The Road to Ruin

I have been blessed with relatively good health all of my life.   I did go some years without health insurance as a professional student, but I came through that okay.  The closest I came to chronic disease was reading about it.  I read about people losing their homes and jobs as a result of the disease.  It was horrible and I always voted for and supported any and all attempts for single-payer health care in the United States.

When I was told that I had metastatic breast cancer, the only things I thought about were keeping and losing my life, the next doctor’s appointment, when the next prescription needed to be filled, and–when it got bad–when the pain would go away.  All through the year I shelled out my co-pays, money for the bus or taxis, and kept telling myself that it would be okay.

CaptureSo now, after a year of shelling out thousands of dollars in co-pays and transportation (and holding a blue ribbon insurance policy for which I also pay dearly) I find myself on the precipice of financial ruin.  My liquid savings has been depleted, I’ve fallen behind, and the promise of a “long and happy life” rings hollow.

It is easy to cut the things that can suck your money away: cable, eating out, concerts, and  events.  But they are also the very things that bring me joy at a time when I crave and need them the most.  I can move to a cheaper apartment, but that will mean longer travel at a time when I can’t travel far (for work or for healthcare).  And, yes, New York City is an expensive place to live regardless.  But these choices are not the things that cut me off at the knees–it is the cost of health care.

I put away money in my FSA–as much as it will allow.  But it will not be enough.  And to sweeten the pot my oncologist has referred me to a nephrologist because of some lab values that worsen with each month.  Great.  One more doctor, one more co-pay, more transportation costs, and probably more prescriptions.  More time away from the office.  I never once thought of my health.  Indeed, I tried to get out of going entirely.  I fought with my oncologist, I accused her of seeing dust where there was none, I had physician fatigue and was sick and tired of doctors, but I had to cave.  She saw dust, nasty dust.  So I have to go.

And I am tired.  So tired and exhausted.  Every few days I take to my bed with the vapors and sleep and sleep and sleep.  Hours of sleep.  I despise being useless, yet I have no energy to do anything.

And all the while I keep accumulating more miles on the road to financial ruin.  Unfortunately I am not the only human being on this road.  It’s an endless road of financial refugees pushing forward as best they can while the enemy bites close to their heels.

How do we handle this, folks?  What do you do to help ameliorate the crushing effect of financial hardship at the same time you’re trying to stay alive?  Is it donations?  Organizational assistance?  And how many hoops must you jump through to satisfy the needs of an organizational paper trail while you are too fatigued to care?

No, doctors tell you a lot of things.  But they don’t tell you everything.

This entry was posted in Finances, My Stage IV Life, Stage IV Musings and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to The Road to Ruin

  1. jbaird says:

    You’ve certainly struck a nerve with this topic, Scorchy. It’s such an important issue that it’s worth reiterating. Financial ruin is a real possibility for any cancer patient, but especially for those with the Stage IV variety. I’m not on my way to a shelter soon, either, but it seems that way sometimes. Thanks for writing this. XOX

  2. MBCNbuzz says:

    Hi Scorchy, pls see this entry on MBCN’s blog: http://mbcnbuzz.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/finding-financial-assistance/ It might be drop in the proverbial bucket but you would likely qualify for the Amgen assist program for Xgeva. This can be good as deductible time rolls around and (depending on your insurance) it may save you a bit: http://mbcnbuzz.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/finding-financial-assistance/

    • Scorchy says:

      Thank you for this. Most fortunately, those big time items are paid for. I will look into other avenues though, thank you! Hear that, folks? Click here! (There!)

  3. Roz Warren says:

    Medical debt can be discharged in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/medical-debt-chapter-7-bankruptcy.html. You may not have to (or want to) go this route but it’s one of your options, so it’s worth knowing about.

  4. helensamia says:

    Something is so wrong when you have these worries too..

  5. dear Scorchy,

    what a clusterfuck of worry about bills and money while trying to stay ahead of the constant barrages from cancer’s bottomless arsenal. hell, I don’t even know one iota about the filing of taxes, let alone sifting through endless printouts of thousands and thousands of dollars of medical bill charges. I don’t even know how to formulate a cogent question! sooner or later I will have to learn; in the meanwhile my only coping strategy to stay sane when the reels of worry that play over and over in my head is to just mutter, “fuck it”. an irreverent exclamation for a bucket of fuckedness!

    much love and light to you, my friend

    Karen xoxo

  6. Susan says:

    As Kathi said even without the mets the financial burden of this awful disease is a nightmare. Yet I recognize with mets how utterly frightening because it just keeps coming with no end in sight-oh no bad choice of words…I have no answers and the more I want to make a dent and help the problem the further I realize I am powerless-yet onward I go wishing this all was not happening… .Still I celebrate the lovely snow falling as I type…

  7. I well remember while so sick from chemo, I was constantly filling out forms, writing letters of hardship, etc. This was after insurance paid its part, but the bills kept coming. Cancer wiped me clean.

  8. I am well on my way to financial ruin at this point. Already being forced to change oncologists because of an insurance change (no big loss, I was not attached), and I make decisions to NOT go to the doctor even with worrisome symptoms. All I can do is hope cancer does not return. If I lose my battle to cancer, I hope it will be known I was not properly armed with the money needed to fight it.

  9. tw says:

    Although we don’t pay for medical bills here we don’t get any help either. So when my job was made redundant during my treatment (and there was no protection) that was it. No income, not in a fit state to get another job and no welfare assistance (because I saved for my son’s education and that meant I had something to live on, even though it wasn’t my money!) It’s a sad world we live in and no-one tells you that if you happen to get cancer it’s not only health you kiss goodbye to. If our respective countries stopped spending on conflict, aid (aka giving to corrupt regimes) and unnecessary bureaucracy there would be enough money to help those at home who are most in need.

  10. Catherine says:

    I do not know the answers, I just feel the pinch alongside you. I’ve been hoping things pick up, but the cost of staying healthy is high and the costs of going beyond what a hospital can offer are even higher. (And I live in Canada, so I can’t even imagine – have only read – how hard it becomes in the US.)

    There might be travel grants, etc. available through some charities. I hope someone is able to point them your way.

    • Scorchy says:

      Thanks so much, Catherine. It becomes a sorry choice when it’s between working in a job you love and going on disability because the bills are ridiculous. Oh well, I am not at that point yet. I will see what 2014 holds in store for me.

  11. The Accidental Amazon says:

    If I win the lottery, by the way, I’ll pass on some of the loot, too. xo

  12. The Accidental Amazon says:

    Oh, lordy…
    Even for those of us without mets (so far…), this topic hits home. I wrote a post about this in 2012, from my own relatively fortunate perspective (http://accidentalamazon.com/blog/2012/03/14/broke-the-cost-of-breast-cancer/) and have meant to write more. Maybe now is the time to write another one. I almost hate to post this next link, because, in effect, it’s a gateway to a bloody exhausting research project. But it is pertinent list of resources: http://www.cancer.net/publications-and-resources/support-and-resource-links/general-cancer-organizations-and-resources/financial-resources. If I find anything else, I’ll pass it on. xoxo, Kathi

  13. Doesn’t seem fair does it? Having to worry about finances on top of everything else. I hope 2014 brings you some peace of mind.

  14. Caroline says:

    Unfortunately medical bills are the largest cause of bankruptcy in the US. I would suggest you talk to support services at the hospital where you are treated. Pharmaceutical companies have been known to donate medications to those who cannot afford them. Cancer really sucks and then you have to pay all the damn bills too!

    • Scorchy says:

      Yes, and at the same time my finances are being hit I have a top notch insurance policy. I never quite got why people were ruined when they had health insurance, but I do now. This is not to say that I’m on the way to a shelter any time soon, but it will be a struggle. And I know there are others out there with so many more burdens than I have. It sucks all the way around. Ugh. xoxo

  15. rupertbu2013 says:

    Yet wordpress gave you snow effect!

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