Free legal clinic puts cancer patients’ fears to rest

Michael Kryszak (KXAN Photo)
Michael Kryszak (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Every day Michael Kryszak goes to work as an elementary school teacher, it is one day away from his stage-three colon cancer diagnosis, which came in the middle of the 2015 school year.

“Suddenly when all of that information hits, it’s an avalanche,” he said. “There are so many questions and so many things to worry about.”

But Kryszak, 29, was armed with a medical power of attorney and a cache of other legal documents that put his mind at ease.

“When I was on chemo and was feeling horrible, my mother, who was my medical power of attorney could talk to my doctor,” Kryszak said. “She could talk on my behalf when I was laying on the bathroom floor.”

When a cancer diagnosis strikes, many times patients scramble to put their legal affairs in order, which can be a daunting task. But, one law firm has a new way to reach patients and arm them with the help they need.

It’s called the CANLAW Clinic, a one-on-one workshop that pairs patients with attorneys who draw up everything from a will to medical information forms.

Kryszak’s legal work came free of charge from attorney Randy Cubriel. A cancer survivor himself, Cubriel started the clinic a couple of weeks ago, offering legal services to all cancer patients — no matter their income or stage of care.

“I know what they’re going through,” Cubriel said. “It just puts us in a position to better help.”

Cubriel offers the clinic twice a year, in the spring and the fall. But, he hopes to expand it by offering more legal advice including employment and family law counseling.

He said cancer patients need five documents:

  • Last Will and Testament, to take care of property and wealth after death
  • Medical Power of Attorney, giving a trusted person the ability to make medical decisions
  • Durable Power of Attorney for legal and business affairs
  • Medical Directive, will communicate your wishes about medical treatment in an emergency, especially if you don’t have a designated power of attorney
  • HIPAA Release Form allows your doctors and family to share your medical records

Cancer patients must apply for the free service. For clients who aren’t sick, it can cost as much as $2,000-$3,000.

“We looked at the landscape and we realized that no one is doing it. And if not us, who?” Cubriel said.

Life before cancer is slowly coming back for Kryszak. Follow-up doctor’s visits always make him wonder if he will need to use a power of attorney again.

“Emotions start running high again, wondering if they’re going to find anything? Is everything going to be clean?” Kryszak said. “Things happen in the blink of an eye, beyond cancer. People need to be able to act on your behalf.”

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