means his mother can offer him only limited help with his other plans. So far, they have been unable to raise the $300 deposit at his favored wedding venue in Strong.

“It will be the Foster Memorial Building in Strong,” he said, another assertion. “The wedding and the reception. That’s where it will be.”

He said it will cost him about $350 for the first year of storage at the sperm bank, and about $700 every year thereafter. He doesn’t know what it would cost to rebuild his father’s car, but he knows it will be significant.

Haggan said he is maintaining a positive attitude and continuing to do the things that he loves. He said he is willing to share his experiences and thoughts in the hopes that it might help others with similar diagnoses.

He won’t make his own predictions about how long he will live with the cancer inside him. For him, a young person who has spent his life testing limits, the number of months he has is not as important as maintaining control over the decisions left to him.

He will decide when the time comes, he said.

“When I can’t take it no more,” he said, “I just lay down and relax.”

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at: mhhetling@centralmaine.com.

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