When Dee Bell learned she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, she knew it was time to put her affairs in order. One of those affairs was to end her membership with Future Fitness, a gym located on Route 73 in West Berlin, NJ, that she says she hasn’t attended since November of 2011.
To cancel her contract with Future Fitness and avoid paying a fee of three more months of membership, Bell, of Pitman, New Jersey, gave the gym a letter from her doctor, describing her diagnosis. Bell says her doctor told her she had multiple medical conditions concurrent with treatment for the cancer, including infection and low platelets, making it impossible for her to continue attending the gym.
According to Bell however, that wasn’t enough for Future Fitness. Bell says the staff at the complex told her their policy is that a doctor’s note must specifically say she is permanently disabled in order for her to avoid paying the cancellation fee.
“So my life has turned upside down in the past two years and you’re going to nitpick me over a gym membership?” asked Bell.
The owner of the gym says the policy is meant to be equal and fair to all members. According to the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs, which regulates health clubs in the state, the Consumer Fraud Act stipulates that a health club contract can be canceled if the buyer has a permanent disability and if the permanent disability is fully described and confirmed to the health club by a physician.
“They should understand that the word metastatic means death or that it’s permanent,” Bell said.
Bell says she offered to provide more documentation from social security granting her disability benefits as well as paperwork from the state of New Jersey, her former employer, outlining her retirement because of disability. Ultimately however, Bell says the issue isn’t the cancellation fee but rather the principle of the matter. She also says she’ll work to get another doctor’s note since time is of the essence.
“I have children that are 25 and 18,” she said. “The reality is I may not see them married. I may not see my grandchildren. I’m only 53-years-old. I never expected this in my life.”