What is Survivorship?
There are different definitions of survivorship. The historical definition refers to the family members who survived the loss of a loved one to cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines cancer survivor as “anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis through the balance of his or her life.” The Journal of Cancer Survivorship defines cancer survivors as “ Populations and individuals with a diagnosis of cancer who have completed primary treatment or the major aspects of treatment for cancer."
Survivors may be continuing with “treatment” or management such that it is unclear when primary treatment has ended. Survivors will also have a desire or need to “get on with their lives.” Survivors are considered individuals with the cancer diagnosis, not the family. Many patients think it may be a combination of the definitions. Family members can also feel that they were also battling cancer. Having been a spouse of a former myeloma patient, the main objective for both patient and family is living well.
Planning for Myeloma Survivorship
Because of the advancements in myeloma treatments, it is fast becoming more of a chronic disease rather than a terminal one. Therefore, no matter where you are in your cancer journey, it's imperative that you take a deep, concerted look at your finances and plan for the worst but expect the best. In doing so, spouses must also determine what's important now and in the future.
It may be important to consider:
- Where are your current sources of income coming from? Will that change in the future with access to retirement funds, savings, etc.?
- How will your financial picture look when debt is paid off such as a mortgage loan maturing? Does that allow you more freedom in your financial life?
- Are you responsible for secondary educational costs? What options do you have to meet those obligations?
- Can you definitively say, “you and your family are not going to outlive your savings?
- How do you even know unless you’re having a professional review your financial needs, goals, risk tolerance and lifestyles on an ongoing basis?
You must prioritize your lifestyle, goals and your needs. Look at what money you have coming in and what you have going out. What do you really need and what is wasteful or frivolous? Review with your doctor the cost of your current and ongoing treatment and adjust financially as needed. Become intimately knowledgeable about your health insurance and make sure you have the best option available for you and your circumstances. Review your options frequently and make changes as necessary.
Consider the loss of income to you, the patient or your spouse in the event either of you are going to need to take time away from work for treatment or to provide care. If you have options to increase benefits through your employer such as life insurance or disability insurance take advantage of those opportunities.
Considerations for Young Myeloma Patients
If you're diagnosed young, you have unique challenges. Your financial needs really require a strong budgeting program. And it must be realistic, measurable and doable. Controlling debt and re-evaluating educational financial options for your children is important. Include healthcare planning in your review. Once you’ve been diagnosed and in treatment for an illness that is expensive in all ways, you must take these costs into consideration in all of your financial planning.
There are some really great outcomes of planning in this way, You actually can realize more of a reduced stress around money, even more so in an inflationary and possible recessionary climate in which we now find ourselves. Believe it or not you can mitigate a lot of the risk in the markets if you plan accordingly. Using a financial professional generally improves your returns on investment 1 - 4%.
Please take the time to review the many financial assistance tools as well as educational material available through HealthTree. If you’re looking for professional assistance, such as a financial planner, even if only for a second opinion, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Also, our HealthTree Financial Coach team members have a breath of knowledge and experience, and are avalable to help guide you and privde you with additional financial assistace counseling.
In the interim, feel blessed, be blessed and continue moving forward.
HealthTree Coaches are myeloma patient and caregiver volunteers willing to share their experience and resources to help others.
about the author
Diahanna is the Financial Program Manager for the HealthTree Foundation, specializing in financial help for multiple myeloma and AML patients. As a professional financial consultant and former caregiver of her husband who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, Diahanna perfectly understands the financial issues facing myeloma patients.