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July 22, 2014

A fund for Velma and Soren
Posted by Patrick at 07:30 AM * 34 comments

A guest post by Debbie Notkin:

Many Making Light readers know Velma and Soren (Scraps) deSelby-Bowen. Those who read the open threads here may also know that Velma has recently been diagnosed with cancer. She hasn’t been very specific on the site, but I have her permission to tell you (to tell anyone, in fact) that the cancer is “smooth muscle cell neoplasm.” Velma was scheduled for surgery tomorrow (7/23), but they have just discovered at least one infection, and surgery may be postponed. Velma’s doctors tell her that surgery will likely be followed by chemotherapy. I will do my best to keep Making Light readers informed as I learn more.

Velma has been out of work for some time, and will not be able to work for some unpredictable amount of time going forward. Soren’s stroke of several years ago (followed closely on this site) makes it very difficult for him to earn any income, though he does have some disability income.

Their need is great, and is not likely to get any less great for many months. I’m asking this community for donations to help them survive this period. I have set up a unique gmail address ( for nothing other than taking Paypal donations and communicating with me and a team of supporters about this issue.

If you can’t/don’t use Paypal, you can email me at the velmascraps address and we can discuss other means of getting money to them. Since we’re hoping to cover their needs for several months, some people may want to donate a lump sum to spread out over that time, and other people may want to send monthly small amounts. PLEASE, no one give anything that will affect your own ability to get along.

I have been unable to identify any online services that will track monthly donations and reminders (if anyone knows of one, please tell me!). If you would like to make a monthly donation, someone will send you an email reminder around the 25th of each month. If you need to halt your donations, just let me know.

Please pass this along to anyone who you think knows them or might otherwise help, but who doesn’t read Making Light.

And thank you in advance for your generosity, whether in the form of money or good wishes and good thoughts. They need those too.

Comments on A fund for Velma and Soren:
#1 ::: GuruJ ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2014, 08:22 AM:

Is it against the ToS to set up a Patreon account to support people like this?

#2 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2014, 08:40 AM:

Thank you for organizing this.

#3 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2014, 09:26 AM:

Thanks from this moose, too.

As an aside, do you need to set things up with Paypal to prevent them from suddenly freezing/returning the money on the assumption that it's some sort of scam? (They seem to have previous history of this.)

#4 ::: David Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2014, 11:50 AM:

Thanks for organizing this.

#5 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2014, 01:00 PM:

Count me in. To echo others, thanks for organizing this.

In the longer term, Paypal has a "subscriptions" service which might work for something like this. I use it for my contribution to John Allison's Scary Go Round/Bad Machinery web-comic.

His description of what you get for the subscription:
STANDARD - £2 / $3 every year - receive nothing*
BRONZE - £10 / $10 every year - receive nothing*
SILVER - £25 / $25 every year - receive nothing*
GOLD - £50 / $50 every year - receive nothing*
PLATINUM - £100 / $100 every year - receive nothing*
*but my gratitude

seems appropriate for this case.

#6 ::: Catherine Crockett ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2014, 01:02 PM:

Thanks for the update and for organizing this, Debbie. Should I tell Paypal that it's a gift? I'll give this a signal boost, also.

#7 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2014, 03:22 PM:

"GoFundMe" has also been used to help folks pay for medical necessities.

#8 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2014, 03:48 PM:

I was going to suggest IndieGogo, but judging by its Wikipedia entry, sounds better suited to this kind of project.

#9 ::: Janna Silverstein ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2014, 04:46 PM:

I think maybe what people are looking for is, which was created specifically for such a purpose. Might be worth investigating:

#10 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2014, 06:20 PM:

It's worth checking what percentage of the donated funds are taken as fees by any of the suggested organisations. I think Paypal allows the donor to pay their cut separately if you declare it as a "friends/family gift", which is what this moose normally does.

(It's possible they charge a transfer fee later (if you want to move the money to a bank account), though. I have no experience of that end of the transfer process.)

#11 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2014, 06:49 PM:

Oh dear. I don't know them but from here, but, all my best to them.

(For subscription billing, Recurly and Stripe are both worth looking into, though for something at this scale a person can probably do it okay.)

#12 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2014, 07:41 PM:

IIRC, GoFundMe takes a significantly larger chunk out than Paypal (this based on vague recollection of an online acquaintance who was using it; if I'd been giving a but more I'd have sent a check, but decided that the small difference between their percentage and the cost of a stamp and envelope* was worth it for them to have the money slightly faster.

*yes, I already had the envelopes, but at some point I will need to buy more

#13 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2014, 08:24 PM:

Checked with a friend who'd used GoFundMe . She said they charge 10%, taken out of the donation, and said "GiveItForward might be better." YouCaring is, according to their own webpage, free to use. But I have no personal experience with it. I will admit my mind immediately tried to figure out "how they did it" and came to inappropriate, libelous conclusions. They're probably not ercgbvqf be vafrpg-fcvevg jbefuvccref or anything.

#14 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2014, 09:59 PM:

Skimming 10% is outrageous.

#15 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2014, 07:49 AM:

Chris Chinn used youcaring for funding his expenses when he was sick, FWIW

#16 ::: Ellie ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2014, 09:10 AM:

Thanks for setting this up and making it happen.

#17 ::: Debbie Notkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2014, 09:48 AM:

I just want to say that the response has been _overwhelming_. Even if none of the donations we have received were monthly (and many of them are), I think V/S would be okay for the next 4-6 months.

Patrick said in email to me, "Go humans!" and I concur.

#18 ::: Jennifer ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2014, 06:02 PM:

Thanks so much for setting this up. I'll be chipping in when the next check comes through.

#19 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2014, 11:44 PM:

Debbie at 17: That's wonderful to know! Thank you for setting it up.

#20 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2014, 01:37 AM:

Anyone want to give me some tech support? I've been trying to send money for the last few days and Paypal keeps giving me the informative error message "We're sorry, but we can't send your payment right now." I've got no idea what, if anything, I'm doing wrong, or what, if anything, I can do to fix the problem.

#21 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2014, 06:25 AM:

Matt Austern @ #20

I wonder if my post at #3 has come to pass.

#22 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2014, 09:49 AM:

Cadbury Moose @21, now I'm very glad I sent a check.

#23 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2014, 11:39 AM:

Have you considered a mention in one of Sam Starbuck/Copperbadge's Radio Free Monday posts?

He's got a form to fill out, here.

#24 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2014, 12:37 PM:

I've just sent a test payment from my PayPal account and had it go through.

#25 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2014, 06:02 PM:

Moose donations work too, maybe it was just a system problem?

#26 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2014, 09:19 AM:

Matt Austern @20
If you're still having problems

Check with your credit card company to see if there are any restrictions. The Ghu knows cc companies do shit "to protect you" in ways that just piss you off.

Otherwise, wait a day or two and try again. If you still get bounced, PayPal is being a snot. Send a check.

#27 ::: Gavin Edwards ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2014, 08:37 PM:

Hey, good people. I have a Velma update. She did, in fact, have surgery this past week.

Summary from Scraps (aka Soren)'s mother:
Velma's surgery lasted about six hours. Three smaller fibrous tumors. One large tumor. Removed 12/16 inches of intestine, part of right side of the colon and her gallbladder. Couldn't remove tumors completely. Clean cut would have been ideal but that would have taken too much of organs. After they examine removed tissue they will know more on course of action, be it chemo, radiation or whatever. Apparently no pneumonia. Anyway, she will be here for at least a week. She's a trooper. Opened from pelvis to under sternum.

And the bottom line from Scraps:
Velma's up and weak but basically fine, certainly better. Now comes rehab.

#28 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2014, 08:16 PM:

OMG. I don't read Making Light as often as I used to but I came by this afternoon. I've sent a donation to the fund.

I hope Velma has an easy time with whatever the next step is and that she gets better soon.

#29 ::: Kristen Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2014, 08:52 PM:

This is Kristen, Scraps' sister. Sorry that I don't know how to make this an entry of its own; if someone who knows how to could do so, I would be grateful.

Velma (sister-in-law) update - This is what I know: (Apologies if it’s too long. I’m trying to keep a balance between too much information and not enough.)

1st surgery = Wednesday of last week. (July 23; details about that in one of my previous posts)
Velma went into that surgery in a less-than-ideal physical state – very weak, hadn’t gained back weight she had lost in the previous month. (Hospital decided to do surgery even though Velma wasn’t where they wanted her physically because Velma had been losing ground in terms of getting to a stronger place, and because one of the tumors was growing rapidly.) Although weak, Velma seemed to be recovering appropriately. (I had a good conversation with her that Friday before I went back to Portland.) At some point she was moved out of ICU.

Yesterday I received three emails from Scraps.
First: A bad news and good news kind of email.
The bad; This is from Scraps’ email. “Last night was very hard. Velma was in excruciating pain. Her time for the epidural was ended, so that came out, but her heart and lungs were still weak, so the doctors were concerned with giving her too much pain medication and having her heart stop. Unfortunately, they stopped short last night, and while they adjusted, Velma suffered.” Her pain medication was increased; doctor explained that they wanted Velma to be pain free, but they needed to be careful.
The good, again quoting Scraps: “Today she walked almost twice as far, two times. She was glowing; that was good. And the pain is definitely down. She's been drowsy, but they've been watching.”

Second: A short email titled “bad update.”
In intense pain. Moved back to ICU. Temporarily put out and tubes (breathing, etc.) reinserted. (my summary)

Third: She had fluid in her belly.

Today, received three texts from my Mom. Velma had emergency surgery this afternoon, because of an infection. (Don’t have any more details than that.) Quoting Mom here: “Dr says hour by hour to pull through on this part … very low blood pressure … Reason touch and go right now is she so weak after last surgery… Crucial next few hours.”

That’s what I know. Haven’t heard anything from Mom for over three hours.

Prayers and strong healing thoughts for her please. And for my brother.

#30 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2014, 10:45 PM:

Kristen, I've been reciting the Kanzeon sutra for Velma. (Enmei Jikku Kannon Gyo.) I hope she pulls through fully. I'm keeping Scraps in mind too.

#31 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2014, 12:36 AM:

Prayers going up now and tomorrow morning. Healing and Strength.

#32 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2014, 03:04 AM:

Kristen, I've made a front-page post of your comment. (it's a mod thing to do, and I'm a mod here.)

Thank you for the update. Please let us know if you hear any more. And if it helps, I'm thinking, not just of Velma and Scraps, but of everyone affected by this.

#33 ::: Fred ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2014, 06:09 AM:

Kristen- Thank you so much for letting us know. You and I met (along with your mother) during Soren's convalescence; my thoughts are with you all now.

#34 ::: Stuart C. Hellinger ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2014, 05:41 PM:

Sending my best thoughts to Velma. Too many people I know have been hospitalized lately. Also too damn much cancer. Fuck cancer.

The Velma I know is too ornery to let this beat her. I hope that this is still true.

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