Thanksgiving will be special for 18-year old Mianna Koehn this year. Like so many people, she’ll eat turkey and give thanks.

But this year will be different.

She will be giving thanks that her dream of becoming a teacher was given back to her — by Health Ministries.

The United Way agency helped her both be diagnosed when she wasn’t feeling well, and referred her to the Kansas Cancer Center for treatment of leukemia.

“Being diagnosed was quite a blow,” Koehn said. “At that point, I thought that teaching in school was out of the question. The most important thing then was being at home with my family and trying to get well. All my other dreams faded into the distance.”

But when fall rolled around she was back at work as a teacher’s aide at Eden Christian School in Burns. She’s being treated, and her dream of becoming a teacher is back on her mind.

Quite a turnaround for a girl who wasn’t feeling well, needing a doctor and didn’t have any health insurance. Her parents, Steve and Barbara of Newton, don’t have access to insurance plans. Steve is self employed with his own lawn care business, Barbara tends a greenhouse and sells produce in the summers and also is employed part time as a bookkeeper.

“He is also currently working for another company, for our son doing siding, and he doesn’t offer health insurance to employees,” Barbara said. “That’s OK. We don’t expect it — Steve is part time and health insurance is very expensive.”

Left without insurance, the family has to pay all its own medical costs.

Health Ministries charges on a sliding scale, based on income.

And because Barbara had been going there for years, she knew where to send Mianna for what they thought was a routine checkup.

“I went in because I wasn’t feeling good,” Mianna said. “They took lab work, and because they were so nice it was easy for that to happen.”

Then came the call — there was something in the blood work that concerned the medical team at Health Ministries.

Her white cell counts were off, and the staff of Health Ministries made an appointment for Mianna at the Cancer Center of Kansas.

After the diagnosis, Mianna made weekly visits to Health Ministries for lab work.

“I enjoyed going there because they were very friendly,” Mianna said. “They told me often they were praying for me, and they really, truly cared for me.”

Mianna was prescribed a weekly medication to control the leukemia, and her health has stabilized.

Had she not been diagnosed, the outcome would have been anything but pretty.

“It keeps advancing and gets to the point where it is hard to treat. If you don’t treat it, it gets worse and worse and you will die,” Mianna said.

She knows the challenge of trying to find medical care without an insurance card —and that some people won’t go because they are afraid of how to pay for services.

But she’s glad she went.

“Don’t hesitate,” Mianna said “There are people out there that will help, even if you don’t have the money. They have helped me so much.”

Barbara also is thankful of the help — she and her husband don’t like “taking charity,” she said.

“Health Ministries has never made us feel like we are taking charity,” Barbara said. “We have appreciated Health Ministries. When we need them it is a very good place to go.”

She said the clinic is an important part of the community, something that needs to be supported.

And having the center provides families like hers peace of mind.

“Basically we are a healthy family, but as I needed help I knew where to go,” Barbara said. “I don’t know what we would have done without them. I am sure there would have been a way, but it would have been a longer route to get what we needed.”