Financial ruin should NOT be a cancer side effect

By Tami Boehmer

I read a heartbreaking post from a fellow blogger, whose health and finances have been drained by cancer treatments. At a time when her focus needs to be on healing, she is struggling to make ends meet. Unable to help her boyfriend keep up mortgage payments, she had to move from her beautiful home to subsidized housing in an unsavory part of town. And she only moved up on the waiting list by stating she would die within a year!

According to the article,” Breaking the Bank,” in the winter issue of CURE Magazine, the number of medical bankruptcies has risen from 46 percent of bankruptcies in 2001 to 69 percent by 2007. At issue, according the article, is not just people who are uninsured, but also insured individuals who are expected to pick up more of the bill. It cites the oral chemo, Xeloda, which I’ve been taking and, thankfully, it’s working. I’m one of the lucky ones because my insurance covers it, but our copay is a whopping $250 per month. Some insurers won’t even cover it, but will pay for 5-FU, its infusion equivalent, which is more costly and inconvenient.

For some, including my blogger friend, trying to pay for cancer treatments can lead to financial ruin. This is totally unacceptable! We do not live in third-world country; this is the USA. How can this happen? Well, I’m finding it happens more than you realize. It’s especially difficult in today’s tough economy. There are even employers who let go of workers going through chemo treatments. I’ve had it happen to a couple of friends.

Luckily, there are some organizations that are here to help, like The Pink Fund, which provides financial assistance to breast cancer survivors in Michigan. It was founded by my friend Molly MacDonald, who found herself in dire straits when she was going through treatment. She wanted to ensure no one else had to face the possibility of homelessness just because they receive a cancer diagnosis. They help pay mortgage and rent, heating bills and other necessities that aren’t offered by some hospitals and pharmaceutical companies who provide medical financial aid. They currently are just assisting Michigan residents, but are asking donors to contribute $20.11 (in honor of last year) so they can spread their services to other states. To learn more, go to Donate page under Give Help.

The CURE article provides a list of resources for financial aid (most are for self-fundraising and prescription costs).Here are some other organizations I’ve found that help survivors facing hard times cover other costs:


American Cancer Society:

American Childhood Cancer Organization: Call 301-962-3520. (Responds to calls in English only) or

Patient Advocate Association: Provides a comprehensive resource guide for patients and families.

Social Security Disability: (My note: In most cases, stage IV cancer survivors who are in treatment are eligible.)


Colorado (Larimer County and Windsor, CO): Hope Lives (includes complimentary services, too)

Massachusetts: The Ellie Fund

Michigan: The Pink Fund

New York and Arizona: Friends for Life Foundation

Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware: Dolan Fund (For families whose children are living with cancer)

Philadelphia/Poconos: Linda Creed Foundation

Portland, OR area: Komak Cares

Southern California: Breast Cancer Angels

Southwest Ohio: Pink Ribbon Girls (meals, transportation, childcare, etc.):

Tami Boehmer is a metastatic breast cancer survivor, speaker, blogger and author of From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds. You can visit her at


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