John Young

Young, now cancer-free, stands outside Beth Israel Medical Center in February 2013 where he received cancer treatment two years earlier.

Photo by Christine Show

More on Dying for Care


‘It's a reminder of what I'm no longer able to do’

Young now wakes up on a regular basis from a night full of dreams. In them, he is singing opera songs he has never performed in public.

When Young first moved to New York City, he considered it the path to becoming a successful opera singer. Much like Ernesto, the character Young was to play in Don Pasquale who is lovesick for a girl he can't have, Young has been lovesick over a dream he couldn't accomplish.

“Performing was really the only thing that made me happy and fulfilled,” he said.

Although he is now cancer-free, Young has nerve damage. The right side of his face, the back of his mouth and the side of his throat are permanently numb.

When he finally recovered from cancer treatments, Young worked as an executive assistant at the Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital for more than a year. At Tisch, his annual income was $40,000 and he paid $143.96 monthly for medical, vision and life insurance.

Young didn't have to worry about how to pay for regular checkups and CT scans. About 40 out of every 100 people diagnosed with this stage 4 cancer will live about five years, according to Cancer Research UK.

But this spring he faced a new roadblock: He left his job at Mount Sinai and moved back to Atlanta in April to care for his aging parents. During an interview in February, Young said he knew his choice meant he may be uninsured again.

“That does make me very nervous,” he said.

But remaining in a city where his hopes were high and quickly dashed doesn't seem fair either, he said.

“It's been hard every day in New York because it's a reminder of what I'm no longer able to do - right now,” Young said.

Young said he is confident his singing struggle wouldn't be so hard if he had had health insurance during his initial diagnosis.

“If I didn't have to jump through the hoops I had to, I wouldn't have had to jump to stage 4 and I wouldn't have had nerve damage,” he said. “I would have been able to have treatments a lot sooner and it would have been a lot less invasive.”

Young left New York hoping to find work in Georgia as an accounts payable manager - a job he did in Atlanta before he moved to New York City. He said he wanted a job that will provide benefits and enough extra income to pay for singing lessons so he can focus on improving his opera voice again.

“Who's to say I can't come back to work here some day?” he said. “I fought my way through cancer, I'm going to fight my way to have some sort of comeback.”

« Part 8: The Critics

| All Rights Reserved