Send Lawyers, Drugs, and Money – Sometimes Cancer Isn’t About You
You just got the call.
You have cancer.
Cancer isn’t particularly consistent nor predictable. Even a low number can become a high number and a high number can be beaten into submission and turn out positive. Regardless of the number. The reaction is the same.
“I have cancer.”
“I need to fix this.”
You’re in survival mode
You’re consulting with doctors. You’re talking with nurses. You’re searching google (be careful with this one – even a paper cut on the internet is a death sentence.) You’re getting your chemo drugs. You’re juggling the insurance co-pays, covered costs and not-covered costs – wondering where all the money will come from to keep you alive.
At some point you will have the drugs and money covered… now’s the time to call the lawyers.
Yes. I said lawyers.
It’s not about you anymore
Most of us (I hope) take a few minutes every 10 years or so and do our last will and testament. Nothing special. Just a note to say if I die give my stuff to [fill in blank.] (Hint: feel free to put my name in there.)
It’s pretty standard stuff for those of us who do adulting right.
But after we get that call, for all intents and purposes, fighting for our lives, we can lose focus on what is really important. I’m here to remind you to take a step back and instead of worrying about yourself or your cancer, worry about everyone else for a hot minute.
I’m not suggesting you ignore your situation. But I want you to make sure you take the appropriate time to get your “affairs” in order.
What does that mean?
First and foremost – I’m not a lawyer – and what follows is NOT legal advice.
But I did stay at a Holiday Inn one time and I’ve had to worry about this stuff. This is just what I did. You can hire a lawyer if you can afford it. (If you have a friend who’s an attorney that helps!) Some of this can be done via the web (again – be very careful.) I would always recommend an attorney help with these things but having some knowledge ahead of time can help.
There are basically three legal things you need to make sure you’ve taken care of and one you probably don’t think about much.
Fingers crossed you don’t need to ever exercise any of this stuff but please, for the sake of everyone else you love, at least make the effort to get this stuff covered.
Take the time to do a will. Make sure you’ve identified who you want to handle your stuff if you don’t survive the cancer or any of the treatments/surgery you may have to go through. Fact is, you should have this regardless, but now is a key time to make sure you have it all taken care of. Your will can cover a wide range of things from financial to guardianship arrangements for any children. Each state has different rules, so an attorney is probably the best way to go.
Advanced medical directives
If you don’t have a medical directive, decisions about your healthcare should you be incapacitated and can’t make them yourself, fall to your family and healthcare provider. They will decide what is best for you. If you want to make sure you have a say in those decisions, then make sure you create a durable power of attorney for your healthcare. A durable power of attorney for health care is a legal document which appoints another person to make medical decisions for you. PRO-tip: Pick someone you can trust! I shouldn’t have to say that but… ya never know.
Power of attorney for financial stuff
If you might be incapacitated and you need someone to handle your financial stuff until you’re back on your feet, then a Power of Attorney for that should be considered. You can appoint someone and allow, and limit, their ability to manage your financial world. This might be more of an interim thing that comes into play if for some reason you don’t come out surgery right away due to complications. Always good to plan for the worst.
Here’s the one I didn’t think about until after I was back home after my surgery. As I was interacting with my Facebook feed, I noticed I was getting birthday notifications on Facebook for people I knew had passed. Obviously, no one either knew about, or knew how to cancel their Facebook account. That made me think of all the places I’ve been on the web – my digital footprint.
Ask yourself, how many websites you have logged into where you need a username and password? Too many right? Now, think about if something happens you? How does your family shut down your digital world? Most people don’t keep a list of all their passwords – or the places they’ve set up to accept ongoing payments (amazon prime?) Start doing that now. Make it easy on your family and put together a list of all your sites that require usernames and passwords. Put it with your Will. This will help whomever you select to handle your affairs, login and shut down the membership, recurring payments, and close social media accounts. If you don’t want to make a list – get a web-based password manager that can hold all your online logins – and then you only need to communicate that single site and that single login information. That will make it extremely easy on your family/friends.
I know this stuff is hard to think through sometimes.
Even though cancer survivorship rates are increasing every year, there is always the possibility you won’t be on the positive side of those probabilities.
Plan for it.
Sometimes, I hate to say it, having cancer isn’t about you … it’s about them.