Author Topic: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans  (Read 2261 times)

PoutineLover

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Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« on: September 12, 2017, 11:17:19 AM »
So I found out last week that I have skin cancer. I'm feeling so many emotions from fear, regret at not getting it checked earlier, relief because it's not melanoma and likely not deadly, worried that it's bigger under the surface or that I'll have an ugly scar, and so much else. There's a knot in my stomach that won't go away and I can't wait to get my surgery date and get this thing off my face. I've always expected to live a long time and have the chance to do all the things on my bucket list, and now I'm not sure how this will affect all that. I've been planning on going on a long trip one day, and now I think I should do it right away instead of waiting for the right time (right away meaning after the surgery, of course). I was so focused on saving for my early retirement that I may have missed some opportunities that I won't get again, but then I remind myself that this will likely just be a blip that I will recover from, it's not a death sentence. I found some old threads about cancer on here, so I know others have gone through this too. How do you keep up saving and planning for the future when it becomes so uncertain? I might be overreacting because this is one of the least serious cancers you can have, but I can't help thinking I need to live more in the present and take advantage while I can because anything can happen. Luckily I don't think I'll have to worry about work or cost of surgery since I have insurance and paid sick leave, but this is feeling more like an existential re-evaluation of my life and goals in the face of a scary and still unknown problem. I have a lot of family and friends supporting me and 'm trying to put on a brave face, but inside I feel terrified. If anyone has stories of how they've beaten cancer, how a diagnosis has changed the way they view things, if you can just send me kind thoughts, I would love to hear it.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2017, 11:50:55 AM »
I am so so sorry. Skin cancer sounds super scary, and I can tell just from this short post, you're in the early stages of shock, likely feeling quite panicky and fearful. It's all very, very normal. It is okay to be scared. I do hope you aren't putting on a brave face with everyone and have a close friend or family member that can just be a shoulder to cry on or someone to lean on when you're feeling scared like now. If not, please seek out a counselor that can help you process your fear and grief. It is hard enough to deal with day to day stressors on your own, it's not weak or wrong to seek help when you need it.

But one thing to hold on to: you are likely going to be just fine. Don't beat yourself up for not going sooner. You got it diagnosed now, and you're going to do everything you can to get through it and put it behind you as quickly as possible. Do not let this scare you into things you don't need in your life - fear-based living is not really living at all. If you're still on track for early retirement, then proceed as you were planning all along. I would likely still have a nice trip or reward in the works for after your recovery - focusing on the future is very healthy after all!

Skin cancer is almost always easily treated now, and likely you'll not even have a noticeable scar. Even if it does scar, it will fade; all scars fade with time.

My dad was diagnosed at least a half dozen times with skin cancers over a several year period, including a melanoma. All cleared easily with basic surgery and no chemo or anything. He lost an earlobe (he was TERRIBLE about not wearing sunblock or even a hat tho for decades) but he had plenty to spare and it wasn't even that noticeable to anyone unless he pointed it out to them. And this was at least 10 years ago; so they likely have advanced to much better techniques by now. He could have gotten very minor (like day surgery) plastic surgery to adjust his ears so they both looked the same, but he didn't care...  just know that almost anything that could happen where it would be really noticeable, likely has a very easy fix.

Be hopeful, be determined, seek out help as needed and go scream and cry or whatever helps when you feel the need to get that garbage out of your system.

Hugs and thinking positive thoughts for your eventual outcome.

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Erma

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2017, 11:58:45 AM »
Do you know the type of your skin cancer? Where I work we get lots of them everyday and most are treated with surgery and the people are fine. But it really depends on the type of the cancer. If you are young and have several skin cancer lesions, there can also be a genetic disposition for it.

PoutineLover

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2017, 12:15:47 PM »
Do you know the type of your skin cancer? Where I work we get lots of them everyday and most are treated with surgery and the people are fine. But it really depends on the type of the cancer. If you are young and have several skin cancer lesions, there can also be a genetic disposition for it.
It's a basal cell carcinoma, which I know is super common and there's only one lesion that I know of. Unfortunately it's micronodular which tend to be bigger under the surface and more likely to spread from what I've read online. I'm going for a consultation tomorrow, they're going to do a Mohs surgery, and its supposed to have a very high success rate. I'm very young to have gotten this, but my grandmother had one too so I might be predisposed. I can tell myself that logically it's easy to remove and I will be fine, but cancer is still such a scary word and there's a lot of variables involved.

Frankies girl, thank you so much for the encouraging words. I'm crying now, for the first time since I found out. I don't think I've really let it sink in yet. I have a partner who is here for me and will come to my appointments, and lots of friends and family, some local but mostly long distance. My work does have an employee assistance program, it might be a good idea to see if I can get a counseling appointment. I'm trying to be positive, and I think that the consultation tomorrow will help me get a better idea of what's going on, but this isn't really something you can prepare for and it's still so new so I'm just trying to think good thoughts and not let myself get overwhelmed. It's just hard to focus on work and other stuff when I'm so preoccupied, and I'm dreading telling people who aren't close about it.

Erma

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2017, 12:26:07 PM »
I can understand that. People fear the word cancer, which is understandable. It is something horrible and I don't wish that to anyone. The good thing about skin cancer is, it is visible early enough and mostly treatable.

I wish you all the best for your surgery and hope you feel better soon.

NoStacheOhio

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2017, 12:35:58 PM »
Mohs is basically state-of-the-art, so very generally you're getting good treatment.

Everybody processes things differently, and that's exaggerated by the fact that cancer is really scary.

Our summer was basically consumed with my wife's cancer treatments (chemo and radiation), and we're sort of climbing back out of it now. She gets her first post-treatment scan next month, so we'll know more then. Honestly, I don't feel like it's fundamentally changed who we are or our long-term outlook. During treatment, we were laser focused on getting through every day. It was kind of a double-edged sword in that (for me at least) we were sort of carried through it on momentum without actively living it. I'm not sure if that makes sense.

From a financial perspective, the best I can say is that we were able to tread water despite spending more on meals not prepared at home, reduced hours for both of us and her not being eligible for paid time off. There are more details in my journal if you're interested.

Obviously, she's got higher risk in the future, but it's not really something we can control. Even the fact that she got it in the first place wasn't really down to any lifestyle factors. I know the anxiety keeps her up at night, but it's 100% an emotional response.

I'm hoping we get some breakthroughs in treatment, and that things will be very different in the future than they are now. Chemo and radiation are kind of like some of the historical treatments you read about and go "they really did that?!" It's really fortunate to be able to treat the problem with definitive surgery.
The first step is acknowledging you have a problem, right?

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/digging-out-of-a-hole/

PoutineLover

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2017, 12:57:45 PM »
NoStacheOhio, thanks for sharing your story and I hope your wife and family are doing well. Sounds like her treatment was pretty intense, but I hope you get good news next month. I'm lucky that the surgery for mine is most likely pretty straightforward and effective, but I made the mistake of looking up some pictures and I really wish I hadn't. If it turns out to be just local, small and 100% gone with the surgery leaving a small scar, that's the best possible case, but I'm still scared there will be complications or it'll come back or spread and that kind of thought isn't helping. I guess all we can do is hope for the best.
Best of luck to your wife, I'm sending good thoughts to your family.

NoStacheOhio

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2017, 01:02:48 PM »
NoStacheOhio, thanks for sharing your story and I hope your wife and family are doing well. Sounds like her treatment was pretty intense, but I hope you get good news next month. I'm lucky that the surgery for mine is most likely pretty straightforward and effective, but I made the mistake of looking up some pictures and I really wish I hadn't. If it turns out to be just local, small and 100% gone with the surgery leaving a small scar, that's the best possible case, but I'm still scared there will be complications or it'll come back or spread and that kind of thought isn't helping. I guess all we can do is hope for the best.
Best of luck to your wife, I'm sending good thoughts to your family.

One of the big things they told us up front was that you can't go by what other people have experienced. I wouldn't read/search a ton on what other people's results are.
The first step is acknowledging you have a problem, right?

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/digging-out-of-a-hole/

Schaefer Light

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2017, 01:21:20 PM »
It is scary when you first find out about having any form of cancer.  I'm sure you're thinking of all sorts of worst case scenarios.  I did the same thing when I found out I had a basal cell carcinoma about 5 years ago.  The Mohs surgery was a breeze, though.  Depending on where the cancer is located and your tolerance for pain, you may not even need any painkillers after the surgery.  The only painkillers I took were in the form of 12-ounce adult beverages ;).  I've had two more Mohs surgeries since then, and they really don't even scare me any more.

By the way, the surgeon who removed my last basal cell recommended trying a cream called Aldara in the area where I've had all of these basal cells (my forehead).  I'm going to try it out this winter when the days get shorter and I'm not spending much time in the sun.  It's supposed to activate the part of your immune system that fights off these abnormal skin growths.  The way I understand it, it's supposed to kill them off before they turn into full blown skin cancers.  This might be something to ask your dermatologist about if you're concerned about encountering more basal cells in the future.

thebattlewalrus

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2017, 01:30:26 PM »
Here is my background highlighted and what I did:

Not cancer for me but in Sept 2015 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis which is the worst thing a Dr. has told me. I was 33 at the time, just gone PT from FT in my career because I was bored and topped out in my field and had jumped into a PA program to change career fields. MS doesn't kill you, but it takes your life away at some point. Most people within 10 years of diagnosis can't work and something like 50% of people will need daily home aid around the 15 year mark. My last relapse had taken part of my vision, I couldn't remember my wife's name sometimes, forgot the best way to drive home from work, and could no longer handle the impacts of mountain biking, trail running, or carry a pack very long for hiking. There was no way I was going to pass PA school and even if I did wasn't really a smart move at that point. The financial impact of MS is brutal, I read one statistic that it was the 2nd costliest long term medical condition to have. My insurance was paying something like $5k per month for Tecfidera (I was only out $35 per month due to pharmacy agreements Blue Cross had) To face those numbers put a knot in my stomach and tossed more questions out there than I could answer, many of the same questions you have as well. End of life considerations? Where will the money come from? Bucket list? Job security? You get the point since your likely asking the same questions.

What did this diagnosis change for me and how did I change? Every aspect of my life is different. And many for the better. I spent 8+ hours a day researching MS and various options to fully understand down to the cellular level what was going on. Read peer reviewed papers so I could talk on a more clinical level with my Dr.s, and new exactly what the drugs that I was taking were going to be doing to me. Having MS is sometimes a crap shoot on what works, it's a very unique disease and what works great for one person doesn't work at all for another. I dropped out of the PA program and went back FT with my employer to ensure I maintained cash flow. I completely turned into a FIRE mindset and aggressively started saving. From a medical stand point I went for a nuclear option and had an autologous HSCT performed (in broad terms heavy chemo and a bone marrow transplant using your own cells) to essentially create a new immune system (MS is an autoimmune disease). It is still in clinical trials here in the US that I didn't get into so I went to Europe and had the same thing done over there and paid 100% out of pocket. That was scary as hell in its own right laying in a foreign country hospital bed with no immune system. I still save, aggressively now. My debts are mostly paid off or will be soon. I am building a home that is a one level ranch so if my MS gets to a point I can't use stairs the home will be easily turned into a more accessible home. My health is much more stable since treatment, I still have MS but the treatment is designed to put it into a very long term remission. I don't smoke my weekly cigar, eat a really health diet, and have met some great people over the last couple years I wouldn't have without an MS Dx. I just got back from 8 days in Glacier National Park and hiked every day. I live my life accepting what I can change and what I can't. I don't too often get stressed (really bad for MS), and have worked hard to mold my life to be as positive of a person as possible.

Control what you can, research every option possible. Ask questions of your medical team, whether comfortable questions or not.
Don't feel the need to hide your emotions or feel the need to put a brave face on. Cancer sucks and your human, lean on your friends and family. If your frustrated, talk about it.
Keep cool about the finance options, the future is uncertain for 100% of the human population. Keep your plan in place as best as possible and handle the issues as they come up.
Talk to the hospital/insurance/etc... about options if things get tight.

I wish you the best of luck, I know a couple people that have gone through skin cancer and are doing very well. One of them had it on their jaw. After the removal and some very minor plastic surgery you can't really tell there is a scar.


PoutineLover

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2017, 01:34:24 PM »
It is scary when you first find out about having any form of cancer.  I'm sure you're thinking of all sorts of worst case scenarios.  I did the same thing when I found out I had a basal cell carcinoma about 5 years ago.  The Mohs surgery was a breeze, though.  Depending on where the cancer is located and your tolerance for pain, you may not even need any painkillers after the surgery.  The only painkillers I took were in the form of 12-ounce adult beverages ;).  I've had two more Mohs surgeries since then, and they really don't even scare me any more.

By the way, the surgeon who removed my last basal cell recommended trying a cream called Aldara in the area where I've had all of these basal cells (my forehead).  I'm going to try it out this winter when the days get shorter and I'm not spending much time in the sun.  It's supposed to activate the part of your immune system that fights off these abnormal skin growths.  The way I understand it, it's supposed to kill them off before they turn into full blown skin cancers.  This might be something to ask your dermatologist about if you're concerned about encountering more basal cells in the future.
This is really good to hear, well at least that surgeries went well, not that you have had multiple. I have a decent pain tolerance, so I'm hoping this doesn't hurt too much, mine is on my forehead too. I'll ask my dermatologist about that cream, it would be great to avoid getting more of these. I'm already kinda kicking myself for being so lax about sunscreen, so going forward I should focus on prevention, but first things first I gotta get rid of this one.

PoutineLover

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2017, 01:41:41 PM »
Control what you can, research every option possible. Ask questions of your medical team, whether comfortable questions or not.
Don't feel the need to hide your emotions or feel the need to put a brave face on. Cancer sucks and your human, lean on your friends and family. If your frustrated, talk about it.
Keep cool about the finance options, the future is uncertain for 100% of the human population. Keep your plan in place as best as possible and handle the issues as they come up.
Talk to the hospital/insurance/etc... about options if things get tight.

I wish you the best of luck, I know a couple people that have gone through skin cancer and are doing very well. One of them had it on their jaw. After the removal and some very minor plastic surgery you can't really tell there is a scar.
This is really good advice, and thanks for sharing your story. MS is a scary disease too but you seem to be handling it really well. I hid the fact that I was getting a biopsy from my mom cause I didn't want her to worry, and now I wish I had told her before. I'm so used to handling things by myself and being independent but I should lean on people more, they do care and want to help. I'm trying to do lots of research and making a list of questions but so far I have barely any info so I'm not sure what applies to my case or not. After the consult tomorrow I should have more to go on. I don't think the costs should be too much of an issue, I have no debts, I live in Canada and I have health insurance through my employer, and my work has a good disability plan. As long as I fill out the paperwork I should be fully covered. I guess long term I'll have to make sure I'm living according to my values, and still save for the future. I can't put off stuff I want to do for too long but it doesn't mean I have to be irresponsible and blow all my money in case I don't live. I guess getting a diagnosis like this just puts things in perspective.

DireWolf

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2017, 01:53:54 PM »
I had a cancer diagnosis earlier this year and a quick surgery to remove the scary large tumor. It was eye-opening. I've been working FireCalc and the like a lot in the weeks since, trying to figure out how to pull in a 10-year out ER to more like 4-5. I want to start enjoying life as much as possible instead if spending my time at work. I even have an option for ER next year if I go in for tests and find out they didn't get it all that things have spread.

PoutineLover

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2017, 02:01:44 PM »
I had a cancer diagnosis earlier this year and a quick surgery to remove the scary large tumor. It was eye-opening. I've been working FireCalc and the like a lot in the weeks since, trying to figure out how to pull in a 10-year out ER to more like 4-5. I want to start enjoying life as much as possible instead if spending my time at work. I even have an option for ER next year if I go in for tests and find out they didn't get it all that things have spread.
I hope your cancer is all gone and that you can figure out how to speed up your timeline. I wish I could accelerate my FIRE plan that much, but I'm still so far away. I really don't want to spend my whole life working, only to die young before I've done everything I want to do.

FireHiker

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2017, 02:26:41 PM »
I'm sorry to hear of your diagnosis and I wish you a quick and complete recovery. )both OP and Direwolf)

One of my closest friends was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma back at the end of 2015, and it really rocked my world in a fundamental way. It is actually what triggered me to start working towards FIRE in my own life. Sadly she did lose her battle in June, a mere 18 months after diagnosis. My perspectives on what is really important will never be the same, for the better I hope. We have spent a LOT more on travel in the past 1.5 years (while still saving at a 40%+ rate) because nothing is guaranteed, and putting it all off until "someday" just didn't make sense anymore.

PoutineLover

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2017, 02:39:37 PM »
I'm sorry to hear of your diagnosis and I wish you a quick and complete recovery. )both OP and Direwolf)

One of my closest friends was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma back at the end of 2015, and it really rocked my world in a fundamental way. It is actually what triggered me to start working towards FIRE in my own life. Sadly she did lose her battle in June, a mere 18 months after diagnosis. My perspectives on what is really important will never be the same, for the better I hope. We have spent a LOT more on travel in the past 1.5 years (while still saving at a 40%+ rate) because nothing is guaranteed, and putting it all off until "someday" just didn't make sense anymore.

I'm so sorry to hear about your friend, that's so quick. I'm definitely going to refocus on what matters most to me from now on. Even though I don't expect this to be what kills me, it's still pretty scary.

honeybbq

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2017, 02:40:39 PM »
1. Sorry for your diagnosis. Best wishes for a speed recovery and a cancer-free future.

2. This is why I strongly believe in balance. I'm not as MMM as many here; I have a lot of perspective I think that differs from others. My father scrimped and saved his whole life only to die of cancer before he ever got to enjoy it at the age of 50. That's why I take the vacation. I buy the shoes. I spend more time on the things I love now. Every day IS a gift you might not get tomorrow.

3. I can only hope that I get to live a long life rewarded by my savings but I don't want to live with a ton of regret.

4. My spouse was diagnosed with cancer last year. I'm terrified my daughter will have to re-live my life - growing up without a father and in a single parent household. He is currently cancer free, but its a cloud that hangs over you that never ever goes away.

5. Use this time to focus on what is really important in your life. Don't make drastic changes, but start working towards a more meaningful and fulfilling existence (if you aren't already).

Maenad

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2017, 06:06:08 PM »
My thoughts are with you. I had a cancer scare last summer, that was thankfully nothing, but it definitely sharpens your focus on what's important in your life. It's very likely that you'll get through this fine - my mom has had a number of basal cell carcinomas removed and didn't need any chemo or radiation and is cancer-free currently.

Take care of yourself and find others that you can lean on (including here). That's what communities are for, after all. :-)

This will likely affect you for a while, in that you'll spend a lot of time thinking about what you really value. You'll have some permanent mental change, and that's good. The big scares help prevent us from sleep-walking through our lives.

snowball

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #18 on: September 13, 2017, 10:35:03 AM »
I had breast cancer at 31, which was a shock, and did chemo / surgery / radiation.   Even though Iím cancer-free now, obviously Iím at some risk of recurrence, more so than someone whoís never had cancer.  And I do have a sharper sense of my own mortality now, but I donít let it haunt me.  None of us know how much time weíll get in this life, cancer or not;  in that, Iím no different from anyone else.  (I would be less zen about it if I had kids, I admit.)

I hope your treatment goes well.  Let yourself cry when you need to.  You said you're young to have this - I'd suggest looking into whether there's a support group in your area for young adults with cancer (in this context, "young adult" means, like, under 40 or so).  I know there are groups for this in Calgary and Edmonton, and they do social meetups.  It's good to be able to mention the dreaded C word with peers who'll treat it as a normal thing, and can even joke about it.  Mostly, in my experience, existing friends of your own age will be a bit freaked out about the whole thing, even if they do their best to be supportive.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2017, 10:38:39 AM by snowball »

Cerastez

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #19 on: September 13, 2017, 10:45:13 AM »
Ask your doctor if there is someone that you can talk to about what the treatments will cost.  My mother had breast cancer and we were told that even with insurance she could expect to pay about $26,000 a year, out of pocket!  This was in 2010.  Fortunately, my  mother had two insurance policies.  She kept her private insurance when she signed up for medicare.  It did cost her around $900 a month for her insurance, but she would have lost everything without it.

My point is, grind the numbers and consider buying a second insurance policy.

Jenny1974

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #20 on: September 13, 2017, 10:48:26 AM »
I'm 43 . . . got diagnosed with my first basal cell skin cancer at 30 . . . . have had 2 others since then.  I know the shock can be a little overwhelming at first.  Probably a good reason to not make any big plans until you get through this initial shock phase.  It is highly unlikely that this has spread anywhere so I wouldn't invest too much time worrying about that.  As forMOHs procedure, I had it 3 times .  . . all on my face . . . and you can't see any scars unless I point them out.  Even then, some people can't even see them.  As long as you have a good dermatologic surgeon, it will mostly unnoticeable.

snowball

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #21 on: September 13, 2017, 11:18:58 AM »
Ask your doctor if there is someone that you can talk to about what the treatments will cost.

PoutineLover is in Canada;  all of the treatment will be covered by provincial healthcare except prescriptions.  But prescriptions can be very pricey, if you don't have enough private insurance, so it actually is still a good idea to ask about what you can expect.  There should be programs to help with expensive drugs (I had one expensive shot I had to take before each cycle of chemo that would have cost me...$18K maybe, for the full course of treatment, but I only spent a few hundred dollars on it, what with my private insurance coverage + a program from the drug manufacturer + a provincial program that helps with such things.)  The hospital will have info on all this stuff.  There was a social worker on staff at my hospital who helped me with it.

The Canadian Cancer Society will also sometimes provide funding help for things like temporary accommodation, if you have to travel somewhere else for treatment (I had to go stay in Edmonton for five weeks for radiation).  Plus remember travel expenses for medical reasons are tax-deductible.

So yeah, do ask about potential prescription costs, and check the cap on how much your private insurance plan will pay for those, if you have private coverage (this experience brought to my attention the fact that my cap was lower than it should be).  But if you will only have to do surgery, expensive drugs shouldn't come up as an issue.

mancityfan

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #22 on: September 13, 2017, 11:53:37 AM »
First of all, all the best to you. You will get through this. You will be surprised by your own resilience as you work through the diagnosis and treatment.

I just had chemo today, for a second cancer diagnosis of Lymphoma. First episode was 9 years ago. I made it through, and plan on doing so again. After being re diagnosed, I was certainly is shock. My oncologist stated that it is not really different from PTSD when you get a cancer diagnosis, or hear that cancer has returned. So be patient with yourself and understand that there is a process that you have to go through. You will get to a better place, and you will kick this.

A couple of pieces of advice. It is good to be informed about your condition, so that you can converse with your doctors. However, I caution you about searching out everything, especially about bad things that could happen, worst case scenarios etc. You can work yourself into a frenzy and become more anxious for no good reason.

People around you can act differently when they know you have been diagnosed with cancer. Some people who you think would be there, will shy away. Some people will surprise you and come closer. Do not judge people on these behaviors, it is related to their own fears about death, cancer etc IMHO, but you will recognize this when you experience this.

Again, all the very best.

Schaefer Light

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #23 on: September 13, 2017, 11:57:31 AM »
I'm 43 . . . got diagnosed with my first basal cell skin cancer at 30 . . . . have had 2 others since then.  I know the shock can be a little overwhelming at first.  Probably a good reason to not make any big plans until you get through this initial shock phase.  It is highly unlikely that this has spread anywhere so I wouldn't invest too much time worrying about that.  As forMOHs procedure, I had it 3 times .  . . all on my face . . . and you can't see any scars unless I point them out.  Even then, some people can't even see them.  As long as you have a good dermatologic surgeon, it will mostly unnoticeable.

That's been my experience as well.  I'm 38 and I've also had 3 MOHs surgeries.  They seem almost insignificant now.  If I was going to get any form of cancer, then basal cell carcinoma is the one I'd choose.

little_brown_dog

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #24 on: September 13, 2017, 12:30:15 PM »
Wanted to chime in as someone who hasnít had skin cancer, but has family members who have had it (basal and melanoma). I am at high risk for skin cancer due to my fair skin and a history of blistering sunburns. I have had to have numerous biopsies, including the full removal of one atypical mole that was at high risk of turning into melanoma. I have to go to the derm every year for full body checks despite only being in my late 20s.

A family member had melanoma Ė they cut it out years ago and it hasnít been back since. Full recovery despite the terror of having the worst kind of skin cancer. Another family member has basal cell cancers on their face too Ė theyíve had them removed as well and also use some light therapy/cream therapy for the precancerous ones they still have. They are also expected to be fine once they complete their treatments.

Cancer is one of those words that immediately robs you of a sense of control and makes you think the worst. But you are still very much in control, even if you donít feel it right now. You caught the problem. You are going to get the problem removed. You will be watched closely by medical providers to make sure the problem does not recur. You also now know that it is very important to prevent the problem from recurring, and will be able to enact simple steps to reduce the chances that it does (going for routine skin checks, checking your own skin, taking sun protection more seriously, etc). Youíve got this. You are still steering the boat.

DirtDiva

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #25 on: September 13, 2017, 01:02:03 PM »
So I found out last week that I have skin cancer. I'm feeling so many emotions from fear, regret at not getting it checked earlier, relief because it's not melanoma and likely not deadly, worried that it's bigger under the surface or that I'll have an ugly scar, and so much else. There's a knot in my stomach that won't go away and I can't wait to get my surgery date and get this thing off my face. I've always expected to live a long time and have the chance to do all the things on my bucket list, and now I'm not sure how this will affect all that. I've been planning on going on a long trip one day, and now I think I should do it right away instead of waiting for the right time (right away meaning after the surgery, of course). I was so focused on saving for my early retirement that I may have missed some opportunities that I won't get again, but then I remind myself that this will likely just be a blip that I will recover from, it's not a death sentence. I found some old threads about cancer on here, so I know others have gone through this too. How do you keep up saving and planning for the future when it becomes so uncertain? I might be overreacting because this is one of the least serious cancers you can have, but I can't help thinking I need to live more in the present and take advantage while I can because anything can happen. Luckily I don't think I'll have to worry about work or cost of surgery since I have insurance and paid sick leave, but this is feeling more like an existential re-evaluation of my life and goals in the face of a scary and still unknown problem. I have a lot of family and friends supporting me and 'm trying to put on a brave face, but inside I feel terrified. If anyone has stories of how they've beaten cancer, how a diagnosis has changed the way they view things, if you can just send me kind thoughts, I would love to hear it.

I was diagnosed with a rare form of vaginal cancer a year ago.  I had 3 surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. One year later, I am cancer-free.  I have no idea of what to expect in the future; this tumor type is so rare that the 5-year survival stats are minimal (somewhere between 42% and 80% 5-year survival).

How the diagnosis changed the way I view things:  I realize that I may not live to be an old person.  I'm grateful for the healthy happy life I have right now, and I try to make every day count.  I try to strike a balance between saving for a future that may never happen and doing the things I love today.  Stuff doesn't make me happy, but I do love to travel and to spend time with my many friends and family , so that's where I spend my money.  For now, I am working full time(I love my job) but my spouse and i have a plan to cut back to part time in about 4 years.

I remind myself that worrying does not change the outcome.  I rarely worry, except for concern for my son.  He's a young adult, but we are close and I know he would have a hard time handling my death.  I hope he finds a life partner to be there for him.

I guess the bottom line is, we should all be aware that we don't get any do-overs and try to find that happy balance between preparing for a long life and having no regrets if you die tomorrow.  How do you do that?  I don't know-- but if you figure it out, please post back and let me know.

Best wishes for a positive outcome.   You're not alone.

Miss Piggy

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #26 on: September 13, 2017, 06:20:11 PM »
So I found out last week that I have skin cancer. I might be overreacting because this is one of the least serious cancers you can have...

I think you hit the nail on the head here. Cancer is a harsh word to hear, no doubt. But do your best to keep things in perspective.

How do you keep up saving and planning for the future when it becomes so uncertain?

A wise woman once told me on a different internet forum "Don't borrow from tomorrow's problems." Reference your own comment above...odds are very, very much in your favor on this. Your glass is wayyyyyy more than half full here.

If anyone has stories of how they've beaten cancer, how a diagnosis has changed the way they view things, if you can just send me kind thoughts, I would love to hear it.

5 years ago, I had a golf-ball sized cancerous tumor removed from my neck. It required two surgeries to remove the tumor, plus a central neck dissection plus removal of lymph nodes plus follow-up treatment plus annual scans. Now I'm all clear. In hindsight, although it may sound like a really big deal, and certainly felt like a pretty big deal at the time of diagnosis and treatment, it was really not much more than a MAJOR inconvenience, especially compared to the cancer experiences of thousands of other people who have been through or are currently going through through much, much worse.

That said, I know someone else who had the exact same cancer I did, and it truly turned her world upside down. Mentally, it really got the best of her, but she's prone to handling stress much differently than I do, and for her, the experience was "the straw that broke the camel's back" on a pretty hard life. When I got my diagnosis, my life was pretty darn good, so I reacted much differently from her. My life is still pretty darn good, and hers is miserable, and she dwells on that cancer like there's no tomorrow (even though there are plenty of tomorrows for both of us). Don't do that. It doesn't help; in fact, it makes things a hell of a lot worse, if you ask me.

You can do this. I know it's overwhelming right now, but in a few years or a few months, I hope you get to a place where you look back and it's just a blip on your radar.

Hugs.

ToTheMoon

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #27 on: September 13, 2017, 08:45:47 PM »
Hi PoutineLover,

I found myself in a similar place in the spring, when I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma (I'm 37 with two young kids.)  The word cancer is terrifying, even if you get a very treatable diagnosis.  I think   
@mancityfan has already given some of the best straightforward advice:

A couple of pieces of advice. It is good to be informed about your condition, so that you can converse with your doctors. However, I caution you about searching out everything, especially about bad things that could happen, worst case scenarios etc. You can work yourself into a frenzy and become more anxious for no good reason.

People around you can act differently when they know you have been diagnosed with cancer. Some people who you think would be there, will shy away. Some people will surprise you and come closer. Do not judge people on these behaviors, it is related to their own fears about death, cancer etc IMHO, but you will recognize this when you experience this.

Again, all the very best.

I opted for the "low information diet" since my cancer had a very clear treatment plan.  With 80%+ odds of beating it with traditional medicine, I didn't feel the need to research much of anything.  When I did want some info, I was very careful to only get it from a couple of sources: my oncologist, and the websites of the Provincial & National Cancer agencies. 

Since completing my treatment, I have done a bit more Googling, and have found that my experience was NOT like many of the others - some parts were better, some were worse.  I am very glad that I did not go in with expectations based on someone else's life and health.

While having cancer is scary, I already consider it one of the best things that has happened to me.  I too got a little too focused on stashing cash and trying to optimize every little thing, and was starting to forget to take every day as it comes.  To "stop and smell the roses" so to speak.  Now my DH and I are even closer than we were when we started this journey (only 6 mos ago,) and I look at my kids differently.  I am blown away by the support of my friends, my acquaintances, and even perfect strangers in our community.  I have increased my mindfulness, my capacity for empathy, my self care, and my thankfulness is now off-the-charts!

I wish you the best of luck, and hope that things are resolved quickly for you.  If you ever want to PM questions, feel free. :) 

PoutineLover

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #28 on: September 14, 2017, 08:02:12 AM »
Thank you all for sharing your stories and encouragement, it helps a lot to know I'm not alone. No one in my immediate family or friends has experience with this (except my grandmother who has already passed away). I got my date for surgery, it's going to be in less than 2 weeks, and the doctor seems very competent and says it will be routine. There's always a chance that something will go wrong or that the tumor is bigger under the surface or has spread, but for now I just have to wait and deal with that if it happens, no sense worrying about it. I'm still nervous, but it's easier knowing exactly what's going to happen and finally feeling like I have a good doctor.
The first GP I went to see told me that this was nothing, and that it wasn't worth going to a dermatologist, but I'm so so glad I insisted and got it checked out. If I had just listened to him and gone home, I wonder how far this could have progressed. I couldn't make a dermatologist appointment without a referral, but he clearly had no idea what to look for, so the system seems kinda dumb. I've actually been thinking of writing him a letter or going to see him again to tell him that what he thought was nothing was actually cancer, because I don't want someone else to be turned away because of his ignorance. Can anyone tell me if this would be reasonable, or the best way to go about it? I don't want to get him in trouble, but I feel like he should have just given me a referral if he didn't know what basal cell carcinoma looked like, and not just said I was worrying for no reason, especially now that it turned out to actually be what I thought.

former player

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #29 on: September 14, 2017, 08:34:48 AM »
Thank you all for sharing your stories and encouragement, it helps a lot to know I'm not alone. No one in my immediate family or friends has experience with this (except my grandmother who has already passed away). I got my date for surgery, it's going to be in less than 2 weeks, and the doctor seems very competent and says it will be routine. There's always a chance that something will go wrong or that the tumor is bigger under the surface or has spread, but for now I just have to wait and deal with that if it happens, no sense worrying about it. I'm still nervous, but it's easier knowing exactly what's going to happen and finally feeling like I have a good doctor.
The first GP I went to see told me that this was nothing, and that it wasn't worth going to a dermatologist, but I'm so so glad I insisted and got it checked out. If I had just listened to him and gone home, I wonder how far this could have progressed. I couldn't make a dermatologist appointment without a referral, but he clearly had no idea what to look for, so the system seems kinda dumb. I've actually been thinking of writing him a letter or going to see him again to tell him that what he thought was nothing was actually cancer, because I don't want someone else to be turned away because of his ignorance. Can anyone tell me if this would be reasonable, or the best way to go about it? I don't want to get him in trouble, but I feel like he should have just given me a referral if he didn't know what basal cell carcinoma looked like, and not just said I was worrying for no reason, especially now that it turned out to actually be what I thought.
I think it's reasonable to want your first GP to know.  I would suggest that you wait until after the surgery so that you can give the whole story, and that perhaps you consider sending a letter rather than going in person.
Be frugal and industrious, and you will be free (Ben Franklin)

NoStacheOhio

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #30 on: September 14, 2017, 09:45:54 AM »
Thank you all for sharing your stories and encouragement, it helps a lot to know I'm not alone. No one in my immediate family or friends has experience with this (except my grandmother who has already passed away). I got my date for surgery, it's going to be in less than 2 weeks, and the doctor seems very competent and says it will be routine. There's always a chance that something will go wrong or that the tumor is bigger under the surface or has spread, but for now I just have to wait and deal with that if it happens, no sense worrying about it. I'm still nervous, but it's easier knowing exactly what's going to happen and finally feeling like I have a good doctor.
The first GP I went to see told me that this was nothing, and that it wasn't worth going to a dermatologist, but I'm so so glad I insisted and got it checked out. If I had just listened to him and gone home, I wonder how far this could have progressed. I couldn't make a dermatologist appointment without a referral, but he clearly had no idea what to look for, so the system seems kinda dumb. I've actually been thinking of writing him a letter or going to see him again to tell him that what he thought was nothing was actually cancer, because I don't want someone else to be turned away because of his ignorance. Can anyone tell me if this would be reasonable, or the best way to go about it? I don't want to get him in trouble, but I feel like he should have just given me a referral if he didn't know what basal cell carcinoma looked like, and not just said I was worrying for no reason, especially now that it turned out to actually be what I thought.
I think it's reasonable to want your first GP to know.  I would suggest that you wait until after the surgery so that you can give the whole story, and that perhaps you consider sending a letter rather than going in person.

Alternatively, just have your dermatologist send the records and a letter over to the primary care doctor (which should be SOP anyway, but often gets overlooked).
The first step is acknowledging you have a problem, right?

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/digging-out-of-a-hole/

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #31 on: September 14, 2017, 12:44:00 PM »
Thank you all for sharing your stories and encouragement, it helps a lot to know I'm not alone. No one in my immediate family or friends has experience with this (except my grandmother who has already passed away). I got my date for surgery, it's going to be in less than 2 weeks, and the doctor seems very competent and says it will be routine. There's always a chance that something will go wrong or that the tumor is bigger under the surface or has spread, but for now I just have to wait and deal with that if it happens, no sense worrying about it. I'm still nervous, but it's easier knowing exactly what's going to happen and finally feeling like I have a good doctor.
The first GP I went to see told me that this was nothing, and that it wasn't worth going to a dermatologist, but I'm so so glad I insisted and got it checked out. If I had just listened to him and gone home, I wonder how far this could have progressed. I couldn't make a dermatologist appointment without a referral, but he clearly had no idea what to look for, so the system seems kinda dumb. I've actually been thinking of writing him a letter or going to see him again to tell him that what he thought was nothing was actually cancer, because I don't want someone else to be turned away because of his ignorance. Can anyone tell me if this would be reasonable, or the best way to go about it? I don't want to get him in trouble, but I feel like he should have just given me a referral if he didn't know what basal cell carcinoma looked like, and not just said I was worrying for no reason, especially now that it turned out to actually be what I thought.
I think it's reasonable to want your first GP to know.  I would suggest that you wait until after the surgery so that you can give the whole story, and that perhaps you consider sending a letter rather than going in person.

Alternatively, just have your dermatologist send the records and a letter over to the primary care doctor (which should be SOP anyway, but often gets overlooked).
Except that the dermatologist has that professional relationship in relation to the second GP who did refer PoutineLover, not the first GP who didn't, which I think might make the professional etiquette a bit different.
Be frugal and industrious, and you will be free (Ben Franklin)

PoutineLover

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #32 on: September 14, 2017, 12:58:12 PM »
The first GP I went to see told me that this was nothing, and that it wasn't worth going to a dermatologist, but I'm so so glad I insisted and got it checked out. If I had just listened to him and gone home, I wonder how far this could have progressed. I couldn't make a dermatologist appointment without a referral, but he clearly had no idea what to look for, so the system seems kinda dumb. I've actually been thinking of writing him a letter or going to see him again to tell him that what he thought was nothing was actually cancer, because I don't want someone else to be turned away because of his ignorance. Can anyone tell me if this would be reasonable, or the best way to go about it? I don't want to get him in trouble, but I feel like he should have just given me a referral if he didn't know what basal cell carcinoma looked like, and not just said I was worrying for no reason, especially now that it turned out to actually be what I thought.
I think it's reasonable to want your first GP to know.  I would suggest that you wait until after the surgery so that you can give the whole story, and that perhaps you consider sending a letter rather than going in person.

Alternatively, just have your dermatologist send the records and a letter over to the primary care doctor (which should be SOP anyway, but often gets overlooked).
Except that the dermatologist has that professional relationship in relation to the second GP who did refer PoutineLover, not the first GP who didn't, which I think might make the professional etiquette a bit different.
The first GP I saw was actually a resident, and he worked at the walk-in clinic. I don't have a family doctor so that's the only way I can see a doctor. He didn't want to give me the referral, but when I insisted he called in another doctor, who also thought it was nothing but together they ended up giving me the referral, I wasn't going to leave without it. I called one of the dermatologists on the list they gave me, and she did the biopsy, then referred me to a Mohs specialist who will do the surgery.  The clinic doctors are the ones I'm not happy with, and I don't think there will be any results sent back to them unless I specifically ask. The dermatologist was good, but neglected to send my results to the hospital even though she said she would so I had to go get it to bring it there myself. I just didn't expect the process to be this hard, and I feel like at every step there's a new challenge/obstacle, but I'm just trying to stay on top of it all and make sure I'm getting the care I need.

swinginbeef

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Re: Cancer diagnosis and impact on life plans
« Reply #33 on: September 14, 2017, 02:06:48 PM »
another BasalCell survivor here.
As shocking as C word is when you first hear it, the shock will wear off soon. Having been through it, I'd take 50 BasalCell incidents over a single incident of any other cancer. It's very easily removable and has a very high success rate.

As for life changes that the diagnosis and surgery brought about, I'm much better about wearing sunscreen now when exposed. I always wear hats and really only take my shirt off outside if I'm actually swimming and then it goes right back on once I'm dry. Being a guy, going to the doctor is something I usually put off but now I'm pretty quick to head to the dermatologist if I notice anything that doesn't seem quite right. I also do a yearly skin mapping now, something my wife has always told me I should have done.

One final thing is that the incident actually lead me to be more frugal/savings oriented. I'm afraid that having the C word in my history will kill any chances of renewing my life insurance once my current term policy expires in a few years. That fear pushed me to get in financial shape.

Looking back now, it's such a small blip in my history that it's almost a non-incident in my eyes. It's hard to see it that way from where you're sitting now, but hopefully you'll be where I am today over time. The only time I ever even think about it is when I have to try to remember the date of the removal when I'm filling out the questionnaire before giving blood.