Monday, March 17, 2008
Help Me Howard: Cancer and Contract
For many dieters, the struggle to shed pounds is a daily fight, but while one woman waged her weight loss battle, she was hit with a much scarier medical diagnosis, cancer. Her doctors urged her to stop her diet program, but the company will not return her money. Now she's turning to Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Alvin de la Cruz-Mills used to think she had big problems.
Alvin de la Cruz-Mills: "I've battled weight loss for almost five to six years. I gain, I lose, it's like a yo-yo effect for me."
Back and forth, losing, gaining from one weight program to another.
Alvin de la Cruz-Mills: "I've tried many different diets. I've tried Jenny Craig, I've done Dr. Atkins, I've done the cabbage soup diet. You name it, I've done it."
In September, the elementary school teacher put down $628 and committed to another weight loss program.
Alvin de la Cruz-Mills: "There was a ritual of pills to take, a couple of supplements. I was able to go home and eat what I wanted to eat."
But then Alvin was hit with a problem that made her weight issue look minuscule.
Alvin de la Cruz-Mills: "Unfortunately, two months into the plan, I was diagnosed with breast cancer."
Horrible news for anyone who has battled cancer or has a friend or family member hit with the disease.
Alvin de la Cruz-Mills: "I felt devastated, I kept saying, 'Why me?' but, unfortunately, it happens, and I have to just continue and try to go for the best."
Determined to beat cancer, Alvin and her doctors put together her plan.
Alvin de la Cruz-Mills: "I was told by my primary care physician as well as my oncologist, that I should no longer take any dietary supplements because they might have some kind of effect on my chemotherapy."
Her doctor even wrote this letter to the diet program asking them to "Kindly cancel her membership." Alvin took it to the weight loss center and was told, point blank, you cannot cancel and get a refund.
Alvin de la Cruz-Mills: "I was very surprised they said no. I felt that they weren't working with me, I felt that they took it as, 'We're just going to bully her."
The company did offer to postpone her weight loss program or work with her doctors, but her cancer specialists say Alvin can't stay on the weight loss program.
Alvin de la Cruz-Mills: "Unfortunately, my doctor can't work with them because all the supplements they are requiring me to take and because of my chemo therapy and other medications that I'm taking to battle with my cancer."
But the diet company refused to budge.
Alvin de la Cruz-Mills: "I feel I should get a refund. If not an entire refund, at least a pro-rated refund."
But, if you sign up for something and find out you have cancer, can you get a refund, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "The law in this case surprised all of us. Believe it or not, if you break a toe you can get out of a gym contract, but, if you have cancer you cannot get out of a weight loss program, even with a doctor saying it could harm you."
A spokesman for Quick Weight Loss Centers first told us Alvin got full value for the program in the first few weeks and that they never got her doctor's written request to let her out of the program, but, one day later, the president of the company told us, 'We may have dropped the ball and misplaced those documents.' Then, the next day, the company changed its mind, insisting the documents were never delivered, that they were not giving her a refund, and their offer to let her return to the program when her cancer is in remission stands.
Howard Finkelstein: "The weight loss program chose to follow the law. If you don't think that is fair you can change it tomorrow. Contact your state representative or senator and tell them to help protect people battling cancer."
Alvin de la Cruz-Mills: "This is my chemo regiment."
We feel terrible that we failed to get Alvin's money back, but she isn't too disappointed. After all, she has something much more important to deal with right now.
Alvin de la Cruz-Mills: "My doctors gave me a good prognosis, my cancer was caught at an early stage, and I had to go through certain treatments in order to get better, and that's where I'm at right now."
Patrick Fraser: "Now, Howard mentioned breaking a toe will get you out of a gym contract so will cancer, but neither will get you out of a weight loss program. The legislature worked to protect consumers in gym contracts. They haven't done the same thing to protect people in weight loss contracts."
A heavy heart hurting you? Need someone to lift a weight off your shoulders? Contact us, we can cure some ills of the legal kind.
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