Cancer and Finances

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

MARCH 31, 2017

This is another ongoing topic, but, whenever I come across something helpful, it seems important to share it. There is no argument that having cancer is expensive. There are the direct costs like doctors' appointments, drugs, scans, maybe hospitalizations or surgery. Then there are a myriad of indirect costs: more childcare, parking and gas, perhaps more meals out or brought in. And, finally, there is the reality of income that is often reduced due to being able to work less or even not at all. Some of us are fortunate enough to have sick time and short term disability; some are really lucky to work somewhere with supportive colleagues who can donate sick time. But all too many people have none of these safety nets and lose income: if they can't work, they aren't paid.

Heather Millar in this piece from Web MD discusses this at length and includes some helpful suggestions. She describes her own situation of needing to move back to her parents' home, with her husband and daughter, while she was ill. She was fortunate to have that family back up.

Remember that an oncology social worker is an excellent resource. Ask your doctor or nurse for a referral.

Avoiding the Financial Dangers of Cancer
By Heather Millar

No one likes to talk about money, and it’s even more stressful when you’re sick. But when it comes to cancer, the financial challenges are too big to ignore – survivors are nearly three times more likely to file for bankruptcy than those without a cancer history. So it’s important to face financial considerations up front.
When I had cancer, I was so stressed out and fuzzy that I did not work for 18 months. My husband and I decided to go into financial “hunker down” mode. We had just moved back to my hometown of San Francisco, and rather than buying our own place, we moved into the lower floor of the large, 3-story Victorian house where I grew up. I was in my 40s, my husband in his 50s, and we moved with our daughter into my mom’s basement.
Don’t get me wrong: It was a nice basement, with normal height ceilings, two bedrooms, a family room, a new bathroom, and just enough privacy. It was still a little humiliating. Even so, I think it was one of the best decisions we ever made. It kept us afloat financially on one salary until I could go back to work.
I’m not saying that there’s a straight line from getting a cancer diagnosis to financial ruin. But I am saying that you need to anticipate financial challenges when you have cancer.

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Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.