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Cancer costs.

Few people realize how financially devastating cancer is for many people. It drains one’s savings (even with good health insurance); it may disrupt one’s ability to earn a living in the short and long term; and incurs endless bills outside traditional “health care” that go on and on.

This is the first of a series of personal stories about the financial (and very human) cost of cancer.

Melissa Kerins is fighting triple negative breast cancer for a second time. It recurred within the last few months, and it was just as she and her husband and children were recovering financially from her first battle. Triple negative tends to strike young women, Latin American women, and African American women the most. It has a high recurrence rate, and on average comes back within the first 2.6 years. Triple negative has its name from the fact that it is hormone negative, and the only treatment is chemotherapy.

She was given a poor prognosis with this recurrence, but is doing everything possible to beat it. It is exhausting to go through such harsh treatments which include chemo, and radiation for brain tumor metastases.

These are her words:

“Not only does cancer take a physical toll and mental toll, but a severe financial toll. Suddenly, you are thrust into a sea of of testing, prescriptions, copays…it all adds up. You suddenly are not only sick, but broke too.

Your partner may need time off. If you are lucky, they will have accrued time. If not, FMLA holds your position for 3 months. UNPAID.

What do you do when that time runs out? It’s a wild balancing act which should not exist. The patient and family need to focus on getting better and getting through.

I was lucky enough to have someone put together ‘Mealtrain’, where people sign up to bring you dinner. It has been a GODSEND. It is also very difficult asking for help; especially when you were the ‘helper’ before cancer. People may not want to ask for help…please help them anyway.”

Melissa and her husband have been doing their very best through their “wild balancing act.” Resources are just not out there for financial help. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a deep savings account or a network of support around them. In fact, most cancer warriors don’t. Melissa and her husband have lost so much trying to simultaneously get her the care she needs and provide for their children. They are good people who’ve worked very hard, have helped in their community, and are loving parents. Cancer does not discriminate when it strikes.

The only hope for change, is to shed light on the fact that this is the reality for most who are diagnosed with cancer.


This story is via Tina Peterson Pirlot of Breast Cancer Financial Aid Group and a Triple Negative Breast Cancer Survivor.

Picture credit www.unsplash.com



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