My Health vs My Bills

How many of us have considered our health as we balance our expenses? This situation is mired in difficulties, but for many of us it’s an everyday occurrence. My groceries or my medications? How much does the prescription cost and is it necessary? What can I go without? Let me see….

Weighing the pros and cons

I would love to say that the system is set up for me to choose my health over all things. I’d really love to say that my health is my number one priority. That would be great, but instead there’s a weighing of the pros and cons. There’s a balancing act. Perhaps we rob Peter to pay Paul, as my grandmother used to say. Then there is a silent prayer that the choice is wise.

I’d be super happy to say that, as I take better care of myself, the system has less emergencies and chronic issues to deal with. I mean, when we are taking good care of ourselves we save the system valuable resources. When we do better, the system does better and, I’d like to say, the system is set up to help us make that choice.

It’s not really that way, though, from what I have seen.

Cancer is expensive

Cancer patients apply for as many supports as they can possibly reach. Paperwork after paperwork to the government, non profits, private insurance, pharmaceutical companies, and the list goes on….As a leukemia patient these past eleven years I can tell you, no stone is left unturned.

Many of us undergoing treatment aren’t able to work. Treatment gets ugly before it gets better. Cancer patients apply for income supplements, short term disability, long term disability, supplemental income insurance, medical unemployment insurance, and any other opportunity that might exist.

Sometimes that can lead to a cancer patient applying for assisted living or supportive housing, food banks or Meals on Wheels and charities for things like transportation and groceries.

Is treatment a choice?

I had a meeting with a social worker not too very long ago. It crosses my mind often. When I spoke to her of the side effects of treatment pills, and just how expensive cancer is to treat as we grapple with the side effects of that treatment …..she took a long deep breath.

She told me that treatment is a choice. That’s one thing that the system offers. THAT choice.

Cannot not choose treatment

I happen to agree with my fellow CML’er when we last spoke about this (nod to Susan Gonzalves). Chemo is not a choice for those of us with leukemia who want to live. I mean, sure, we could decide to avoid treatment and let the disease run its course, but that would mean not being here for very long. That’s not a situation that I am interested in. I am not a terminal patient. I am in active treatment.

Yet the system I am in seems to favor non-compliance to treatment. When most people are living paycheck to paycheck, the cancer patient is living on financial quicksand. Not being able to work, to provide, to pay for our health issues leads to a shame and blame for the individual. Why didn’t we buy the right insurance? Why didn’t we get that next level job with all the benefits? Why didn’t we pay into that pension? What were we thinking?

This is when treatment non-compliance comes slowly into view. Treatment is a choice? On this level many of us might consider this choice. Why? Living without an income for many cancer patients is not an option. Sorry to be blunt, but I’ve been with people who have made some heavy duty choices and the financial circumstances always came up. Over and over again.

The cost of non-compliance

The system isn't set up for the first choice to be healthy. The system is set up for those of us who are willing to grapple with it. When I hear the social worker mention “non-compliance to treatment” I wonder if she understands the roots of that non-compliance. Sometimes it comes down to “can I work or can I not work?”.

Have you ever experienced a choice between your health and your bills? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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