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A floating eye with a stack of dollar bills reflecting in the pupil.

The Cost of Fighting Bladder Cancer

Cancer is expensive, like really expensive.

As I was sorting through a pile of “explanation of benefits” docs, old bills, and the various pieces of paper that come with ongoing doctor visits, I decided to tabulate how much it has cost to keep me alive since I started this journey on July 25th, 2019. Drum roll, please.

How much it has cost to keep me alive

For 1 year of fighting cancer, it has cost me $789,933.47. Take a moment and think about that. I am closer to the $1 million mark than the “average cost of cancer treatment” which is noted as $150,000 per year. The thought that I will most likely break one million by the end of this year is absolutely mind-boggling. This does not include the cost of medication, gas to drive to appointments and treatment, meals we had delivered in the hospital, or even the wages lost before I was eligible for donated time from my department.

Grateful to have insurance despite a high deductible

I’ve done the math, and even after I eliminated the surgeries and hospital visits I had in 2019, I am looking to spend on average $400,000 per year on just immunotherapy, my oncologist visits, quarterly CT scans, and my ostomy supplies. I am very lucky to have pretty extensive health insurance. I still have a yearly deductible I have to meet which is not cheap, but in relation to what it could cost without insurance, I do have to be grateful.

The bills piled up

When I was in my second hospital being treated early on, I was actually receiving bills from my first hospital. Of course, with no one home and bigger things on our minds, those bills came due and almost went to collections. That is how cancer treatment always feels. As you are paying for one treatment or procedure, you are already getting the bill for the next one.

Adjusting our budget to plan for the future

Budgeting for my medical costs has been a difficult process, but my husband and I are starting to feel like we have a handle on it. We are working very hard to build up some kind of cushion in case I ever need another surgery or have a complication in the future. We have found it necessary to adjust our spending habits and our household budget to accommodate what we know is the yearly deductible I will pay every year.

Seek help from a social worker or financial advisor

If your facility has connections with a social worker or financial advisor, I highly recommend speaking with them at least once. We were able to get information on assistance programs, payment plans, and ways we can reduce overall costs. Our social worker taught me to always ask for itemized bills and to question charges that don’t seem to add up. When I was stressing out about how to pay off the deductible I accrued right at the end of 2019 with the deductible I hit immediately in January of 2020, the financial advisor helped me to navigate a payment plan and find deductions in my bill.

Bladder cancer patients need more financial support

Although we often talk about supporting cancer patients in regards to their body and mind, there often are not enough programs to help with the incredible financial burden that comes with fighting this disease. As bladder cancer is not as widely known nor does it receive the same funding that other cancers do, the financial assistance programs, scholarships, and copay deferrals are very hard to come by. Yet, bladder cancer is incredibly aggressive, has a high recurrence rate, and is known to be one of the most expensive cancers to treat over a patient’s lifetime. It is my hope that one day, bladder cancer patients will not need a GoFundMe or face crippling medical debt just to save their lives.

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