Woman pays off debt while fighting cancer, raising two kids

- GreenPath is sharing the story of their client of the year, Tanya LaPrad. She is a single mother who paid off her debts while battling cancer and raising two children.

"Tanya came to GreenPath, a newly divorced mother of two. She was left with a delinquent mortgage, which was upside down, credit card debt, a son in college, and a 14-year-old daughter to support. Tonya's expenses also exceeded her income by almost $400. 

Early on, Tanya didn't know that she was in financial trouble. "My ex-husband did the bills. Looking back now, having one person in control of our finances wasn't a good idea," she says.

ZERO PERCENT APPEALING

Before her divorce, Tanya put $10,000 of her husband's debt on a newly opened, zero-percent finance credit card, in her name.  "He started charging groceries and more, and things got out of control."

"I thought by opening the zero-percent credit card, I would be helping the situation. I offered to take over doing the bills so that we could get out of the pile of debt that we were under together."

However, even as the amount of debt became known to her, she didn't feel she was in a horrible place, but knew that she couldn't let it get to an extreme level - they found it easy to rationalize "What's another fifty dollars?"

Tanya fell into the trap of closing one credit card account and opening another, in order to take advantage of zero or low interest rates.

"Before my divorce, everything was ours together, the debt as well. We owed what we spent and knew it was our responsibility to pay back our debt."

FORECLOSURE WORRIES

At the same time, Tanya's home was in danger of going into foreclosure in 2009.  The monthly mortgage payments kept going up and she knew she was going to need to get help.

"I called so many people, including a bankruptcy attorney, but when I reached out to HOPE Now, they suggested I contact GreenPath in Monroe, Michigan."

"I didn't want to declare bankruptcy, I was responsible and I knew I had to get payments lowered."

MEETING WITH GREENPATH

Tanya felt hopeful after meeting with GreenPath and that they would be able to help her. "I liked to hear about all my options and I was grateful for Bettina, my counselor, who helped show me any options that were available to me."

She signed on for her debt management plan in November 2010. "It wasn't easy at first, but it was automatic. I knew how much would be coming out each month, which helped with my budget."

At that time, her son got college loans and scholarships after he graduated in 2010. She set a personal goal to try and pay off before her daughter graduated in 2014.

"Whenever possible, Tonya sent in extra money to pay the debt down more quickly.  Her goal was to be able to refinance her house when her daughter went away to college," said Bettina Bartolo, Tanya's GreenPath counselor.

Throughout the process, she provided the best she could for her two children.  "It was easy to spend a large amount of money on clothes, shoes, school supplies," said Tanya. "At the same time, I had to learn how to budget and scale back on some of the things that weren't a necessity."

In 2011, she qualified for a HAMP loan. She also put a new roof on her home, with a loan, which helped lower her mortgage insurance.

BREAST CANCER DIAGNOSIS

"In 2012, Tanya was diagnosed with breast cancer and her income was reduced while she was undergoing medical care.  She now had medical bills on top of the bills she was already trying to pay off under her debt management plan.  She worked as much as possible through her therapy and met with her counselor to see what changes she could make to her budget, so that payment to her creditors could continue."

- Bettina Bartolo, Tanya's GreenPath counselor

Tanya suffered a major setback in 2012, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. "I had to take some time off through my surgeries; however I worked through my chemotherapy. I had a lot of friends and family that supported my journey, they brought me food, they checked on me, they checked on my daughter for me."

2013 and 2014 - YEARS OF VICTORIES

Tanya had many surgeries, including breast reconstructive surgery, and finished chemotherapy in January 2013. In August 2013, she completed her GreenPath debt management plan and had her last cancer surgery.

"By sending extra money whenever possible, Tanya was able to pay off more than $21,000 in 33 months, over two years earlier than originally expected," said GreenPath Counselor Bettina Bartolo.

Tanya says that "2014 has been the best year because I don't have a credit card payment. I am healthy, and lucky that my medical bills were written off by the Cancer Center."
 
Looking back, a big lesson learned by her was the importance of being active in finances. "Part of the trouble was me. I wasn't paying attention and it got out of control."

She sums up her experience about her debt management plan and cancer this way: "Work hard and be grateful for what you have. You'll get there. Reaching out for help is the hardest thing, but worth it. If I hadn't asked for help from GreenPath, before I got sick, I never would have made it."

Tanya LaPrad is a shining example of a dedicated, driven client. Her optimistic attitude and dedication to the program, all the while battling and beating cancer!

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