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How A Thirteen Year Old Girl Inspired Me To Support Paid Family Medical Leave

Tuesday, 10 February 2015


I was ten years old when my thirteen year old cousin Ashley, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma cancer in her wrist. I didn’t understand what cancer was back then, but I knew that it wasn’t good. I watched her lose her hair, weight and in the space where a thirteen year old’s eyes light up, she carried dark bags symbolizing the amount of chemotherapy and surgeries she had in the past month alone. I was confused and scared for her- I assumed she was too, but she never showed it.

Ashley’s bravery inspired me at such a young age, and is a huge influence as to who I am today and what I stand for. I’ve watched how cancer affects not only a patient, but the family as well. Her mother, Ximena, is a hardworking woman who worked at an elementary school as a cafeteria clerk. When Ashley started treatments, Ximena left her job so that she could take her daughter to necessary appointments and stay home with Ashley when she was home resting. Doing so, my aunt had to choose between her paycheck and the health of her daughter who was ill from cancer. Without a paycheck from week to week and having numerous medical bills, the family suffered financially.

I support and am excited to work on Paid Family Medical Leave mainly because of Ashley and her family, my family. Cancer is at an all time high, with thousands of new diagnoses every year in Massachusetts alone. Every year, a family in the Commonwealth must choose between their paychecks and the health of themselves or a loved one. Nearly 40 percent of Massachusetts workers (1.2 million) are excluded from job protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) because they work for companies with fewer than 50 employees. In addition, the FMLA’s unpaid leave is not a financially viable option for most working families, particularly low-income and single parent households.

I’m thankful to have my cousin Ashley, alive and well today and the opportunity to fight for families like mine, whom had an unexpected illness and had to make the tough decision between a paycheck and the health of a loved one. Please support the Paid Family Medical Bill and for more information on our bill or how to get involved please visit our website www.coalitionforsocialjustice.org. If you or someone you know has a similar story, please share it with us.

Thank you for your ongoing support,

Joe Di Mauro

Grassroots Coordinator

Coalition for Social Justice

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