Linda Bentley is ‘dying to live’

OKEECHOBEE — Linda Bentley said if she were to write a book about her life, she would call it “Dying to Live,” because she has struggled so hard just to survive. Recently, her friends called the newspaper to arrange an interview because they were excited about sharing a dream that was fulfilled for Ms. Bentley by the The Dream Foundation . Ms. Bentley said she wasn’t sure what to do with her opportunity to speak out, because she was so overwhelmed by the gift from The Dream Foundation and wanted to talk about that but also wanted to talk about the way she feels the system has failed her in her time of need.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
“Thank you Promise program for making the trip possible,” said Linda Bentley.

Ms. Bentley has cancer, and it is not her first battle with it. She lost an eye to the disease a few years ago and now she has liver cancer. She said she does not have much time left. It could be the end of this year, or it could be the end of this week. She has made her peace with the idea, and not long ago, she signed herself up for Hospice so they could help her through the end.

One of the biggest blessings she found was The Dream Foundation which is similar to the Make a Wish Foundation. The Dream Foundation is currently the only nonprofit organization that grants wishes to adults with terminal illnesses.

When Ms. Bentley, her friend Amber Lindstrom and her Hospice worker Ruth Bobst read about this, they wondered if it would be possible for Ms. Bentley to go see the daughter she had given up as a toddler and hadn’t seen in almost 40 years. They didn’t have to wonder long. The answer was yes!

Ms. Bentley had her daughter, also named Amber, when she was a young teenager and gave her up for adoption to her paternal grandparents because she felt it would give Amber a chance at a better life. They had spoken on the phone and social media but had not seen each other in person since Amber was 2 years old. Ms. Bentley had also never met her grandchildren, Lyrick and Roek.

On Oct. 4, Ms. Bentley and her friend Jeanna Smiley flew to California to meet Amber and her family for the first time, and it was wonderful, said Ms. Bentley. Mrs. Smiley said you could not tell they were meeting for the first time. “They just seemed like family.” Ms. Bentley said she felt like the trip gave her the chance to bring some closure to her relationship with her daughter. She thought Amber always believed she just dumped her because she didn’t want her or because it was easier, and now she understands why she did it. “That helped both of us,” she said.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Linda Bentley had a wonderful visit with her daughter Amber, son-in-law, Justin, granddaughter Lyrick and grandson Roek. The trip was provided by the Hospice Promise program.

When she and Mrs. Smiley returned home, she got back to work on what she considers her job nowadays, trying to get the government to realize that she actually is dying, and it is completely unfair to keep denying her the disability she paid into her entire life. She has been to court over and over, and they keep denying her claims. She has very little time left, and yet, they keep turning her down. She was actually on Hospice before she was approved for Medicaid. She said her lawyer told her to pray that her cancer would metastasize after her last court date and then it did, but that still was not enough to convince a judge. She was being treated by Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, so one would think that would carry some weight with the courts, she said, but it hasn’t.

Ms. Bentley has had some terrible experiences both in and out of the courtroom when dealing with her cancer. Not long ago, Moffitt sent her to have an MRI done, she said, and the doctor came back and told her, “Good news! You don’t have cancer after all!” When she left, she called Moffitt, and they told her to go back, but she was too weak to deal with it that day, she said, so she waited until the following day to go back, and ask them to repeat the test.

She said one of her main reasons for deciding to become a Hospice patient was because she hated the way she was treated when she went to the emergency room if the pain got too bad. “They always think I am a drug addict looking for a fix,” she said. “I look too good to be dying they say.”

She is very thankful for the friends who have helped her in her time of need. It’s not really even for herself that she wants the money, she said. She wants to pay back the people she feels she owes. She lives on a farm, and the owner of the farm has graciously allowed her to live there in exchange for taking care of it, including the animals, but the sicker she gets, the harder it is for her to do that, and the more she depends on her friends and neighbors. She would like to be able to pay for their services. They aren’t asking for it, but she wants to do it, she said, and it’s fair. She paid into the system her entire working life. She only wants what she earned, she said. She has even written to Congressman Greg Steube to try to get his help, but so far she has still not been approved. She has written to and called DCF and the IRS and just about every agency imaginable, but every time she actually speaks to a person, they tell her to call another person or write someone else or fill out another form.

“I think what hurts the most is that some people think I have already gotten disability and just don’t want to tell anyone, don’t want to pay them. I don’t want to go out with people thinking I stiffed them,” she said. “I am an honorable person.”

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment