Jon and Nicole (Nique) Swinehart have lived in Cut Bank for over 24 years. For most of those years, life was good and was spent as one would expect, working and raising kids. Then, in the fall of 2018, everything changed. with Stage 3 pancreatic cancer. Within weeks, it advanced to Stage 4 and spread to Jon's liver.
The next seven months, Jon underwent the most aggressive kind of chemotherapy a human can endure. He was sick for the entire time, enduring treatments every other week. His wife Nique said, "We weren't even sure he would make it through the chemo."
But Jon, a very determined and self-made man, made it through 12 rounds of chemotherapy. In May of 2019, he was diagnosed as NED, no evidence of disease. Self-employed, Jon returned to work and things looked promising for him and the family.
In November of 2019 Jon received news the cancer had returned in his pancreas and his liver.
"That was just awful for him and for all of us," Nique said. "Especially after he had felt better for a few months. It was really tough on him, on the whole family."
Jon, Nique, their kids, Hunter, who is 24, Turan who is 20 and Cameera who is six, were devastated at the news. They knew it meant more chemotherapy and that Jon would be sick again.
What they did not know was all the other issues that would surface over the next six months. Jon’s medical expenses were already astronomical and the next round of treatment would add to the mounting bills.
Normally, when one of "our own" is struggling, the people of our area rally and come to the aid of those in need. Jon’s diagnosis came just as COVID-19 restrictions came into play and there was just no way to hold a fundraiser for the Swinehart family.
"We have been confined to our house. I can't let anyone in for fear they would make Jon even sicker and I can't get anything as I am the lone caretaker for him now," Nique stated.
Word spread about the Swinehart's challenging situation, Jon's health, their finances and how they could use some help.
An account was opened at First Liberty Credit Union and Facebook pages and other forms of social media shared how people could help this family.
"We do not like asking for help," said Nique. "We have always taken care of ourselves. We surely feel blessed that people are wanting to help us."
She added, "It was just incredible that almost immediately after the account at the credit union was open, there was money in it. The people here are so great."
Donations of any amount can be made to the Swinehart family account at any First Liberty Credit Union.
When Jon found out the cancer had returned, another round of chemotherapy was ordered. However, the hospital in Kalispell would not agree to treating Jon without a down payment.
"We have no health insurance and we had some very big outstanding bills from the first round of chemotherapy Jon went through. The hospital was not going to let Jon have anymore treatments until we could start making down payments. We couldn't afford that, so we had to delay the treatments," Nique said.
It was then Madia Rodriguez-Morales, FNP, of Northern Rockies Medical Center intervened. She made some calls to Jon's oncologist, who in turn made some calls and before the Swineharts knew it, Jon was scheduled for chemotherapy again. The hospital agreed to accept a lower down payment for the treatment.
By now, though, Jon was having stomach issues, severe pain, gall bladder infections, surgeries and hospitalizations. Nique could not be with him because of the virus restrictions in hospitals and obviously even more medical bills.
"It was so hard just dropping him off at the hospital and not being able to be with him. He spent a week in the hospital when they tried to clear up the infection and did surgery and none of his family could be with him," she said. "There was even one point when they called me and said things were looking really bad and he might only have a week to live and I couldn't go to him. Thank goodness Jon is a fighter."
Jon, 50, is back at home now and under the care of his loving wife and when he needs additional care, he is able to see the staff at Northern Rockies Medical Center. Chemotherapy has been delayed as his body just is not strong enough to endure anything that severe right now.
"First he is fighting cancer, which is horrible all by itself and now, he has all these other things going on, making things even worse," Nique said.
But even through the gloom, Nique tries to see some light. "Our kids have been helping out so much. Hunter is running Jon's business and Turan is helping me at home and Cameera has been Jon's little nurse. The staff at NRMC has been amazing.”
She continued,”Our neighbors and friends have done so much for me and for Jon, I can't even begin to thank everyone because I am sure I will miss someone who has been equally as wonderful. We so appreciate everyone, more than we can say."
Nique said the donations will go such a long way to helping them out, especially with their credit cards being maxed out and not much for income coming into their checking account.
"I cannot even begin to say how much the money will help us out right now. We had someone pay our electric bill the other month and it was at such a critical time as I had to decide to put money down on the chemo or pay our electric bill. It was absolutely amazing the timing of that donation."
She concluded, "We want to thank everyone so much for all they are doing for us. It is incredible."
Things may be tough for the Swineharts, but Nique believes there is a "silver lining" out there for them, somewhere, sometime. "It has been a heck of a bumpy ride. We just keeping hoping for the best."