October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.
The financial impact of a cancer diagnosis is as real as the cancer diagnosis. As a cancer survivor (1 year shy of 20 years), I know all about this first-hand.
Money is the last thing people want to think about after receiving a cancer diagnosis. However, if someone has no benefits or has limited coverage, the financial impact of a cancer diagnosis can’t be ignored.
The Financial Impact of a Cancer Diagnosis
For some people, the biggest impact can be the loss of income if there is no disability income coverage or an insurance company finds a loophole to deny a claim. Some people may have limited drug benefit coverage or no coverage at all.
There are also things like a wig, travel to appointments, self care services, and maybe even lodgings if treatments are far from home.
Sharity at its Best
I learned early in my cancer diagnosis that there are amazing people in the community ready to share time and resources to help people with cancer. In Kitchener, Hopespring became one of my best friends.
I’m no artist. However, Hopespring assured me that being a good artist wasn’t a prerequisite for attending their free workshop. The intention wasn’t to gloat about our artistic ability but rather to work through creating a picture filled with images of things in which we can find peace, comfort and hope in times of trouble. The facilitator was great, so within a matter of minutes my work of art was just about complete.
As you can see, I am no artist. I drew everything the way I have been drawing them since elementary school. My sandbox looks like a square piece of pizza. The exercise worked, though. For me, this was a work of art. My masterpiece. I kept it. I can’t remember what the facilitator looked like, but I remember her compassion as she encouraged us to share what we felt comfortable sharing about our masterpiece.
Part way through my treatments, I heard about a series of free “Look good, feel good” workshops. Cancer patients get a makeover. I wasn’t feeling well enough to attend on the days the workshop was offered, but from the videos I saw of what happens at the workshops, I’d say attend such a workshop if one is available.
There were massage therapists giving massages on a volunteer basis at Hopespring. I was told I’d likely only get one, because a request for a massage was a popular request. I worked out when I expected to need one the most and booked it well in advance.
Hopespring had a selection of wigs that were donated. People could take one for free and keep it for the duration of needing a wig or could sign wigs out to try them out.
As a brunette with shoulder-length hair, I still smile when I think of the response I got when I showed up at something as a short-hair blond. Although I don’t think I looked stunning as a blond, I sure stunned other people with my new look. I ultimately decided to finish my treatments by wearing a wig that closely matched my natural hair color. I have to say, though, that my short-lived experience as a blond was interesting. All courtesy of Hopespring.
I had no coverage for some of the medications I would need. I was told there was one medication that would be free if I got it from the hospital. If I remember right, it was going to cost $200 per round of chemotherapy. (Some of my memories from that time are foggy.) I do remember that for 6 rounds, it saved me over $1,000 by getting it at the hospital.
For people who have no drug benefit plan, check to see if there is a provincial program that will cover all or part of the medications. Search “provincial drug program” online. Also, ask the hospital providing treatments if the medications are available at no charge through the hospital.
It’s worth checking to see what, if any, disability income coverage you qualify for through CPP. Here is a link to get you started.
There are government benefit programs that totally cover certain specialty products or cover part of the costs. There are some boutiques that offer specialty products that know the government programs available and will even fill out and submit government forms for tax purposes. This way, you only have to pay your share up front.
Depending on the treatment plan, regular trips to and from the treatment facility may be needed.
If travel will only be 30-60 minutes, you may prefer to remain at home and drive for treatments, but the thought of traveling so far might be overwhelming. Travel costs may be extensive. It is worth looking into lodgings that are available closer to the treatment facility, since there may be one that offers accommodations at low or no cost for cancer patients.
Asking the Questions
If you are the person who has received a cancer diagnosis, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you know someone who has received a cancer diagnosis, don’t be afraid to ask questions that can help a friend through a difficult time.
When my accountant heard I’d be driving out-of-town for my 25 radiation treatments, she said to keep track of mileage and keep parking receipts because I could claim the expenses at tax time.
It’s amazing how many products and services are available that can lessen the financial impact for people with cancer. Thousands can be saved, but sometimes it’s truly a matter of asking the questions.
If the hospital you are dealing with doesn’t have a lot of information available, start getting connected by calling the Canadian Cancer Society at 1-888-939-3333. They also have a Live Chat option. Or start getting connected through https://cancerconnection.ca/home
My story never seems complete if I don’t talk about Bulldog.
There were stuffed animals in the cancer unit at Grand River Hospital, but they were intended for children to use to help deal with anxiety. Even big people can be anxious about treatments, though, and I quite freely confessed to being anxious about mine, as I hate needles. I said I find great comfort in holding stuffed animals and asked if I could hold Bulldog while I got my treatments at the hospital. After my last treatment, I said Bulldog and I had become good friends. When I asked if I could keep him, I was told yes.
Getting Connected and Staying Connected
It is Breast Cancer Awareness month. It’s important to get connected and stay connected every day, because a diagnosis isn’t the end of the story.
I can update this blog with more information about resources available for cancer patients. If you have information, helpful tips or links that you would like to share, please feel free to submit a comment.
Here is a link for caregivers to use as a starting place for working through finances. https://moneymeasuresinc.com/coaching/