Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Country of Cancer

This has not been a good few weeks for a couple of people I know.

Without going into any kind of specifics, in the past week, I have found out that a friend I have had since childhood, and someone I've known locally for a number of years, have cancer.  In one instance, the "patient" knows the cancer will be fatal - the question is when.  For the other person, that "patient" is in the middle of testing to find out the exact details. The question for that person will be if it was found early enough because that cancer does not have a high survival rate. 

Both of these people are highly educated - one has a masters degree. The other worked at one time in the medical field.  Both are taxpayers.

One is a reader of this blog. 

I do not like to get political in this blog, but I am going to make an exception today. And I am going to run a bit longer than I normally do.  Please bear with me.

It takes a village to support someone with cancer, and our country is doing a horrible job of it.

You can have the best of insurance and still find yourself in the position of trying to pay overwhelming medical bills.  If you don't have "Cadillac" insurance, that old Buick insurance isn't going to get you very far.

What your caretaker(s) are going to end up with is an overwhelming pile of paperwork.  There are programs to help pay the bills out there, and those programs are going to require everything short of your firstborn son.  I'm not talking government programs here necessarily - I am talking nonprofit programs for co-pay relief, charities, programs run by the pharmaceutical company, programs run (perhaps) by where you are receiving treatment.

Government?  Well - there's the Department of Health and Human Services and Social Security, too. (and some people want to abolish them, don't they?) There's Medicare.  Just as a reminder, Medicare is a program of our Federal Government.

Need assistance?  You'd better have your income tax returns, your insurance card(s), your checking account statements, your savings account statements, your pay stubs, and about 50 or so other things (or so it will seem), all at the ready.  Make lots of copies because you are going to need them.  Stock up on stamps.  Hope you have a decent computer, and lots of time on your hands when you don't feel like absolute crud.

The caretaker and the cancer patient must struggle to pay those bills while juggling (maybe) a job, (definitely) either chemo, radiation, or both, and lots of issues.  Sounds like a job for the son or daughter of Superman.  If they are only human, and fallible, they are in trouble.  Do you know any of the children of Superman?  I don't.

Suddenly a caretaker?  There are federal job protections but we know how that can work, depending on how decent your employer is.  Cynical?  I personally know someone who was a caretaker for her father, and lost her job because of it.  The person wasn't a resident of New York State but she could have been. It does happen. 

We have a seriously broken system. We expect people to do all these things while fighting a dread illness.  Fighting that illness should be the first priority.  Financing that struggle should not be part of it.

But too many times, it is.

It hurts, but in our holiday season, it hurts more.  In an area recovering from a natural disaster like we are here in upstate NY, it hurts even more.

In the United States, we call ourselves "the greatest country in the world".

But, they and the people who care for them can rant all they want, but that cancer patient and his/her family needs help and ranting won't (so to speak) pay the rent.

So they will buckle down like so many others have done before them,  and walk that path of nails.  If they are lucky they will have a lot of support of family and friends.  But not everyone has that.  There are too many cracks to fall through for the citizens of this "greatest country of the world".

Become politically active, you say? It's hard to advocate for change when you are in a survival situation.

Observe it well.  Educate yourself.  Unless things change, the next time this dread disease knocks, one of us bystanders may be answering that door.

Have any of my readers been advocates or in this type of situation?  I would love to know what worked for you.


  1. I've had friends in the same situation, and you're so right--it stinks to have to find that people who can't afford a co-pay, much less a top-level insurance plan, will lose this battle for lack of coin.

    The good news is that there are a lot of charities that will help, but the hoops you jump through to qualify for help make that a drain, too.

    Those with good health and good insurance are really blessed!

  2. I have been fortunate to not have had to deal with this firsthand (at least so far). But I can only imagine how overwhelming the news must be and then couple it with trying to get financial records, etc and other "business" end dealings of fighting the disease in order. I do not know what the answer is but having a British mother who has lost many friends to cancer in England due to the poor response of socialized medicine I am not sure that that is the answer. It would be nice if we (the medical, insurance, government, non-profs, etc.) could all come together to find a solution.

  3. I have no advice, but I'm sending well wishes and prayers to your friends and their families.


Your comments sustain me, as long as they are civil, are on topic, and do not contain profanity, advertising of any kind, links or spam. Any messages not meeting these criteria will immediately be composted, and my flowers will enjoy their contents.