Guest blog by Emily Walsh from Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance
Mesothelioma is a diagnosis that some may be familiar with, but few people really know and understand the severity of the condition. This rare form of cancer is most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos when the toxic fibers are inhaled and cause irritation over time. The cancer manifests itself in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, and heart, affecting around 43,000 people around the world each year. Because symptoms can take 20-40 years to present themselves after exposure, this condition has a relatively low life expectancy, ranging and an average of 12 to 21 months after diagnosis.
Costs to consider when facing Mesothelioma
The costs of treating cancer can present a hefty financial burden. Patients may end up seeing numerous doctors, radiologists, specialists, and healthcare professionals throughout their treatment, with each visit adding its weight financially. This care can take shape in a variety of ways, from chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation, surgery, and other forms of treatment. While these costs can vary depending on the diagnosis, treatments such as chemotherapy can cost anywhere from $9,000 to $46,000 per three-month treatment period. Many times, multiple forms of treatment are utilized, bringing in even more expenses.
Then, there are the additional costs of medication throughout treatment and into remission, averaging from $5,000 to $10,000 monthly. From forms of chemotherapy to nutritional supplements, to pain management, these pharmaceuticals often cost thousands of dollars per prescription and may need to be taken for extended periods of time. These treatment methods and medications come at a price, and that can impact the cancer patient financially for years to come. Many patients often need financial assistance for Mesothelioma.
Traveling for treatment
In seeking out the best care possible, many patients must travel hundreds or thousands of miles to see a doctor that specializes in their diagnosis. Travel costs are not always associated with cancer treatment, however, these costs including flights, hotel stays, and meals, really add up in the end. One study found that cancer patients spends an average of $40-$100 traveling back and forth to just one treatment session. Even into recovery and remission, patients will likely have to continue traveling for routine upkeep and follow-ups with their doctors.
Dealing with loss of wages
With these added costs in mind, a cancer patient may also find it difficult or impossible to continue working during their treatment. In many cases, going without a primary or additional income on top of treatment expenses can lead to debt that is difficult to manage during aggressive treatment. Without friends and family to rely on, this can make a difficult financial situation even more arduous.
A story from a Mesothelioma survivor
As a 12 year survivor of Mesothelioma, Heather Von St. James has battled a lot of obstacles along the way, one of which was crippling medical debt. No one plans to have cancer, and her sudden diagnosis at the age of 36 left Heather worried about her financial situation. Heather’s case of Mesothelioma was caused from second-hand asbestos exposure, after wearing her father’s work jacket as a child, which was coated in asbestos from her father’s work in construction. As a new mother of a three-and-a-half-month-old infant, recently returned from maternity leave, Heather’s malignant pleural Mesothelioma diagnosis turned her life upside down.
Finding the right treatment
For treatment, Heather and her husband Cam decided her best chance at survival would be to seek the help of Dr. Sugarbaker, a top Mesothelioma specialist located in Boston. With that, they left their home outside Minneapolis and made the trek across country for treatment, leaving their daughter in the care of Heather’s parents for the three-month duration of her treatment. This travel continues to this day, as Heather flies twice a year to visit Dr. Sugarbaker in Houston where he is now located, for essential biannual checkups to ensure the cancer has not returned. The move made it difficult for Heather to continue working, along with the fatigue associated with treatment, so she was forced to leave her job as a successful part-owner and stylist of a hair salon. This left her family without the additional $80,000 annual income, on top of the expenses of her treatment.
Finding financial support
While Heather and her family were safely out of debt before her diagnosis, the added costs of treatment brought with it the possibility of losing their home and cars. By 40, Heather had accumulated nearly a million dollars in medical and treatment-related costs. However, Heather was fortunate in that she had a great support system of family and friends to come together to provide emotional and financial support. Her husband was able to go back to school, earn his degree, and gain employment at a job with great benefits that allowed them to budget more strictly and plan for the future. By cutting down on other expenses, and the additional help of fundraisers held by loved ones, Heather was able to make it out of debt. However, not everyone is quite so lucky. In many cases, crowdfunding is the only available option for those faced with the long list of expenses associated with cancer.
It’s important to remember that horrific diseases like Mesothelioma impact real people every day. Real people with families, careers, and lives that make their mark on the world. Many of us know someone who has felt the impact of cancer, and it is certainly a difficult and emotional situation for those that experience it first-hand. However, by giving to medical cases like Heather’s, that little bit of financial assistance could make all the difference for a cancer patient, enabling them to focus on getting healthy again.
Crowdfunding for cancer patients
Medical crowdfunding has become a lifeline for individuals and families facing tough diagnoses. It allows people facing hardship, like Mesothelioma, to find financial and emotional support to help them recover with resilience.
It’s hard to fully prepare for the financial impact of cancer. However, through the help of crowdfunding, people across the world can feel less burdened by medical and associated expenses. It’s important to review all of your options and find valuable resources like the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance to learn more about your diagnosis and receive the best care available. These resources will ensure you are informed while helping you on the road to recovery.
Financial assistance for Mesothelioma
A cancer diagnosis can certainly come as a shock, but the main concern should be receiving the treatment needed and working towards recovery, rather than worrying about how the payments will be made. From medical expenses to travel to a lack of income, money is likely an issue on every cancer patient’s mind. Preparing for the unknown and providing for your family can be difficult, but with helpful crowdfunding organizations like YouCaring, you can make recovery the sole focus, as it should be.