Divorced, Chris and Wendy still love each other and are raising their children together.

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They both have health problems and live on social security benefits. They pay $800 a month in rent for a rundown duplex on the north side of town. Chris was diagnosed with cancer in April of 2016. Chris died April 15, 2018.

March 2017:  Wendy pauses a moment to gather her thoughts while preparing laundry and supper for the family of eight. Despite health problems of her own, she has had to assume all household chores, as Chris is debilitated by cancer.  “Wendy's been there beside me the whole time I've had cancer, and she hasn't let me down. I thank Wendy for every day she's been there beside me. She gets out here and she knows I can't do it, she gets out here, she cuts the grass, she helps take care of the house, takes care of the kids and the laundry. She does a lot and if anybody calls and needs a ride somewhere she gets up and she goes and does it. I don't care if it's all day or all night long, she'll do it. She'll do anything for anybody. She don't get much rest. I try to help as much as I can, but she does a lot,” Chris said.

March 2017: Wendy pauses a moment to gather her thoughts while preparing laundry and supper for the family of eight. Despite health problems of her own, she has had to assume all household chores, as Chris is debilitated by cancer.

“Wendy's been there beside me the whole time I've had cancer, and she hasn't let me down. I thank Wendy for every day she's been there beside me. She gets out here and she knows I can't do it, she gets out here, she cuts the grass, she helps take care of the house, takes care of the kids and the laundry. She does a lot and if anybody calls and needs a ride somewhere she gets up and she goes and does it. I don't care if it's all day or all night long, she'll do it. She'll do anything for anybody. She don't get much rest. I try to help as much as I can, but she does a lot,” Chris said.

March 2017:  Wendy brushes Jessica’s teeth as she gets the kids ready for school. Wendy describes a typical day. “When you first wake up, you get the kids off for school. You either have appointments you have to take Chris to, or myself. And you take care of Carson, my grandson, throughout the whole day. By the time that's done the kids are home and then you're dealing with feeding them supper and then getting them to bed.  “We struggle about the food part, but we get by,” Wendy adds. “And sometimes I have friends that loan us something where we can go get it, like money to get food. I put in the money that I have extra a month with my Link card. My Link card is only $52 a month, so I put the money I have extra with it to get food.”

March 2017: Wendy brushes Jessica’s teeth as she gets the kids ready for school. Wendy describes a typical day. “When you first wake up, you get the kids off for school. You either have appointments you have to take Chris to, or myself. And you take care of Carson, my grandson, throughout the whole day. By the time that's done the kids are home and then you're dealing with feeding them supper and then getting them to bed.

“We struggle about the food part, but we get by,” Wendy adds. “And sometimes I have friends that loan us something where we can go get it, like money to get food. I put in the money that I have extra a month with my Link card. My Link card is only $52 a month, so I put the money I have extra with it to get food.”

March 2017:  Jessica plays in her room with her dolls. Many of the walls in the apartment have several large holes that were there when they moved in eight years ago. Wendy says they have tried to patch the holes themselves. She says a large piece from the ceiling fell in Jessica’s bedroom and in the stairway. When they moved in the walls, kitchen counter top, drawers and other areas of the house were in disrepair, but the landlord promised to make repairs. Wendy says her current landlord has had the house for about two years and hasn’t followed through on much of the repairs he said he would make.  “I remember when he bought it, he bought it last year,” Chris said. “He started working on the walls and he's been saying he's going to fix the walls last year. Never did do it. But he did replace all the windows. He got all the windows fixed. He did do that ... took him awhile to do that. It took him five months to fix the leaks. But he finally got them done. Every time you call him, he's always got something else to do, or he don't answer his phone. I know he's got other properties ... rental properties. And then he says, ‘well, I can't do it all.’ He don't have no help, for one thing. This place ain't worth $800 a month, Chris said. “It makes me feel that ... oh, how do you say it? That he don't care how we live. He knows we got kids. I just feel like you can't turn him in. If you do, then he's gonna get mad.”

March 2017: Jessica plays in her room with her dolls. Many of the walls in the apartment have several large holes that were there when they moved in eight years ago. Wendy says they have tried to patch the holes themselves. She says a large piece from the ceiling fell in Jessica’s bedroom and in the stairway. When they moved in the walls, kitchen counter top, drawers and other areas of the house were in disrepair, but the landlord promised to make repairs. Wendy says her current landlord has had the house for about two years and hasn’t followed through on much of the repairs he said he would make.

“I remember when he bought it, he bought it last year,” Chris said. “He started working on the walls and he's been saying he's going to fix the walls last year. Never did do it. But he did replace all the windows. He got all the windows fixed. He did do that ... took him awhile to do that. It took him five months to fix the leaks. But he finally got them done. Every time you call him, he's always got something else to do, or he don't answer his phone. I know he's got other properties ... rental properties. And then he says, ‘well, I can't do it all.’ He don't have no help, for one thing. This place ain't worth $800 a month, Chris said. “It makes me feel that ... oh, how do you say it? That he don't care how we live. He knows we got kids. I just feel like you can't turn him in. If you do, then he's gonna get mad.”

April 2017:  Wendy sits nearby as Chris waits to have his newly implanted chemotherapy port checked at Blessing Hospital emergency room after he experienced pain and swelling at the site of the port implant. Chris began his first rounds of chemo and radiation therapy April, 4, 2017, after his diagnosis.

April 2017: Wendy sits nearby as Chris waits to have his newly implanted chemotherapy port checked at Blessing Hospital emergency room after he experienced pain and swelling at the site of the port implant. Chris began his first rounds of chemo and radiation therapy April, 4, 2017, after his diagnosis.

April 2017:  The markings from his first radiation treatment outline Chris’ cancerous tumor on his wrist. Chris says a doctor removed a small bump on his wrist 3 years earlier, didn’t test it for cancer and said it wasn’t anything to worry about, but the bump returned as a sizable cancer tumor. Chris believes the doctor didn’t do the testing on the bump three years ago because he only has Medicaid.

April 2017: The markings from his first radiation treatment outline Chris’ cancerous tumor on his wrist. Chris says a doctor removed a small bump on his wrist 3 years earlier, didn’t test it for cancer and said it wasn’t anything to worry about, but the bump returned as a sizable cancer tumor. Chris believes the doctor didn’t do the testing on the bump three years ago because he only has Medicaid.

April 2017:  Wendy listens patiently as Nicholas and the other children return home from school with lots of stories to tell. “I have five children. Jennifer is 30, Courtney's 21, Zachary is 16, Jessica is 11, Nicholas, he's 9. And I have 3 grandkids. Zachary has ADHD, ODD, and we will find out next month when he goes through these treatments, to find out really what he has. Or if he's more than just ADHD, which I know he is, because he can have violent outbursts in the home. He has broken windows and we're having struggling times to pay for them. Jessica, she just has ADHD, and Nicholas has ADHD. And they all go to Dr. Styles. He's been seeing them for quite a while, since Zachary was five, he's been seeing him. And that's how old the other two were too.” An avid reader, Nicholas is inquisitive. “All five of my children went to Washington School. They work with my kids real good, they have worked with all them. I love what they do there. To me, that school is always the best one that they've ever been to.

April 2017: Wendy listens patiently as Nicholas and the other children return home from school with lots of stories to tell. “I have five children. Jennifer is 30, Courtney's 21, Zachary is 16, Jessica is 11, Nicholas, he's 9. And I have 3 grandkids. Zachary has ADHD, ODD, and we will find out next month when he goes through these treatments, to find out really what he has. Or if he's more than just ADHD, which I know he is, because he can have violent outbursts in the home. He has broken windows and we're having struggling times to pay for them. Jessica, she just has ADHD, and Nicholas has ADHD. And they all go to Dr. Styles. He's been seeing them for quite a while, since Zachary was five, he's been seeing him. And that's how old the other two were too.” An avid reader, Nicholas is inquisitive. “All five of my children went to Washington School. They work with my kids real good, they have worked with all them. I love what they do there. To me, that school is always the best one that they've ever been to.

April 2017:  In spite of her own poor health, Wendy mows her yard and helps neighbors by mowing theirs. Later, in September 2017, while having routine outpatient surgery on her foot, she went into cardiac arrest and had to be revived.  “I was under anesthesia, but then I kept twitching and moving and they didn't understand why. So they was gonna put me under a little bit more. But when I started, my oxygen level started dropping, they said that by the time that they turned me over, my heart rate stopped. So then they had to, how do you call that, resuscitate? …resuscitate me by doing compressions and they said that it took a couple minutes. Of course, I don't remember anything. I was in ICU for two days,” Wendy said of the ordeal.  “And when I woke up on the 7th, (two days later), I did not know where I was at. I was confused. Then later on I got moved to another room in the hospital. They done some tests, all kind of tests, and now I have to go do sleep apnea test and then I got fluid on my heart and didn't know it."  “I wouldn't wish this on nobody, to ever go through what I did. Now I know how people feel when they do their compressions and how it hurts after, hurts worse than having a heart attack,” Wendy explains. “And I was in the emergency room last night. They wanted to keep me for monitoring my heart. I didn't have no one stable enough to watch the kids. Nobody could take care of them, get them up for school."  “Chris, he wasn't feeling good, so I was worried about him of course. So I had to sign myself out. I’m used to mowing grass and getting up and doing everything,” Wendy said. “Now, I just gotta take a step back and kinda just let someone else take over. Like mowing the grass and stuff like that but it's just like I said. I like doing things, I don't like sitting. I like helping. Now that I got my health issues with fluid on my heart. I'm just trying to get through that and make sure I'm okay. I gotta be around for these kids and grandkids.” Ever since, Wendy hasn’t been able to “slow down.” She can’t afford to.  “I didn't get much sleep when she was in the hospital,” Chris said. “I'd sit there all night long and all day and waited for her to wake up. And you know, it was scary. I thought I lost her. We've been together 18 years. That's the love of my life and I don't want to lose her. It's a scary thought and I'd sit there and cry the whole time. I thank God that she's still alive and still here. I pray every day for her. I know she's still going through pain but we'll make it.”

April 2017: In spite of her own poor health, Wendy mows her yard and helps neighbors by mowing theirs. Later, in September 2017, while having routine outpatient surgery on her foot, she went into cardiac arrest and had to be revived.

“I was under anesthesia, but then I kept twitching and moving and they didn't understand why. So they was gonna put me under a little bit more. But when I started, my oxygen level started dropping, they said that by the time that they turned me over, my heart rate stopped. So then they had to, how do you call that, resuscitate? …resuscitate me by doing compressions and they said that it took a couple minutes. Of course, I don't remember anything. I was in ICU for two days,” Wendy said of the ordeal.

“And when I woke up on the 7th, (two days later), I did not know where I was at. I was confused. Then later on I got moved to another room in the hospital. They done some tests, all kind of tests, and now I have to go do sleep apnea test and then I got fluid on my heart and didn't know it."

“I wouldn't wish this on nobody, to ever go through what I did. Now I know how people feel when they do their compressions and how it hurts after, hurts worse than having a heart attack,” Wendy explains. “And I was in the emergency room last night. They wanted to keep me for monitoring my heart. I didn't have no one stable enough to watch the kids. Nobody could take care of them, get them up for school."

“Chris, he wasn't feeling good, so I was worried about him of course. So I had to sign myself out. I’m used to mowing grass and getting up and doing everything,” Wendy said. “Now, I just gotta take a step back and kinda just let someone else take over. Like mowing the grass and stuff like that but it's just like I said. I like doing things, I don't like sitting. I like helping. Now that I got my health issues with fluid on my heart. I'm just trying to get through that and make sure I'm okay. I gotta be around for these kids and grandkids.” Ever since, Wendy hasn’t been able to “slow down.” She can’t afford to.

“I didn't get much sleep when she was in the hospital,” Chris said. “I'd sit there all night long and all day and waited for her to wake up. And you know, it was scary. I thought I lost her. We've been together 18 years. That's the love of my life and I don't want to lose her. It's a scary thought and I'd sit there and cry the whole time. I thank God that she's still alive and still here. I pray every day for her. I know she's still going through pain but we'll make it.”

April 2017:  Overwhelmed with chores and keeping the kids settled down as they run through the house one afternoon, Wendy alleviates a severe headache with a cold washrag. “Sometimes when I'm down, you know my faith is down, and I don't have any hope. But when you put your trust in the Lord and you know he's there, it gets easier. So you just got to keep praying,” Wendy said.

April 2017: Overwhelmed with chores and keeping the kids settled down as they run through the house one afternoon, Wendy alleviates a severe headache with a cold washrag. “Sometimes when I'm down, you know my faith is down, and I don't have any hope. But when you put your trust in the Lord and you know he's there, it gets easier. So you just got to keep praying,” Wendy said.

April 2017:  Courtney plays with her son Carson, while at the Horizons Soup Kitchen. Five teenage girls threaten to beat Courtney’s ass, harassing her relentlessly. Then someone called the police to say Courtney was physically abusing Carson in the Horizons Soup Kitchen. On her way home, Courtney was removed from a city bus by police and interrogated. She says she asked the officers if she could call her mom, but they said “no.” A review of the video camera recordings inside the soup kitchen show there was no merit for the anonymous complaint. Rather, the teenagers who were harassing Courtney likely called the police for fun and to make her miserable. Despite the evidence from the video camera recordings, a case was opened by The Department of Children and Family Services, but ultimately no wrong doing was found to have occurred. The process left Courtney shaken, so rather than risk threats of losing her son to frivolous complaints, she quit going to the soup kitchen.

April 2017: Courtney plays with her son Carson, while at the Horizons Soup Kitchen. Five teenage girls threaten to beat Courtney’s ass, harassing her relentlessly. Then someone called the police to say Courtney was physically abusing Carson in the Horizons Soup Kitchen. On her way home, Courtney was removed from a city bus by police and interrogated. She says she asked the officers if she could call her mom, but they said “no.” A review of the video camera recordings inside the soup kitchen show there was no merit for the anonymous complaint. Rather, the teenagers who were harassing Courtney likely called the police for fun and to make her miserable. Despite the evidence from the video camera recordings, a case was opened by The Department of Children and Family Services, but ultimately no wrong doing was found to have occurred. The process left Courtney shaken, so rather than risk threats of losing her son to frivolous complaints, she quit going to the soup kitchen.

May 2017:  Having difficulty breathing at the Horizons Soup Kitchen in Quincy, Chris is comforted by Wendy and Courtney. During the summer months when the kids are out of school, the family stretches their food budget with the free lunches offered at the soup kitchen. “It's hard when you don't have any food because you feel like that you're a horrible parent. You feel like you failed your family, your children. I know from my experience, I just have to have faith in the Lord that we could get by. They're not starving, but there's sometimes that we've actually fed them a bowl of cereal. But I’m very thankful because if we have that, at least they're not going hungry,” Wendy says.

May 2017: Having difficulty breathing at the Horizons Soup Kitchen in Quincy, Chris is comforted by Wendy and Courtney. During the summer months when the kids are out of school, the family stretches their food budget with the free lunches offered at the soup kitchen. “It's hard when you don't have any food because you feel like that you're a horrible parent. You feel like you failed your family, your children. I know from my experience, I just have to have faith in the Lord that we could get by. They're not starving, but there's sometimes that we've actually fed them a bowl of cereal. But I’m very thankful because if we have that, at least they're not going hungry,” Wendy says.

June 2017:  In excruciating pain, Wendy waits for more than an hour and a half to be admitted to the emergency room at blessing Hospital in Quincy. Scheduled to have kidney stones removed a week later, Wendy collapsed to the pavement in the ER parking lot from the pain she was experiencing. She would have suffered longer if not for an advocate insisting she be seen immediately. Wendy asked for a pillow to help ease the pain while she waited, but 20 minutes later nobody had even responded to the request. Her friend inquired to hospital staff about the pillow only to be given the answer, “We can’t find a pillow.” Wendy was in such pain she was visibly trembling and vomiting in a trash can in the hallway. A passerby, who didn’t even know Wendy personally, was so upset about the lack of attention Wendy was getting, she cursed at the nurses for not doing something for her. Wendy said she later learned the pain was due to a stint placed in her urinary tract earlier by physicians, which had become infected.

June 2017: In excruciating pain, Wendy waits for more than an hour and a half to be admitted to the emergency room at blessing Hospital in Quincy. Scheduled to have kidney stones removed a week later, Wendy collapsed to the pavement in the ER parking lot from the pain she was experiencing. She would have suffered longer if not for an advocate insisting she be seen immediately. Wendy asked for a pillow to help ease the pain while she waited, but 20 minutes later nobody had even responded to the request. Her friend inquired to hospital staff about the pillow only to be given the answer, “We can’t find a pillow.” Wendy was in such pain she was visibly trembling and vomiting in a trash can in the hallway. A passerby, who didn’t even know Wendy personally, was so upset about the lack of attention Wendy was getting, she cursed at the nurses for not doing something for her. Wendy said she later learned the pain was due to a stint placed in her urinary tract earlier by physicians, which had become infected.

August 2017:  Carson, 3, makes his way down the staircase. The plaster patches and duct tape on the walls are the result of Wendy’s daughter’s boyfriend’s attempt to cover several holes that have been there since before the Smiths moved in. Wendy and Chris say the first landlord said he would make the needed repairs but never did. They say when their current landlord purchased the house more than a year ago he said he would make the repairs to the walls. But a year later, no repairs.

August 2017: Carson, 3, makes his way down the staircase. The plaster patches and duct tape on the walls are the result of Wendy’s daughter’s boyfriend’s attempt to cover several holes that have been there since before the Smiths moved in. Wendy and Chris say the first landlord said he would make the needed repairs but never did. They say when their current landlord purchased the house more than a year ago he said he would make the repairs to the walls. But a year later, no repairs.

September 2017: Chris receives great news. He is cancer free. “Wendy's been there beside me the whole time I've had cancer and she hasn't let me down. Right now, I'm cancer free and if it wasn't for Wendy and Caroline, the lady from church, I would've gave up a long time ago. But they kept me going, wanted me to fight it and I fought it, and now I'm cancer free and I'm doing my last chemo next week. Then after that, to keep the cancer all the way dead and to get rid of it out of my system, I have to take at least going there for an hour every two weeks and do another part of chemo, and it's a new kind of drug they're going to put me on or to clean it out, get rid of all of it,” Chris says. “I thank God every day that He's took this cancer away from me and He's given me another chance. People take God for... People take advantage of God. If God gives you another chance at a life, you need to take that chance and do it right instead of doing it wrong.” 

Chris speaks of the fortune of having Medicaid and Medicare insurance. “My medical bills would be high if I didn't have Medicare and Medicaid. They'd be so high I wouldn't be able to ... I'd be in debt for the rest of my life, and the same with Wendy. She'd be in debt if she didn't have it. Fortunately, we got it so we're trying to take it one day at a time. We're going to make it.

Before the Affordable Care Act, medical bills were the leading cause of bankruptcies in America. Since the ACA was adopted, medical related bankruptcies dropped by about 50 percent.

December 2017:  Carson, 3, carries a box of Salvation Army “Christmas food,” as the family helps unload the holiday goods from the car. This is the first new car Wendy has ever owned, but it came with the cost of a high interest rate. The minivan is the first car they have had in three years. Monthly payments are $461 on a five-year loan.  “I got the vehicle back in February of last year and I did not have no credit. I've always tried to get a loan to get a vehicle, but I always got turned down because I always had to have a lot of money down, which would be over a $1000,” Wendy said. “When I got ahold of these people online, they called me and told me that they would come and get me. And I said I don't have money to put down. They say you don't have to, we got you covered. I was very thankful and then this one comes with a five-year warranty, no matter what the mileage is. I've got to come up with the deductible to get it fixed now though. The interest rate is high. The car was like $17,000 loan, but the rate, man it really jacked it up.” After paying interest on the five-year loan, Wendy will have paid $27,660 for the $17,000 vehicle.

December 2017: Carson, 3, carries a box of Salvation Army “Christmas food,” as the family helps unload the holiday goods from the car. This is the first new car Wendy has ever owned, but it came with the cost of a high interest rate. The minivan is the first car they have had in three years. Monthly payments are $461 on a five-year loan.

“I got the vehicle back in February of last year and I did not have no credit. I've always tried to get a loan to get a vehicle, but I always got turned down because I always had to have a lot of money down, which would be over a $1000,” Wendy said. “When I got ahold of these people online, they called me and told me that they would come and get me. And I said I don't have money to put down. They say you don't have to, we got you covered. I was very thankful and then this one comes with a five-year warranty, no matter what the mileage is. I've got to come up with the deductible to get it fixed now though. The interest rate is high. The car was like $17,000 loan, but the rate, man it really jacked it up.” After paying interest on the five-year loan, Wendy will have paid $27,660 for the $17,000 vehicle.

December 2017: “I’ve been here for nine years and all I've had to do was duct tape walls. Every single time, the walls just fall. We've had two of them fall from one in my daughter's room. The plaster on the ceilings is what fell down,” Wendy said. “If somebody was in Jessica's room, they could have got hit by it. The one that's going up the steps, if somebody was coming down at 1 in the morning to do something or get a drink, they would have got hit in the head.

“It took a year to fix that front window in Zachary's room,” Wendy continued. “The window sill was coming away from the wall. On the window, my son broke some out, and when he broke them out, I kept paying my landlord on them every month, and he had to fix them all. He hasn't broke them since. The apartment looks like a dump. It's a duplex. It looks like you're just living in a dump and I pay $800 for rent. My next door neighbors don't pay that much, but I pay $800, because all my kids and my pregnant daughter that lives with me, and my cousin. I live here because I can't afford another place and every time we do try to find somewhere over a five-bedroom place, no one wants us. They think we got too many people. It's not that we can't handle the money, it's just, or the rent, we just, we don't meet their criteria.”

December 2017:  Wendy, Courtney, and Carson, wait in the cold without heat for repairs to the gas lines in the basement to be completed. Outside it’s below freezing. Wendy and Chris say the landlord told them they would have to move out of the apartment earlier that day when gas leaks were discovered. But with nowhere to go, they panicked and called several social service agencies for help. Chris says they were told there was no help available. Their duplex neighbor, confined to a wheelchair, said she was told the same thing, that she would have to find a place to go. The neighbor and Wendy and Chris stated after the neighbor threatened to sue, the landlord returned and promised repairs would be made by that evening.  “When we smelled the gas, my daughter Googled it and it come to say that it smells like rotten eggs or anything. Then you've got a gas leak,” Wendy said. “So, we called the fire department and they came out. Well, the landlord come in and tells both sides we had to move out and all because of the gas leak. Then come to find out, they went downstairs and looked and they found one, two, three, four leaks in the basement around the hot water tank and the furnace. The landlord told us we had to pack and move. We had nowhere to go. I was worried about Courtney being pregnant and Chris has cancer and then I have my cousin Kristy that's got one foot, problems with my health problems of my heart and everything,” Wendy said. “We had four little kids in the home. My cousin, Jeffrey, I mean my nephew Jeffrey lived with us. We had nowhere to go because we had no family. I didn't have nowhere for the dog to go either.  “I was upset. I cried. Courtney was crying, I had to calm her down because of the baby. It was just hard,” Wendy said.

December 2017: Wendy, Courtney, and Carson, wait in the cold without heat for repairs to the gas lines in the basement to be completed. Outside it’s below freezing. Wendy and Chris say the landlord told them they would have to move out of the apartment earlier that day when gas leaks were discovered. But with nowhere to go, they panicked and called several social service agencies for help. Chris says they were told there was no help available. Their duplex neighbor, confined to a wheelchair, said she was told the same thing, that she would have to find a place to go. The neighbor and Wendy and Chris stated after the neighbor threatened to sue, the landlord returned and promised repairs would be made by that evening.

“When we smelled the gas, my daughter Googled it and it come to say that it smells like rotten eggs or anything. Then you've got a gas leak,” Wendy said. “So, we called the fire department and they came out. Well, the landlord come in and tells both sides we had to move out and all because of the gas leak. Then come to find out, they went downstairs and looked and they found one, two, three, four leaks in the basement around the hot water tank and the furnace. The landlord told us we had to pack and move. We had nowhere to go. I was worried about Courtney being pregnant and Chris has cancer and then I have my cousin Kristy that's got one foot, problems with my health problems of my heart and everything,” Wendy said. “We had four little kids in the home. My cousin, Jeffrey, I mean my nephew Jeffrey lived with us. We had nowhere to go because we had no family. I didn't have nowhere for the dog to go either.

“I was upset. I cried. Courtney was crying, I had to calm her down because of the baby. It was just hard,” Wendy said.

December 2017:  Chris tries to quiet his grandson Carson, so he’ll take his afternoon nap but receives bad news, his cancer has returned and spread to his lungs. “The cancer came back and it's in my lungs. Since then, they've had me on three different kinds of drugs trying to cure it,” Chris said. “I've had three different kinds of chemo. So far, they said it ain't spreading nowhere. It's still in my lungs. It's gotten a little bigger, but not much. Right now, I'm fighting it. They got me on oxygen. All I'm doing now is just fighting it one day at a time. It's hard. Sometimes I want to give up and sometimes I don't. I'm in a depression, I guess. I don't know what it is. I hate putting my family through all this. It hurts. I've got grandkids now. I don't know. I don't even know if I can do it anymore. This cancer is taking a toll on me. So, I don't know what to do.”

December 2017: Chris tries to quiet his grandson Carson, so he’ll take his afternoon nap but receives bad news, his cancer has returned and spread to his lungs. “The cancer came back and it's in my lungs. Since then, they've had me on three different kinds of drugs trying to cure it,” Chris said. “I've had three different kinds of chemo. So far, they said it ain't spreading nowhere. It's still in my lungs. It's gotten a little bigger, but not much. Right now, I'm fighting it. They got me on oxygen. All I'm doing now is just fighting it one day at a time. It's hard. Sometimes I want to give up and sometimes I don't. I'm in a depression, I guess. I don't know what it is. I hate putting my family through all this. It hurts. I've got grandkids now. I don't know. I don't even know if I can do it anymore. This cancer is taking a toll on me. So, I don't know what to do.”

“I hate putting my family through all this. It hurts. I’ve got grandkids now. I don’t know. I don’t even know if I can do it anymore. This cancer is taking a toll on me. So, I don’t know what to do.”
— Chris
February 2018:  Chris cradles his new granddaughter, Madison Lou May, in his arms. Chris was told the cancer is spreading to other organs in his body and he has perhaps two or three months to live. Hospice arrangements have been made. Chris died within three weeks, on April 15, 2017 at age 57.

February 2018: Chris cradles his new granddaughter, Madison Lou May, in his arms. Chris was told the cancer is spreading to other organs in his body and he has perhaps two or three months to live. Hospice arrangements have been made. Chris died within three weeks, on April 15, 2017 at age 57.

February 2018:  Chris looks on as Carson gives Wendy a kiss. Wendy says Chris died at the kitchen table where he felt most comfortable. She says she was shaken and hurt by the way Chris’ body was handled by the Adams County coroner and the funeral home representative when they arrived to pick up his body.  Wendy describes how Chris' body was handled when retrieved by the coroner and another person at the scene. "They didn't move the table to get him. They more or less, they picked him up front-ways and when they tried to get him over they, dropped him on his face before he got to the gurney. So, then they scooted him on the gurney to take out, but they didn't put him in a body bag. They put the black bag directly on top of him, but it didn't cover all of his body. We saw the side of his body. His arm kept coming out. It came out twice before they got to the door and my 5-year-old granddaughter and my 3-year-old grandson, they screamed and they cried, and then my 12-year-old daughter Jessica, she even cried… Everybody was just in shock. We were all in shock.”  “What upset me is there was a cop here. Why didn't they ask for a cop to help them lift the body over to the gurney? It upset me. They didn't ask for no help from the family,” Wendy said. At a May 15, 2018 Adams County Board meeting, Wendy addressed the board about what happened.

February 2018: Chris looks on as Carson gives Wendy a kiss. Wendy says Chris died at the kitchen table where he felt most comfortable. She says she was shaken and hurt by the way Chris’ body was handled by the Adams County coroner and the funeral home representative when they arrived to pick up his body.

Wendy describes how Chris' body was handled when retrieved by the coroner and another person at the scene. "They didn't move the table to get him. They more or less, they picked him up front-ways and when they tried to get him over they, dropped him on his face before he got to the gurney. So, then they scooted him on the gurney to take out, but they didn't put him in a body bag. They put the black bag directly on top of him, but it didn't cover all of his body. We saw the side of his body. His arm kept coming out. It came out twice before they got to the door and my 5-year-old granddaughter and my 3-year-old grandson, they screamed and they cried, and then my 12-year-old daughter Jessica, she even cried… Everybody was just in shock. We were all in shock.”

“What upset me is there was a cop here. Why didn't they ask for a cop to help them lift the body over to the gurney? It upset me. They didn't ask for no help from the family,” Wendy said. At a May 15, 2018 Adams County Board meeting, Wendy addressed the board about what happened.

April 2018:  Nicholas Weible, 10, offers his mother Wendy Smith a tissue during the memorial service for his father, Chris Weible, Friday, April 20, 2018, at First Christian Church in Quincy. The family, which struggles to make ends meet every month, learned from the Adams County coroner that Chris’ death certificate and ashes will be withheld until the family can reimburse the county $1000 for Chris’ cremation. Wendy lacks the $1000 demanded by the coroner and without the death certificate she fears she can’t have Chris’ social security benefits transferred to the children.  The Adams County coroner says the State of Illinois is supposed to pay for the funerals of those who can’t afford them, but they haven’t been paying funeral homes for years, so the funeral homes are looking to the counties to pay for the funerals of indigent people. According to the coroner, if a person can’t pay for a loved one’s funeral, the county pays the funeral home $800 for handling the body and the county pays an additional $200 for the cost of the actual cremation.  In an interview, the coroner said he has the survivors sign their rights of the deceased over to him. He then holds the ashes for up to six months. Those who can’t afford to reimburse the county the $1000 within that time are told they won’t be notified of where the ashes will be placed, other than the ashes will be placed in a cemetery of the coroner’s choosing.  Wendy said that she was told by the coroner that she needed to sign a paper agreeing to pay $1,000 before getting Chris’ death certificate and his ashes back. “And if we didn't come up with it, he would be buried anywhere in some cemetery and we'd never know where he's at,” Wendy said. “He was just blunt. You'll never know where they're at.”

April 2018: Nicholas Weible, 10, offers his mother Wendy Smith a tissue during the memorial service for his father, Chris Weible, Friday, April 20, 2018, at First Christian Church in Quincy. The family, which struggles to make ends meet every month, learned from the Adams County coroner that Chris’ death certificate and ashes will be withheld until the family can reimburse the county $1000 for Chris’ cremation. Wendy lacks the $1000 demanded by the coroner and without the death certificate she fears she can’t have Chris’ social security benefits transferred to the children.

The Adams County coroner says the State of Illinois is supposed to pay for the funerals of those who can’t afford them, but they haven’t been paying funeral homes for years, so the funeral homes are looking to the counties to pay for the funerals of indigent people. According to the coroner, if a person can’t pay for a loved one’s funeral, the county pays the funeral home $800 for handling the body and the county pays an additional $200 for the cost of the actual cremation.

In an interview, the coroner said he has the survivors sign their rights of the deceased over to him. He then holds the ashes for up to six months. Those who can’t afford to reimburse the county the $1000 within that time are told they won’t be notified of where the ashes will be placed, other than the ashes will be placed in a cemetery of the coroner’s choosing.

Wendy said that she was told by the coroner that she needed to sign a paper agreeing to pay $1,000 before getting Chris’ death certificate and his ashes back. “And if we didn't come up with it, he would be buried anywhere in some cemetery and we'd never know where he's at,” Wendy said. “He was just blunt. You'll never know where they're at.”

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