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Cost of Cancer

Episode XCIV - If I had a $1,000,000...

There is nothing like returning from a vacation to bills. When we went to Florida earlier this month I had the post office hold our mail. I thought I might have some of my normal life bills, a bunch of junk mail, and a few medical bills. I was wrong!

A lot of bills can stack up in one week. It was not like I had lovely letters and interesting magazines... I had multiple envelopes and multiple large packages that were all related to my medical life. At this point they do not even send EOBs in business size letter envelopes, they arrive in large catalog size envelopes.

And it seems that multiple envelopes in a variety of sizes were delivered...

A tiny glimpse of the cost of cancer...

The sad thing is that this is only a fraction of my general monthly bills. Plus, this is just from only one week... and does not include the normal bills that we all have. I think I might need to either change my address or name?!?!

I spent hours sorting my medical paperwork. There are medical bills sorted into a variety of piles while my documentation and reports are in another pile. Then my EOBs... I have so many EOBs it is hard to constantly make sure I am being charged and paying the right amount to the many places sending me bills. From the doctors, to the labs, to the hospitals, to the scans, to the OT, to the.. I don't even know anymore because there are so many!!!

What is the cost of my breast cancer? 
For me, the cost of breast cancer was racking up around $300,000 in bills over a 1-1 ½ years and being grateful for owing about 10%-20%. These are estimates from my many bills... which seem to still be growing...
Chemotherapy: $100,000
Radiation: $76,000
Surgeries: $38,000
Scans/Procedures: $50,000
Genetic Testing: $4,040
Prescriptions: $5,000
Lymphedema: $10,500
Doctor Visits: a lot more…
Surviving: Priceless (and Costly)

My bills make me look this!

I seriously wonder how some people do this... how some people can afford to live. It is such a financial struggle to have medical bills. I feel lucky to have a husband who supports me and family that will help me if I ask. Sometimes I need that help. I am lucky. 

I meet so many people who are in the same position. So many who have it worse. People without insurance having to figure out how to pay that insanely high amount of money just to try and be physically alive. There are so many costs to staying alive. At least I have insurance - and I keep reminding myself of that even if my insurance drama over the past year has been extremely challenging and costly.

Unfortunately for us cancer happened during the most job transit time for my husband. I did not just have one insurance where I met my out-of-pocket costs and got the rest of my treatment covered. We went through 5-6 insurance changes in 2013 and 2 insurances this year. So, we have net around 7-8 out-of-pocket maxs in a short amount of time. 

Forget deductibles... with cancer those are not the important numbers. We now look to see how much we have to pay out-of-pocket. I hit the deductibles in a month or two. Usually the deductibles are around $1000-$2500 and out-of-pockets are closer to $6000. Insurance covers a lot of our bills, but there are still extreme costs for fighting. Seriously, cancer is not cheap!!!

Cancer costs come in many forms. It is not just the cancer treatment, but the cost of medicines, scans, procedures, and post cancer problems/treatments. However, meeting your out-of-pocket max has benefits... such as me being able to afford my pneumatic compression machine. If it had not been for those costs, I would not have been able to get the machine. Yeah... sorta... I am cheering that I already spent too much?!?!?!

I finally got my pneumatic compression machine/sleeve! The sleeve is connected to a pump that intermittently inflates, putting pressure on your limb gently moving lymph fluid away from your fingers. It takes about one hour to use and helps reducing the swelling in my arm. I now can compress my arm in the comfort of my bed or chair or anywhere in my house.

I look crazy - but it works!

My OT was the one who got me a referral and organized me getting the machine. I basically did nothing. The guy who sold it did it everything (filed with insurance, got doctor's paperwork, etc). So far I have not gotten any bills for the machine... sweet! And for others out there needing one, I would suggest that since these are costly it is best to try to get one at the end of the year when you have already met your insurance deductible... or my case my out-of-pocket max!!!

In my head...

The new machine is exciting. I feel like I am getting all the tools and knowledge to better manage my lymphedema. And lymphedema is a huge pain... it makes a lot of daily living tasks difficult. So, learning how to handle it and having things to help is important. I am getting myself ready to hopefully work my way out of OT, as that $150 treatments 2x a week is expensive.

While insurance does eventually cover some of the appointment costs the other lymphedema needs are not covered under insurance. The compression garments that are worn daily are over $150 each (and worn daily means you need multiple ones). Hence, people trying to improve coverage for lymphedema (see Lymphedema Treatment Act info here). Crazy that something you can get from breast cancer treatment is not fully covered?!?!

I need to get a break from all my costs for a while... I need a break. Plus, I could have bought something amazing for the money I have shelled out so far... it is time to stop spending money on medical things. I can dream!!!

The constant costs or cancer can be overwhelming. I got over the shock of my bills after they kept coming. And they keep coming! The very first bill was so high and it was for something which seemed small in comparison to what I was about to do. After a few tears (one of the only times I cried), I realized I was going to be getting "bill shocked" a lot.

I used to freak out when I spent over $100 at the store. Now I was getting bills for thousands of dollars. That $100 is staring to sound good... why did I ever freak out about that?!?!?!

“Burdens are for shoulders strong enough to carry them.” 
- Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

Episode Reference: If I had a Million Dollars, The Barenaked Ladies song


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