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Seven years into his battle with cancer, Stuart Chapin is faced with a stark choice: saving his house or his life.
The 55-year-old teacher has spent $60,000 on medical co-pays and exhausted his savings and his 18-year-old son's college fund. He now relies on a foundation for expensive chemotherapy that has allowed him to beat grim odds.
He can't afford to take his kids to the movies, and his 13-year-old daughter recently co-wrote a novel with him in the hopes of bringing in cash. His wife frets about the family finances so much, it's literally made her sick.
"Last week, I was diagnosed with anxiety state," Vanessa Chapin told NBC News. "I can't stop shaking...I am depressed. I worry all the time about money. I make them count every penny. I look at the bank every day to see who has spent what."
Her husband, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 colorectal cancer in 2009 and given six months to live, said if he wants to keep fighting, he may have to put his Fredericksburg, Virginia, house on the market.
"I don’t want to see this house sold. I refuse to see this house sold. I’ve worked too hard to make this our place, where my children can remember having Christmases," he said.
"And it is unfair of the drug companies to make me make that decision. But that is what I’m forced to consider."
"Our choices are lose the house or lose my life. There's no third choice."
The plight of the Chapins and many other cancer-stricken Americans has prompted a group of oncologists to demand cheaper drugs in an editorial in a major medical journal.
They say even patients with insurance can be bankrupted by the price of cancer drugs, which has risen over the last 15 years.
The Chapins have insurance, but the co-pay for the five drugs Stuart needs comes to about $5,000 a year. At the end of every month, the family is hundreds of dollars in the red.
He and Vanessa have talked about whether to remove his nephrostomy tube, which would send him into renal shock and kill him within days or weeks.
"And we've had the conversation, my wife and I, "Should I do that?' Because our choices are lose the house or lose my life. There's no third choice," he said.
"I do not look for charity. I do believe in what is fair," he said. "But I do not believe that what I am being charged is anywhere close to being fair."
He said his children have to help him with basic tasks, like putting on his shoes. Yet he can barely provide for them.
"We're looking for ice cream money for our kids," he said.
He and his daughter Katharine wrote an Amazon e-book called "Strange Girl," as a way to bond without spending a dime and possibly making a little money.
"I promised my daughter if she finished this book that I [would] take her to New York and let her see a Broadway play for the first time in her life," he said. "I still can't afford to do that."
He was moved, he said, by the doctors' group that is taking on the pharmaceutical industry over drug prices.
"This is a group of American’s who has gone the distance to say, we need to correct this problem in American medical health," Chapin said.
"Those people are heroic in my opinion."