A woman hanging onto a dollar sign with a very large bucket list. The dollar sign starts to crack and she loses her balance.

Financially Making It with Lung Cancer

When I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer November 27th, 2012, I was told I had 12-18 months. This was devastating, but I decided to make a bucket list. I quit my job on December 31st, 2012. My church, friends, and family began a GoFundMe site and raised money at the church to sustain my living expenses for 6 months. Having a young, growing daughter can be expensive. The people who love me, and who I shared my story with raised $26,000 for me to live off. It may seem like a lot of money, but living on an island in a resort town, it goes fast.

The cost of my bucket list

I had a bucket list I wanted to fulfill. After all, who really expects to die at 34? I have always maintained good credit. I was already in debt but had a lot of room on my credit cards. Making the mistake of maxing them out, I took my daughter to Washington D.C., Disney World, Chicago, New York, and I went to Los Angeles, Paris, and London. My spending was out of control. I mean, they can't come after me for anything if I'm dead.

But, I didn't die, which is a good thing, but not for my credit. I found myself $50,000 in debt. I purchased a new vehicle in 2016 (a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee with 20,0000 miles) and got an extremely great deal on it. It pays to buy a car on New Year's Eve, they will work with you.

The hospital I went to offered financial support until 2017 for low-income families, requiring me to only pay 1% of my bills. My copay for a scan is $360 with a $50 copay to see my oncologist. I was fine when I only paid 1% of this amount. Unfortunately, the hospital implemented a new policy that did not provide for financial assistance beginning in 2017. I began to get late notices and before I knew it, my bills were in the hands of collectors. Sadly, I filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy protection at the end of 2017.

Filing for bankruptcy

Because I did not have any assets other than my car, there wasn't anything to liquidate. I acted as my own attorney and filed. This came as a last resort considering I had nearly perfect credit. I could no longer afford the minimum credit card payments because had put all of my bucket list items and outstanding medical bills on the credit cards. I wasn't eligible for financial aid the first year, so plenty of medical debt went onto those cards.

My case was discharged in April of this year and I am back on track with my expenses. Upon speaking with the hospital, I set up a payment plan so I was able to pay monthly for future expenses. This amount fit my budget and they were more than willing to work with me on an affordable plan. I also began taking every lung cancer survey I could where I could be compensated. Since I'm on disability, and never know when I will feel like working, I took on a part-time contracting job bookkeeping for a developer on the island. I just handle his accounts payable and receivable. So, anything that could get me extra money, I try and take on.

My financial advice to you

This may not be much financial advice or pertain to you, but I would like to sum up my points. Don't go overboard on the bucket list. I'm alive 6 years later and learned the hard way that I wasn't dying anytime soon. I was responsible for those credit cards. Ask your hospital about financial assistance and setting up a payment plan that will meet your needs.

There are programs that help with your drug coverage. Contact your insurance company or your drug provider and they will help you find the resources to help cover those drug costs that can be insane. Once on disability, you are placed on Medicare after two years. This isn't any cheaper once you add drug coverage, so be aware and prepare.

Try to find something you can do that will make you a little extra money. Take surveys, ask the lung cancer community for advice. Don't make the same mistakes I did and ruin your credit. But, if you have to, remember it's not the end of the world. You are still alive and I'm slowly building my credit back up. I've since obtained a credit card with an insane interest rate, but I put just enough on it so I can pay it off every month, therefore building my credit back up.

I hope this helps, you can always contact me through here if you have questions. This may not be the best source for your financial hurdles, but I hope it will give you some ideas.

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