The Cost of Cancer

bag of money

It’s been almost 5 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and pretty much everything has healed – everything except my wallet.  Cancer isn’t just devastating physically and emotionally, but it can be financially as well.  I was fortunate to have health insurance and short term disability benefits through my job, but amazingly, I’m still paying off some bills from years ago.  I can still picture the piles of statements in my living room from doctors, hospitals and insurance companies.  I felt like I was drowning in a sea of debt.  I was worried about my health, about my family, about my future, and about how I was going to pay for it all. One day, I actually burst into tears when I was told I qualified for a $100 gas card to help with the cost of driving to and from treatment.  Everything eventually worked itself out and I’ve learned not to get totally freaked out about medical expenses now.  They are a fact of life – my life, especially – and there are people and organizations out there that can help, but you (or someone advocating on your behalf) need to devote a good amount of time to research.  Talk to your doctors about patient assistance programs, talk to the hospital about payment plans, look online for local and national organizations that assist with financial resources for cancer patients, become intimately familiar with your insurance plan and benefits and make informed choices regarding your treatment. In my resource section, I have listed some organizations that I’ve had some experience with and may be able to help you or your loved ones(s).  There’s also a great website called Cancer.net that explores issues and questions regarding the costs associated with a cancer diagnosis and treatment, please visit that page at http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/financial-considerations/understanding-costs-related-cancer-care.

So, let me strongly encourage you to ask for help, accept help, and pass it along by helping others when you have the chance.  It is not a sign of weakness to ask for assistance, especially when you’re fighting for your life or the life of a loved one.  Be well and be informed – help might be just waiting and hoping that you ask for it.

 

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When you need Help asking for Help

A well-meaning friend or family member has just found out about your diagnosis.  They’re in shock and so are you.  Wanting to offer comfort and support, they often say something like, “if there’s anything I can do for you, let me know.”  Often, our reply is, “thank you, I will” – but then you never do.  Sound familiar?  For many of us, asking for help is uncomfortable, awkward, or just plain unheard of.  There are many reasons for this, but I don’t want to focus on the why we can’t in this post, but on the how we can.

brave help

Years ago, I used to run a support group for Caregivers who took care of their elderly loved ones, many of whom had dementia and other debilitating conditions.  They did a wonderful, amazing job of caring for their loved ones, but often a terrible job of taking care of themselves.  They put their loved ones first, neglecting their own well-being, and often felt they had to do it alone, that asking for help would be an admission of failure or that they were shirking their responsibilities.  Many of these Caregivers became ill themselves, and some even passed away before the loved ones they had been caring for.  They pretty much all had the same thing in common – they had a difficult time asking for help.  One of the resources I often turned to for ideas was Today’s Caregiver magazine and their website, http://www.Caregiver.com.  An article that I found extremely helpful was one that suggested making a “Reverse Gift List.”  The concept was to create a list, much like a Christmas list, except next to people’s names, you list a “gift” that person could give you.  For example, you might have a neighbor who could go grocery shopping once a week for you, or a sister-in-law who could make dinner and drop it off once a week. This way, when someone asks, “is there anything I can do for you?”, they could pull out their little list and say, “well, as a matter of fact, there is…”, and give them specific tasks to do.  This not only helps the person asking for help, but it also makes the person offering help feel like they are contributing in a meaningful way.  I experienced this first hand when I was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago.  I had a wonderful partner and we had two lovely daughters, the oldest 5 and the youngest 2.  We realized quickly that we could not handle everything on our own and sat down to make a list of everyone in our support system – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers.  Just as I had a treatment team of doctors and medical professionals to fight my cancer , my partner and I assembled a team to help us get through it.   It was so helpful to have a ready-made list of things we needed help with.  It gave me a sense of order in the midst of the chaos and gave my helpers a sense that they were contributing to my recovery, to my family and to kicking cancer’s butt.  Often, people really want to help, but don’t know how – making this list gives them the answers and – most importantly – the help you most desperately need.

ask for help

*To read the full article from Today’s Caregiver on “Reverse Gift Lists”, visit:  http://www.caregiver.com/articles/general/reverse_gift_list.htm

     
 
   

A Prayer for the Newly Diagnosed (Inspired by Bill) – part 2

May your fears be made less

by the love of

family and friends

May the healers who

treat you

be skilled as well as kind

May you be able to

ask for and accept help

without shame or regret

May you have guardian angels

lighting your way

in the darkest of times

And may God bless you

with courage

strength

and faith

to face

whatever lies

ahead

Amen.

I’m reposting this in honor of a good friend and co-worker of mine who was just diagnosed with breast cancer.  According to the Susan G. Komen website, every 19 seconds, somewhere around the world, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer; in the U.S. a case of breast cancer is diagnosed among women every two minutes; one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.  I am one of those women and blessed to be one of the 2.9 million breast cancer survivors alive today in the U.S.

I originally wrote this when my friend Bill was diagnosed with stomach cancer.  He is still fighting it and going through treatment.  Please continue to pray for him and all those touched by cancer around the world.

For more information on Susan G. Komen or the statistics in the above post, please visit http://ww5.komen.org/uploadedfiles/content/aboutus/mediacenter-2/bc%20facts%20-%20082712.pdf

The Write Stuff : 30 in 30

Writing has done many things for me – it helped me cope with a difficult childhood illness, helped me earn my degrees, helped me put on paper the feelings I could not speak out loud, and it helped get me through cancer treatment.  It helps me now deal with Systemic Lupus and the prospect of my cancer returning.  It gives me, and hopefully those who read my musings, hope for the future and a way to make some sense out of the senseless things that happen.  There was a time when I guarded my writing like an overprotective parent, for fear that people would see the “real me” and run away in horror.  But, when I finally did take the risk of showing my work to others, they didn’t run – it actually brought us closer.  Little by little, I shared more of my writings with others and secretly dreamed of being a “Writer” with a capital W.  But, it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with and survived breast cancer that I was comfortable sharing my most personal insights with perfect strangers. I kept a notebook during and after treatment; writing about my thoughts and fears, as well as the surprisingly funny and good times, helped me deal with a terrifying situation.  So, I decided to share my writing with a larger audience, and started this blog.  My intentions were to have an outlet for my feelings/experiences and, hopefully, provide comfort, humor, and support to others.

Now, I’m taking another step on my writing journey and working towards becoming a Certified Journal Facilitator.  My long-term goal is to be able to teach others how to use writing as a means of expression and healing.  My short-term goal is to become more disciplined about my writing and incorporate it into my daily routine.  So, I’ve decided that I will challenge myself to write and post something every day for the next 30 days.  I would like to invite others reading this to suggest topics for me to write about, as well.  Let’s see if I’ve got the “write stuff” – wish me luck!

P.S.  I’m counting this post as #1 – only 29 more to go!

Over the Edge for Gilda’s Club Fundraiser

Over the Edge for Gilda's Club Fundraiser

When I was diagnosed in 2011 with stage 2 breast cancer, my whole world changed – and so did my family’s world. It’s been a long journey – sometimes scary, sometimes humorous, and sometimes surreal, but I’m blessed to say that two and a half years later, I am cancer free. Gilda’s Club played a major role in my recovery and helped my partner and children also get through this crazy experience. Now, I’m following my new outlook on life – to make the most of each day and try to help as many others along the way – and “Going over the Edge” for Gilda’s Club. Please support me and help others who have been affected by cancer. I will be rappelling down a 14 story building on beautiful Fort Lauderdale Beach to help raise money for the wonderful services that Gilda’s Club provides.

Donating through this website is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to support my fundraising efforts.

Many thanks for your support — and don’t forget to forward this to anyone who you think might want to donate too. Please visit my page at http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/SoniaConvery/OTE-for-gildas-clubSFL

Image

http://www.cancerhopenetwork.org/

Cancer Hope Network is a non-profit organization that provides free and confidential one-on-one support to cancer patients and their families. As our core offering, we match cancer patients or family members with trained volunteers who have themselves undergone and recovered from a similar cancer experience.

For patients, professionals and volunteers we offer a secure, confidential environment where people who are affected by cancer can exchange experiences and share thoughts.

In short, we strive to make a difference in their fight against cancer using every means possible. We rely heavily on people like yourself to help spread the word and make our community relevant.

If you are a patient or family member of a patient, we encourage you to register in our community. If you would like to be matched with a Support Volunteer, call 800-552-4366 or submit your match request online

Link

http://www.gildasclubsouthflorida.org/

Gilda’s Club in Fort Lauderdale, is a phenomenal organization and helped my family tremendously. Please check them out if you or someone you know needs support or information for any kind of cancer.

Gilda’s Club South Florida is a free cancer support community for women, men, children, and teens with all types of cancer and their families and friends. Our support groups, educational lectures, healthy lifestyle workshops, specialized children’s and teen programs, and social events are offered in a nonresidential, non-medical, home-like setting.  The clubhouse is located in a historic home in downtown Fort Lauderdale on the Tarpon River.

  

Link

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