If you’ve been fortunate enough to survive cancer, you’re most likely just grateful to be alive.
Survivorship, however, can come with its own hardships. The financial implications of cancer, among many other issues, are quite real and escalating.
A new NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll finds that 34 percent of Americans believe the cost of health care services has become less affordable in the past two years. And they believe that rising health care costs have major financial consequences.
More than one in four (26 percent) say health care costs have caused serious financial problems for them or their family in the past two years. Among those experiencing serious problems such as cancer, more than 40 percent report spending all or most of their personal savings on large medical bills.
In the U.S., cancer care costs have gone up two to three times faster than other health care expenses in recent years. The average monthly cost of a new cancer therapy is $10,000 and can reach $60,000.
[lz_ndn video =29894061]
About one-third of working-age cancer survivors go into debt, in fact — and 3 percent file for bankruptcy. This is why there is a new buzzword that references these financial hardships: financial toxicity.
The term refers to the struggle that cancer survivors face because of expenses from drugs and treatments, as well as hospital stays and outpatient care. The financial burden of treating cancer can impair an individual’s quality of life and, in turn, become an adverse result of treatment.
The financial stress can strain an individual’s emotions and energy, complicating all areas of a patient’s life at a time when that person needs to focus most on healing.
There are more than 14.5 million cancer survivors in the U.S. That number is expected to grow to about 19 million by 2024 as more people beat the disease.
Why is financial toxicity a “thing”? According to the American Cancer Society, there are more than 14.5 million cancer survivors in the U.S. That number is expected to grow to about 19 million by 2024 as more people beat the disease.
Financial Planning Isn’t Enough
For cancer survivors, overcoming financial toxicity isn’t as simple as making a budget. That may be one solution, but feeling resentful can confound things.
“People often feel that their body has betrayed them. These negative thoughts and feelings tend to drain their energy. From a physiological standpoint, hormones that have a detrimental impact on the immune system are released into the body when survivors feel angry,” explained Tambre Leighn. She is a life coach in California who has devoted her coaching practice to cancer survivors.
“They find themselves in a whole different world, learning (a) new language and having to make choices their lives depend on,” Leighn tells LifeZette.
“Navigating the health care system, dealing with insurance coverage, exposing your body to procedures that often come with debilitating side effects … all while trying to juggle the concerns of life such as children, work, school, relationships, and finances is completely overwhelming.”
Leighn is no stranger to coping with cancer. Her husband lost his battle with cancer at age 37, and she has set out to help others since then.
Her latest initiative, “Well Beyond This,” is an online coaching-based program she created with the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC) organization. The community for cancer patients and survivors bridges the gap between their illness and psycho-social needs while helping them overcome the isolation that living with, through and beyond cancer can create.
Leighn hopes the growing population of survivors becomes aware of financial toxicity— and gains access to tools that can improve their lives.
“Cancer isn’t something they chose to go through,” she told LifeZette. “When we help survivors take a coaching-based approach to their situation, they learn to identify their stress triggers and manage their stress. Doing this enables families to deal with the collateral damage of the disease. It enables survivors to create strategies and have action plans to address their challenges. In turn, when survivors feel more empowered and in control of their lives — they become more resilient.”