It took me most of the day, but by the end of Friday I mailed off a 100-page financial assistance questionnaire and supporting documentation to Memorial Sloan Kettering. It’s amazing how complicated my financial life is.
More importantly, mailing off the package made me come to grips with the fact that medical debt has made my life unmanageable and I need help.
One of the first questions Memorial Sloan Kettering asked me was do I needed financial assistance. “No,” I said defiantly. “I got this,” I said silently to myself.
Yeah, right. Here I am a few months later realizing that I’m in over my head. Asking for help doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve got to be in a world of pain to reach out.
I’m probably not alone. I may have cancer, but that doesn’t mean I am not proud. Asking for help takes a certain courage. Admitting that I’m powerless over both this disease and what it’s costing me. Admitting that I need something bigger than me to overcome it. It’s the first step.
Swallowing pride and asking for help isn’t something anyone counsels you on in disease management. And I have to keep in mind that asking for a hand up is not the same as asking for a handout. Sometimes it even requires me educating the person on the other end of the phone at the doctor’s office or hospital or insurance company. Quite a few times I’ve found myself emotionally explaining how what I’m dealing with is a pretty big deal and that I could really use the phone answer’s compassion in helping me out.
It’s all part of viewing myself in a new light. I think they call it “acceptance.” Acceptance that my body betrays me despite her best efforts. Acceptance that I will be on medication the rest of my life, medication that can be at times toxic and debilitating. Acceptance that all of it comes at a high cost. Acceptance that it’s a fight every day to keep all of these balls in the air, juggling, rotating and under control. And acceptance that despite it all, I will survive.
This disease has changed me in more ways than I care to count, and it’s not done with me yet. Today, I learn to swallow my pride, a luxury I’ve gotten to keep until now because my disease is slow growing and I remain healthy otherwise. Not everyone is so lucky. Take Susan Hadl, a Port Charlotte, Fla woman who’s been diagnosed with metaplastic carcinoma spindle cell, a rare, aggressive form of breast cancer. She doesn’t have the luxury of pride. She’s asking strangers like me to help her in her fight to stay alive by donating to a gofundme campaign. She’s one of 40 people with breast cancer with gofundme campaigns, including several men, who are pleading for funds to stay alive. They’ve learned how to ask. I admire them for that.
Tomorrow? Who knows what it will hold. For now, I live life one day at a time, helping those who ask and doing my best to ask the same.