The financial burden of cancer

Last week I mentioned in a post that I would start blogging about topics requested by others. I have received a lot of good blog ideas and have them placed in the queue. By far the most requested topic has been about the financial cost of being diagnosed and treated for cancer. In this post I will briefly write about how cancer and other medical conditions within my family have become a financial burden. In a future post I will blog about places people can turn to that have become financially by financing cancer treatment.

First I should note that I have pretty good insurance. My family has an individual plan that we spend a lot of money on every month to ensure we have good coverage. Since my wife and I are self-employed we wanted to make sure we had a plan that would keep our family covered for anything unforeseeable, such as cancer. There have been a few times where the insurance company has denied chemo or scans. But I think that is unfortunately normal for all insurance companies; and after being resubmitted by the hospital staff each procedure has been pre-approved. Yet even with good insurance the costs are adding up.

Part of the financial burden comes from the out of pocket due from all of these procedures. While its true there is a cap on the out of pocket costs. This cap is much higher than I understood and the bills have been piling up. With three family members going through major medical issues in 2018 my family reached that out of pocket quite easily. Now that we are in a new year we are once again starting to reach that out of pocket fairly quickly. I really don’t see how anyone without good insurance is getting through major medical conditions without feeling overwhelmed by the financial burden. Each round of chemo costs over $30,000 for the drugs alone.

A larger part of the financial burden comes from working. Or rather from having to change work habits. My wife runs a fairly successful business focused on tax preparation, payroll, and bookkeeping. For the last decade I have worked with her at helping to grow this business. Last year she had her heart attack and had to slow down on how much she was able to work. At the same time I was having my health issues and was unable to put very much work in at the office. This meant having to hire an additional full-time staff member at the office to pick up some of the slack. Having this new staff member has helped tremendously and we are very glad to have her. But the addition of this staff member also meant a large increase in payroll; and towards the end of the year it meant the payroll that went to my wife and myself had to be reduced. That is one of the dangers of having a business which relies upon a large amount of its revenue during one season. Any unexpected changes toward the end of the year means the business owners may have to suffer financially.

And then of course there is the cost of traveling and hotels. Luckily so far all of my diagnosis and treatments have been done locally. But my youngest son has been traveling to St. Paul, MN, and Sioux Falls, SD, fairly regularly to diagnose his hypermobility issues. These trips costs us thousands of dollars in 2018. Each trip we tried to get a cheap hotel and eat fairly conservatively, but it is amazing how quickly money flies out when traveling. Plus, since Ashton is technically still undiagnosed there are costs which insurance simply won’t cover yet. One of those costs was getting him a new wheelchair during the fall of 2018. His new wheelchair has helped him tremendously on the days he is unable to walk, but it was a definite unexpected expense. Like most of these expenses we had to use a credit card. I don’t even look at my credit card statements anymore. There are simply too many cards which have become maxed out. We are hoping with some adjustments to our finances in 2019 that we should get some of these cards paid down.

Over the last few months I have spoken with a lot of cancer patients talking about their financial situations. Many of them are in worse situations than I am. One theme I have noticed though is that many cancer patients are going through multiple health issues just as my family is. Some cancer patients have other family members going through major health issues, such as is happening with my wife and youngest son. Or even more common is that cancer patients have other major health issues that may or may not be related to the cancer itself. These additional conditions put even more financial stress upon cancer patients. As I said above, I plan to write a post in the future about different ways cancer patients can get some financial relief.

Talking about the financial burden of cancer is not easy for me. Even harder has been accepting financial offers of help from others. This weekend there is a spaghetti benefit set up for my family. I am so nervous about this event. I am used to being the person helping other people while they are in need. It is uncomfortable having to rely upon the goodness of others. But at the same time I’ve had to learn to accept this help because of the disconnect notices from utilities, car loan companies, and other places we owe money. First and foremost we have to make sure our family is taken care of, and that would be very difficult to do if we don’t have power or a vehicle to get places.

As I said earlier in this post, in the future I will blog some resources cancer patients can utilize to help them with financial burdens. In this post I shared some of the financial burdens being placed upon my family. I am definitely not looking for anyone’s pity. Rather I am sharing this in the hopes that other cancer patients know they are not alone in feeling overwhelmed by the financial burdens being placed upon them.

Today’s song: I’m Busted

The first song that came to mind when doing this post was I’m Busted from Ray Charles. On YouTube I found an appearance of Ray Charles on the Johnny Cash show featuring this song. This is a great musical artifact and well worth sharing.

Bonus Song – Seven Spanish Angels

After playing the song with Ray Charles and Johnny Cash I couldn’t help but remember Ray Charles and Willie Nelson singing Seven Spanish Angels. This is such a beautiful song and I often think of it when a fellow cancer fighter loses their battle.