Breast Cancer Survival Guide, Part 2
"We Went Through All Our Savings"Denise Cooper, 40, married with two sons, of Castle Rock, Colorado
In October 2004, Cooper, a part-time before-and-after-school teacher, felt a lump during her monthly breast self-exam. Then only 37, she had never had a mammogram. Tests found invasive stage-2 cancer in her left breast. The next nine months were a blur of surgery (she had a mastectomy), radiation, and chemotherapy, during which she was unable to work for one year.
Because her husband works in law enforcement for the state, the family has excellent health insurance coverage, and they had lived comfortably on their then-$60,000 annual income. But her illness plunged them into tough financial straits as medical expenses sucked up more than 15 percent of their now-reduced pay.
"It was a double whammy -- I stopped working and we were suddenly paying out all this money," says Cooper. "We went through all of our savings and were using our credit cards, which have such high interest rates that our financial problems were compounded. We even seriously considered selling our home or cashing in my life insurance."
Cooper's cancer is in remission, but they're not nearly out of the woods financially. The couple has since consolidated their debts into a lower-interest bank loan that they're paying off at $277 a month and they have cut out all the extras, such as cable TV and swim classes for her two sons, 12 and 9. "Even with insurance, we were drowning in debt," she says.The Cash Crunch
Lost wages: $5,000 (over one year)
Lost savings: $750 (all they had)
Out-of pocket costs: $8,000 ($3,250 per year for two years in copayments for doctor's visits, hospital stays, surgery, treatment, plus $1,500 for breast reconstruction)
Result: More than $9,000 in debt
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