Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Financial Elephant in the Cancer Room

Life is sure full of surprises.

Small surprises.  48 degrees F (8.8 C) when I woke up yesterday morning - in January. Right now it's -3 at our airport (-19.4 C) with wind chills of -23 (-30C) or more.  No surprise there-it was forecast.

But I walked into my exercise class last night with no fresh snow on the ground (most of last week's storm melted) and walked out to find we were in the middle of a lake effect snow squall.  It won't be major for us, but parts of upstate New York may get four feet (1.21 meters) of snow.  And even the cold - it's not extreme, compared to what has been happening in the middle of our country.

It's winter.  No surprise.

But yesterday, we did get a surprise, in a phone call my spouse made to his mother's oncologist. We've been trying to get some information on a radioactive implant she will have implanted on Wednesday. Other relatives may have to spend two hours (or more, depending on traffic) in a car with her, transporting her home.  We've been trying to find out for over a week if that will be safe for the people in the car.

We still didn't get the information we needed.  But, while the person who answered the phone was trying to locate someone who could answer the question, she happened to mention that my mother in law had to pay 20% of the cost of the surgery (the bill for this one doctor, I'm assuming) up front.  As in, on Wednesday.  Before the surgery takes place.

"We take credit cards", the helpful woman on the phone offered.  And then:

"Your mother should have been told that at her last visit." (which we weren't at, but that's somewhat besides the point right now.)


Yes, the financial elephant in the cancer room has trumpeted.  How is my mother in law going to pay for her cancer treatment?  We know this is just the beginning.

It's the question that occurs when you are diagnosed, but you are also trying to navigate your way through this brave new world called Long Distance Caregiving of Someone with Cancer. Which isn't as bad, granted, as the "Tag, You're It! You have cancer!" announcement that my mother in law got back late last year. 

It's the same question that each and every person diagnosed with cancer in our country must answer, one way or the other.

It's not like an unexpected squall of snow or a short below zero cold wave.  But, it's just one more item on this list of worries we are accumulating and want to shield my mother in law from.

The elephant is waiting, in a room in New York City, and he is demanding to be fed.


  1. How terrible. Of course, we are inclined to forget about payment while we struggle with the mind-numbing news of the disease. Hospitals shouldn't send recovering patients out onto the public roads in that weather. I dread to think what might happen. I wish you safe journey and deep pockets. You have the warm heart already. http://bit.ly/JBC6am

  2. That's awful. I can't even imagine the pressure and then to add an immediate financial burden. Do they have a social service worker in their facility that can help you? Sometimes there are organizations that help with these types of things. Prayers for your family.

  3. I am so sorry to hear about your mother-in-law's cancer. My aunt had breast cancer and we had to worry about the same thing - the financial aspect. Cancer hurts the body, the lives of loved ones, and the wallet. Good luck with everything

  4. i think it is true with any kind of illness. elephant always wants to eat and trouble the ordinary. i pray that things work out well for your mother-in-law

  5. Don't you just love how they spring this information on you like you have the ability to stop everything and pay them right there!

    I swear, some of these medical facilities don't stop to think that they are working with a person and not just another account number that wants more money.

    It aggravates me to no end! Hope your mother in law feels better soon!

  6. The title immediately caught my eye!
    That's absolutely awful! I'm really sorry to hear that your Mother in law has Cancer :(


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