When a woman faces breast cancer, she should only have to worry about one thing: recovery. But the cold hard truth is that many women must face the reality financial hardship during an already tumultuous time. The outcomes of bankruptcy, welfare, and losing the family home are not usually what we associate with providing compassionate care for those who are surviving the cancer battle. But for many women, the financial burden can be devastating.
From the loss of income due to missed work and absence of private insurance to the rising costs of medicine, travel, and home care, women who are facing breast cancer and their families must rethink how they look at and sort out their finances.
A recent study showed that 91 percent of families and households suffer a severe loss of income or rise in expenses as a direct result of a breast cancer diagnosis. For some families, these factors become a perfect storm that leads to serious financial distress that is so severe that the families never recover.
There are three major factors that can create severe financial hardship for cancer survivors and their families:
- Loss of family income
- Increasing expenses
- Lack of awareness and a false sense of security
Loss of Income
Family income may decrease dramatically because the woman with breast cancer must quit working to recover and because other family members may also need to stop working to provide care for the loved one who is ill. Most of our public safety nets have gaps that leave families with few financial supports until after they have hit rock bottom.
Medical and family expenses may increase dramatically at the same time as the income is declining. Gaps in medical coverage and public services may leave individuals and their families responsible for covering tens of thousands of dollars in additional costs ranging from travel expenses to child care.
Lack of Awareness
A lack of awareness and a false sense of security may leave breast cancer survivors unprepared to sort out these challenges, both as individuals and as a family. Most women do not know that a breast cancer diagnosis has caused thousands of women and their families to declare bankruptcy, lose all of their savings, lose their homes, lose their businesses, become dependent on taxpayer-funded programs for the rest of their lives, and make subpar treatment and lifestyle decisions.
Many women mistakenly believe the myth that medical care will be standard and free if they end up with cancer. The difficult reality is that this false sense of security couldn't be further from the truth. Cancer is expensive and costs more than just lives. Whether you have been newly diagnosed with a breast cancer diagnosis or are still trying to recover from the financial hardships of a battle won, the following tips were compiled to help you sort out your financial problems and stay afloat.
Sorting Out the Financial Hardships
In the face of a decreasing job income and increasing expenses, women with breast cancer and their family members may need to turn to alternative sources of money. Many families of breast cancer survivors opt to have the traditional fundraiser and fundraising events. Holding a benefit banquet where guests donate a given amount for their plate is a very common way to raise funds.
A fundraising website, such as GoFundMe may be a great addition to whatever other fundraising activities you have planned. They are free to set up and relatively easy to update and collect funds from. If you need a little help putting one together, there are tons of videos and tutorials online that help to simplify the process and guide you through a few basic marketing principles that will help you reach your financial goal.
Another fairly common method of fundraising is a benefit trivia night. Guests will break off into teams of 5-10 and each will pay a fee to enter the trivia contest. Each team member will be handed a quiz sheet and the questions will be called off to all who are participating. The team (or table) who has the most correct answers will usually win half of the entry fees while the remaining half will go the beneficiary. Another common 50/50 benefit activity is a raffle drawing. In a raffle drawing, contestants will buy raffle tickets for a set amount (usually one dollar) and split the winnings with the beneficiary. Winners in both the trivia contest and the raffle drawing almost always donate their half back to the cause.
With a few extra dollars coming in from fundraising activities, charity assistant programs, and possibly a few hours each week still at work, families facing breast cancer will need to adopt a save-for-later mentality. Even when the breast cancer is in remission and treatments are being effective, it is still important to save money wherever you can. Two of the most common areas where financial advisers suggest that people wishing to budget start with are groceries and household goods. Both of these categories of items can usually be bought in an assortment of brands and price marks as well as in larger scales such as in the case of big box bulk stores.
In in addition to clipping coupons (or downloading coupon apps into your smart phone), you can often find better deals if you look hard enough. Become familiar with the online versions of all of your stores’ sales ads so that you can create a customized shopping list each week that is complete with where to buy what and what for.
There is no greater time to be frugal than when a woman is battling breast cancer. With so many expenses that cannot be avoided (such as gas, parking, medical expenses, and child care), it is crucial that the family is careful where they spend their valuable money and what on. Spending money wisely is never fun, but with a few principles in place, it can become second nature to a family.
In addition to budgeting your grocery and household goods lists, you will want to budget and window shop for other needs too, such as where to get gas, car maintenance, haircuts, and child care. One of the costs that women facing breast cancer often forget to budget for is child care. While many women may have family and friends willing to help out, many others still do not or do not have people who are available around-the-clock. If you are in the unfortunate circumstance of being a single mother with limited income and family assistant, you may consider hiring a live-in nanny who is also a certified nurse and will be able to help take care of your kids, prepare meals, clean the house, and help you through your recovery. While this might sound expensive, in the long run it may actually turn out cheaper than having to hire a separate nurse, a babysitter, a maid, and lots of takeout or delivery meals.