Around this time last year, Tim Lee helped organized a benefit for a friend who was battling cancer. Now his friends are throwing a fundraiser on Wednesday to offset the medical costs he's incurred since his own diagnosis.
Lee, a well-known Springs resident, recalled what a "psychological mess" he was during the planning of the benefit for Dee Moore, just after receiving his Stage 4 esophageal cancer diagnosis late last year. Despite being in the best shape of his life, he said he began choking on his food and feeling as if a pair of fists wrapped around his throat. Tests revealed cancer, which had already spread to his lymph nodes.
Soon after, he began chemotherapy and radiation at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Lee, who is 59, has just begun another course of chemotherapy recently.
Half-way through the initial treatment, Lee learned his health insurance — a family group insurance — had been cancelled due a problem with paperwork. He continued treatment and the insurance has since been reinstated, but he quickly racked up medical bills. Unable to work for most of the year due to the illness and side-effects — he's a photographer and party lights designer who also deals in antiques — he has found himself in dire financial straits. "I'm playing financial catch-up," he said.
His friends put together the music and art event at Ashawagh Hall for Wednesday to help offset the costs. Admission is a suggested at $20, donated art and other items will be sold, there will be food and drinks, and Nancy Atlas, Little Head Thinks, and others will perform from 6 to 11 p.m.
Kris Warrenburg, one of the organizers, described Lee as "part of the heartbeat of Springs." She said he's been a constant presence. "It was kind of odd to see him get sick and disappear for a while."
Lee, who grew up in Chinatown, has spent every summer of his life in Maidstone, after his parents bought a cottage there in 1953. He moved to Springs full-time 23 years ago to raise his children Liam, 23, and Julia, 21.
"I've always been the rock," for his children, he said. "Now I have cancer."
He said there has been an outpouring of support from the community and he's grateful. "I'm sure Wednesday's going to be a little emotional," he said.
Moore, who helped organize the benefit for Lee just as he did for her, said she hopes it is even more successful for him. "He's a person in need. If you have something to spare please spare it," she said.
Lee has been fully focused on getting well, even trying homeopathic remedies and acupuncture with this round of treatment.
Like many undergoing chemotherapy, he lost some of his hair — a marked change for the man many are used to seeing with a long pony tail. "I haven't had short hair since high school," he laughed.
If you'd like to make a donation, checks can be sent to Tim Lee, 14 Broadway,
East Hampton, NY 11937.
Do you know Tim Lee? Tell us why you will support him at the benefit on Wednesday. Post a comment below to encourage others.