Cancer by the Numbers

Cancer by the Numbers
“I didn’t know cancer comes with bankruptcy.” That’s what a friend told me shortly after her dad was diagnosed. I know the financial costs because when I got breast cancer my family’s financial status suddenly became precarious. Everyone knows that treatment is difficult, but that it can be financially devastating is news to a lot of people. In my own case, the toll was particularly difficult because my diagnosis coincided with the onset of Obamacare. The law cancelled my existing insurance coverage and replaced it with a new plan -- but no doctors took the new plan, and none of the codes that receptionists typed into the computer were accepted.  My family was left with no insurance. Compounding the problem, we are self-employed and lived in a rural area with few healthcare options. Self-employment means that safety nets most wage earners take for granted, such as disability benefits and paid family leave, were not available to me. That perfect storm of improbable coincidences resulted in a financial impact which, I suspect, we will feel all of our lives. The most immediate blow was my urgent need for medical care. Without insurance codes that worked, I was in a serious pickle. One oncologist asked for $300 in cash before he’d see me and then told me I could not possibly pay for treatment. By the time I worked through the red tape I’d be dead, he said. He gave me three months. If I did somehow manage to survive, he said I’d wind up with a “frankenboob,” a term I found appalling. It was a relief when Stanford Hospital agreed to take me, but even that was a fluke. As we raced against the clock, my husband Gary called their tumor board and by some miracle we got in. My diagnosis was bad. Stanford asked us to go home, p
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