The Cost of Cancer

Originally Posted October 18th, 2014 on Facebook

Continuing my series on breast cancer awareness, I’m going to write out a bit about the costs of cancer. Some are monetary, others are not.

Some of you are aware of the costs of cancer, some are not. I know I never thought of it until I was faced with this myself, not even when it was someone I cared about. After all, we live in Canada and health care is covered. Right? Well, kind of.

To start with we’ve had several appointments that have lasted all day long. It may not seem like much, but with 4-10 appts a month $14/day parking adds up. Plus there’s the cost of eating out – or hauling our food with us all day. When worn out and tired from chemo, it may not be so easy to haul an extra 5+ lbs of food all day long. (some of these expenses may be tax deductible, if you don’t make very much money).

There’s the medication costs. To counter the chemo side effects, there will be several other medications I will need to be on.

One, neulasta, costs roughly $2700 per injection. I’ll need roughly 4. If we get approved for the coverage we’re applying for, I will only need to pay for the 1st one, and then a deductible for the others. But we’re lucky, in the US, where the patient has to pay, at least a portion, for the chemo as well, that’d hurt. The chemo can cost upwards to $30, 000 (yes, thousand) per treatment! YIKES! (Breast cancer is a ‘cheap’ cancer compared to so many others.)

I’m not sure of the costs of the other medications. During the course of chemo I will be on 2 other drugs that also work to counter the side effects. Post chemo, I will be on 2-3 other drugs to prevent recurrence. I will be on those medications for 5-10 years. (Yay?) When a medication is not given in a medical facility, then the person pays out of pocket (with assistance from insurance).

That’s the medical side of the costs, that I’m aware of now. Then there’s loss of work. In our case, Ryan’s taken a short leave from work. And his work is very generous. So far, he’s only missed out on the OT income. And he’s been able to be home with his family. I could not have managed these past 2 weeks without his help. But work would only cover base pay for so long before he’d be on leave without pay. And then there’s the little problem that base pay doesn’t cover our bills. But, we need the OT, so back to work he must go. Which means the work of maintaining the house will continue to fall on me (and the generous offers of help from our village).

In many other cases one or both partners may miss out on work, and thus when they are in greatest need of income, they are without.

Yes, there are programs available to help, but not everyone qualifies. Not everyone can get the application finished in time to arrange coverage for when it’s really needed. Blue cross will cover pre-existing conditions, but there’s a 3 month waiting period. Cancer doesn’t send a memo saying, BTW, I’ll be there in 3 months… There are other programs that offer to help in the meantime. After applying, there’s a short waiting period of a couple months to see if they will accept the application and provide assistance. The good news is there are nurses who help fill out the paperwork, and submit it on our behalf.

Other costs of cancer are not eligible for assistance. Some people will need to hire out a cleaning service, a meal service, a taxi service. These are not deemed essential.

Other costs of cancer that may or may not affect an individual include feelings of loss, betrayal, inadequacies related to the surgery involved in removing the cancer. It can feel like a loss of woman hood. For a man it can be even more difficult. Even saying, “I have breast cancer” can seem very difficult for a man. Breast cancer is a woman’s disease. Except, it isn’t.

Cancer can cost the sense of self.

Loss of feeling in the fingers and toes, loss of hearing, loss of hair, loss of sleep, loss of appetite. All are side effects of the many different medications – though not everyone experiences them.

Then there’s surgery. Each surgery is different. But there is certainly a cost associated with it. For some it may be a small amount of tissue, barely noticeable, if you squint you won’t even know the dimple’s there. For others the bilateral mastectomy means no more breasts. This may result in a loss of self esteem, a changed body image. For others it won’t. Each person is different.

Post-op side effects can include pain, tenderness, decreased range of motion, decreased strength, swelling.

Each person experiences cancer differently, but there is always a cost.


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