A cancer diagnosis can turn your life upside down. Facing a serious illness and a long treatment journey is daunting enough, but what about the financial impact? How will you manage?
Nobody plans to have cancer, so it’s natural to be caught unawares by the costs involved if you or someone close to you is diagnosed with cancer. You may be facing extra expenses associated with cancer treatment, perhaps paying for some medicines, transport and accommodation. At the same time, you might need to take a lot of time off work. If you are in casual work or you run out of leave, your income could take a significant hit.
Cancer is stressful enough without having to worry about how to make ends meet. It’s no wonder that many people with cancer list financial stress as one of the key challenges of the diagnosis. So, what can you do about it? Here are our top five tips for coping with financial stress.
Ask a professional You may never have had to worry about your finances before and you might not know where to start, but help is at hand. Who you see will depend on your circumstances. Financial counsellors can help you manage your budget and access support. They provide a free service. If you have assets and investments, it might help to talk to a financial planner about the best way to manage your superannuation and other investments now that your circumstances have changed. You’ll usually need to pay a fee for a financial planner’s service.
Keep track Preparing a personal budget will help you gain more control over your finances. Write down all your income and expenses and then calculate the difference. Some people like to use an online budget planner. To work out your expenses, you may need to keep a daily spending diary for a couple of weeks or use a mobile phone app such as TrackMySPEND, a free app from the Australian Government. If you find that you are now spending more than you expect to be earning, explore how you can reduce your expenses and/or supplement your income. Cancer Council’s Cancer and Your Finances booklet outlines ways you might be able to do this.
Take action early The longer you wait, the more worrying your debts will become. If you explain your circumstances to your creditors and service providers, often they will try to help you. Most providers of essential services (e.g. electricity, gas, water, phone) are required to help customers who are having trouble paying their bills. If you put off paying your debts but don’t tell your creditors, you may be hit with penalties or could even be taken to court. Now that’s a stress you don’t need.
Talk about it Financial stress can place strain on your wellbeing and on your relationships. It adds to the worry of being diagnosed with cancer and may feel overwhelming. For some people it can lead to depression, anxiety and conflict with family members. If you are finding it hard to cope emotionally, try talking to a trusted family member, your GP and/or to Cancer Council 13 11 20. They may be able to suggest strategies that can help. You might also find it useful to read Cancer Council’s booklet Emotions and Cancer.
Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 Cancer Council 13 11 20 Information and Support is a confidential service where you can speak to a health professional about anything to do with cancer. They can link you with Cancer Council’s legal and financial assistance, and send you print copies of our publications, such as Cancer and Your Finances. They can also help you access practical support, such as transport to treatment, as well as emotional support, such as support groups and counselling.
You don’t have to face the financial stress of cancer alone. Whether you are looking for trustworthy information or simply need someone to listen to your immediate concerns, we can support you, your family and friends.