Monday, October 19, 2015

The Costs of Cancer

So you get diagnosed with cancer and all of a sudden you put your entire life on hold and you grapple with side effects, hair loss, constant aches and pains, surgical recovery, and giant medical bills. You rob Peter to pay Paul so to speak every month as you juggle your bills. You take time off work to cope with treatment and your income tanks and money is even tighter. You try to save for retirement as you wonder if you will be there for retirement.

But picture this if you were in college or just out and didn't really have a job. You are dependent on your parents for money. You alternate between your dorm room, your parent's sofa, and the infusion room. You try to figure out how you are ever going to have a career, if you are going to have a career. You hope you do not have to declare bankruptcy before 30 just to stay solvent because you have student loans and medical bills. At the same time you wonder if you will be around to turn 30.

I have been in both situations. At 19, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, but was still on my parent's health insurance and it took a summer to deal with the bulk of treatment, but have had follow up's every year or more often since. Medical bills and student loans were not as sky high back then but I did go through a lot of angst as a result of my diagnosis.

Then at 45 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and wondered how to pay bills as I job hunted through treatment. I haven't worked full time since. Money is much tighter now. Saving for retirement has been less important. With two cancer diagnoses, retirement looks a bit iffy at times.

At some point I learned about a wonderful organization called The Samfund. This group helps those young adult cancer patients figure out their financials and provides some grants. How do they know how to do this? The founder has been through this herself. I just wish they were around for me decades ago.

Being told you are cancer free only makes you find out about all the costs you still have to pay - financial, emotional, and physical.

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