Cancer patient gets health, finances back on track

Ronald and Darlene Amey, regular churchgoers, have been working hard their whole lives — he as a handyman, she as a letter carrier for the past 31 years.

Ronald’s the kind of guy who will go to McDonald’s with $20 to get 20 hamburgers to hand out at the park. Darlene recently received an award for her charity work through the Combined Federal Campaign at work.

But the Oakland couple’s good fortunes took a turn for the worse earlier this year, when the healthy Ronald started bleeding. He knew it wasn’t normal, and he didn’t think it was hemorrhoids, as his doctor suggested. It was only after a routine test in April that he learned he had stage three colorectal cancer.

“The first thing you think,” he says of a cancer diagnosis, “is that it’s a death sentence.” He had to stop working and knew he was in financial trouble from the start.

Both 56, Ronald and Darlene have five children, ranging from former Raiderette Shonté, 33, to 21-year-old Joshua, a basketball player recently accepted to Cal State Long Beach. They also care for their 4-year-old grandson, Niko, who lives with them.

Given the situation, taking care of even small stuff like the PG&E and water bills was going to be a struggle.

In early May, Ronald went in for surgery and began a three-week hospital stay. There were complications, and when he woke up, he remembers telling God, “I can’t live like this.” He was fed intravenously and lost almost 50 pounds.

At the hospital, Darlene met with the chaplain, who asked what she wanted to pray about. She prayed about finances — the Ameys had fallen behind in paying their mortgage — and for Ron’s healing. At the time, he says, “Mentally, I was a mess.”

Help soon came through Season of Sharing, which helped the Ameys catch up on their mortgage payments for April and May. “It helped us get back on track,” Darlene says. “Without that, we probably wouldn’t have made it.”

Ronald regained a sense of hope from a doctor who came and talked to him. “He was a godsend,” he says. “He made me understand that I could live through this if I chose to.”

As soon as he got home and was able to eat real food, he ate his mother’s noodles with chicken. “I probably gained 2 pounds that first day,” he says.

Although the months of recovery have been tough — he’s not a “sit still” kind of guy — he says that now he feels blessed. “I had a lot of people praying for me. I wouldn’t have made it without the support of friends, family and the financial help.”

He has endured chemotherapy treatments and gained back more than 20 pounds. The first day he’s able to go back to swimming, he’ll be in the pool. He hopes to continue to try to help others, and as a cancer survivor, finds it important to share his experience with others.

Darlene carries a copy of Bible verse Mark 11-24 with her. It states, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

“At the end of the day, it’s not about what you accomplish,” she says. “It’s about who you have made better and what you have given back.”

She considers her ongoing commitment to charitable donations as “making a deposit.”

“Everyone has a time,” she says. “I’ve been working hard all my life, but you never know when you’re going to need help.”


Maghan McDowell is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. She can be reached by e-mail at

The original article can be found here.