One Friday in late July, soon after being assigned to teach high school honors English and while studying for exams for her first seminary class, Kim was told that doctors had discovered a spot on her lung.
A few weeks after school opened in August, she took a leave of absence to begin radiation treatment and chemotherapy. Her departure from work cost the family her wages, which would have totaled more than $20,000 for the year.
In early September, it looked as if John, now 49, might land a well-paying job with the Kentucky government that would help the family through its latest crisis. But things didn't pan out.
By mid-October — even with the insurance from John's university post covering most of the cost of Kim's expensive medical treatments — the Ryans had no choice but to start looking for smaller, cheaper quarters.
Kim, 48, has Stage III lung cancer and only a 35% chance of survival. In one of her newspaper columns after receiving the diagnosis, she wrote about the odds that skunks face when crossing the county's rural roads — and about one she'd recently hit.
"I'd like to hope that my chances increased when that poor stinky skunk sacrificed himself for the 35% of us that are still trying" to get to the other side.
"I'll let you know . I plan to write once I'm safely across."
Families in crisis
The chances of experiencing a major setback - such as layoff, divorce or death - in the course of a decade have remained fairly constant or fallen for working families over the last 30 years. But the consequences have grown more severe. Those hit by a setback have seen the odds that their incomes will be chopped at least in half nearly double to more than 1 in 5.
Hits come no more often ...
Percentage of families beset by at least one of seven income-shaking events in the 1970s, '80s and '90s
... But they land harder
Percentage of families whose annual incomes fell by at least 50% when struck by one of these events