“Have you ever felt overwhelmed by finances and medical bills during your cancer treatment? Were there strategies that you felt were especially helpful in coping with the stress and challenges that money issues can bring?”

This week our Young Adult Patient Navigator, Elizabeth Saylor, sheds some light on the overwhelming financial burden facing young adults under going cancer treatments.

 

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Cancer in young adulthood can be startling, scary and EXPENSIVE.  If you are feeling burdened by your medical expenses, extra costs incurred by daily trips to the hospital and parking lot fees, or lack of income now that you are too ill to work…YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 

As young adults we want to feel independent- like we can do everything on our own.  The truth is that at times like this your friends and family want to help…so let them!  By having less to worry about you can focus more time on healing and getting well.

HERE ARE SOME SPECIFIC WAYS FRIENDS AND FAMILY CAN HELP:

Pick your team captains:  Designate one or two trusted persons who can help you with managing your bills and finances.  These individuals may have professional backgrounds in taxes, bookkeeping or billing, or they may just be people who you feel you can really trust and confide in, who are talented organizers.

Create a space in your house or apartment:  This is a spot where you can safely store and organize bills and medical records. Your team captains can help you with this, especially if you are feeling too tired or weak to move file cabinets or bins.  This work will likely help you feel a sense of control of what can seem like a daunting, mountain of bills and paperwork.

Shop for supplies:  This won’t be as fun as shopping for the first day of school by any means, but there is something refreshing about buying new stuff.  New folders, labels, organizers in bright colors will keep you organized and hopefully make a rather monotonous chore seem more bearable.  Because money is tight, ask your team captains to reach out to friends and family to donate gift cards to stores like Staples, Office Depot and Target.

Designate a day (or two): Pick one or two days each week to work on bills and finances.  Try to limit your thoughts about bills and efforts related to expenses within these one or two days. Call your team captains or other trusted supporters if you find yourself stuck on negative thinking related to medical expenses.

Have a fundraiser (or several):  Remember, people want to help.  The easiest way to do this is to raise money for you.  Many young adults do this and it works very well.  Caring Bridge (www.caringbridge.org), My Life Line (www.mylifeline.org), Go Fund Me (www.gofundme.com) or Give Forward (www.giveforward.org) can help you set up a secure and reliable way for friends, family and relatives to donate to you.  Some young adults prefer to set up an account at their local bank. These sites also allow you to post information about crab feast, bar-b-ques.  Ask a friend to spearhead an event.  Many local bars and restaurants will want to help out and donate some or all of the food and beverages.

Get the word out:  Print business cards with your blog or website through an inexpensive company like www.vistaprint.com, give them to family and close friends, and carry them yourself.  When you bump into concerned neighbors in the store, fellow worshipers at temple, even fellow patients and they ask how you are doing let them know they can review all of the details and ways to help at the link on the card.  This has the added bonus of not having to repeat your story over and over, and being able to take a break from cancer when you want to.

Be specific: If you spent less or no money on gas to get you to treatment, parking fees when you visit the doctor and food at the hospital, you would have more funds to dedicate to co-pays and major procedures.  When friends and family ask what they can do, suggest donating gas cards, gift cards for hospital restaurants and purchasing parking passes.