Author Topic: Mustachian with major illness/cancer?  (Read 3715 times)

CindyBS

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Mustachian with major illness/cancer?
« on: July 26, 2016, 05:22:14 PM »
I suppose this is mostly a vent since I can't really tell anyone IRL about these problems.  Some of it is seeking some advice/guidance on how to handle it.

tl:dr  If you (or family member) have had major illness/disability - how did you handle it in terms of trying to FIRE?  How do you handle offers of financial help? 

Here's the story:

I am very blessed to have a wide circle of friends/family and a very supportive community to be helping us through our situation.

On July 13th, my 13 y/o son was diagnosed with Leukemia.  He has a good prognosis but it will be a rough road and has been a life altering experience in the last few weeks.  One of the many emotions I had was "there goes early retirement". 

However, after analyzing everything, we will probably only be out a few thousand dollars by the end of the year.  For medical expenses, we were very close to our per person max payment for him already due to therapies for his disability, so our total out of pocket for him will only be like $600 before everything is covered for the family.  Needless to say the rest of us will be having everything possible done before Dec. 31st. 

We are getting meals delivered, which has lowered our grocery bills.  (and is a HUGE help).  We are currently a 1 car family, but need to have 2 since he will need (not may need) to be rushed to the hospital at certain times and the chemo clinic for him is across town.

We will be saving a significant amount of $$ on both eating out (he can no longer go due to compromised immune system) and vacations (can't happen).  Both of those we were spending way too much on. 

I will lose about $3K in income from taking short term leave from work, but will also have time to finally sell some stuff on craigslist, do more scratch cooking, do more shopping sales, etc.

Here's the problem:  We are getting a lot of offers of help, some of it financial.  I get gift cards in the mail for take out or groceries, someone even mailed me a check.  My sister has offered to do a Go Fund Me.

While I have no problem accepting help and am reaching out to people for things like babysitting, making meals, etc.  the financial offers make me very uncomfortable, especially the check we got in the mail.  For some reason the gift cards are less bothersome than the check, but I still feel uncomfortable accepting money from people who probably have significantly less money than us.  A neighbor just made us a meal tonight and included a 6 pack of fancy beer.  I know they have NO money. 

I did tell my sister no for the GO Fund Me and explained we were close to our insurance max. 

Then I feel uncomfortable b/c the same people who are sending me gift cards are also going to see we are buying a car and I am taking a leave from work.  Of course, we also just took a very expensive vacation which they all know about. 

How do you say thanks but no thanks?  So far I have accepted everything under $50 and will send a nice thank you note.  Should I say no to things when at this point I don't know if financially it could get much worse?  If he needs a bone marrow transplant, I could miss significantly more work than previously thought. 


The other part is I feel so conflicted about planning for the future.  Long term planning is the hallmark of trying to FIRE.  However, when your child has cancer and may die - living through the every day and trying to make the best of it is the goal.    How do you balance keeping your eye on a long term goal when the goal is just to get through everyday?

Also, FWIW - I am so happy we have been financially conservative for years.  This would be a nightmare with no money.  Also, while both DH and my employer have been fantastic, this has only strengthened my resolve to be FI so there is no job to have to go to when the next tragedy strikes. 

Thanks for listening and any advice/guidance. 

PharmaStache

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Re: Mustachian with major illness/cancer?
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2016, 05:29:28 PM »
Accept the food/gift cards without a second thought.  People just want to do something nice for you guys.

Don't do the go fund me unless your situation changes (like you said, needing a BMT). 

You're 13 days into this diagnosis?  Just focus on your family.  Wishing the best for your son.

Cassie

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Re: Mustachian with major illness/cancer?
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2016, 05:30:14 PM »
I would nicely tell people that right now you are not in financial need but if that changes you won't hesitate to ask for help. I know what a tough time this is as I had a close friend go through something similar with their child. Hugs:))

totoro

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Re: Mustachian with major illness/cancer?
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2016, 05:47:03 PM »
Yes, let people help and thank them.  Do not do go fund me - you don't need it right now. 

Big virtual hug from a stranger who has lived through a close family member with a cancerous brain tumour and been on the receiving end of home-cooked meals and well wishes from so many.  Take it as the gift it is with gratitude knowing they mean it.

As for early retirement, leave that where it is.  At the door for now.

boarder42

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Re: Mustachian with major illness/cancer?
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2016, 06:00:29 PM »
Financially I think you have set your self up great. I have a fundamental problem with GoFundMe(it's for consumers who don't save to help other consumers who dont save so they can feel good). Anyways. Sorry to hear about your son but it's not the end of the world. Just go ahead and get thru it hope you come out better and try to do it as effectively as possible. Which it sounds like you are insurance is there for a reason.

retiringearly

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Re: Mustachian with major illness/cancer?
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2016, 06:21:41 PM »
Accepting help is very different than asking for help.  People are showing their love by helping.  Accept the help from people that you know can help and be gracious/thankful in return.  I would not accept help from someone that I know could not truly afford it but I would be very gracious in declining.

Your son's life is on the line, I would not allow a goal of FIRE to jeopardize his health in any way.  I know you are not doing that, but just something to keep in mind.

Best of luck to you and your family. 

Miss Piggy

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Re: Mustachian with major illness/cancer?
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2016, 07:24:38 AM »
Can you be "proactive" now with your network of family, friends, and acquaintances and send out a message...something like...

Thanks everyone for all of the meals, gift cards, and well wishes you have sent our way. They mean more to us than you'll ever know and we are so grateful. Looking ahead, we see that our insurance will be of tremendous help both medically and financially, so we are quite relieved about that. Given that there are so many other families who may be less fortunate than us going through the same thing with their children, please consider donating to [INSERT LEUKEMIA-RELATED CHARITY HERE]. In the meantime, please keep us in your thoughts....

Best wishes to you and your family!

marcela

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Re: Mustachian with major illness/cancer?
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2016, 10:19:55 AM »
Could you earmark any financial gifts you receive to put towards things that might make your son feel better/act as distractions?
I was very sick growing up and a friend of the family gifted us a portable dvd player that made all my hospital stays a little bit more bearable. Getting a turn on the pediatric floor's video game system was also a great way to distract myself from the pain. Going through treatment means that your son will probably not have as much energy as before and a lot of "mustachian" fun activities are based on being healthier and having energy (riding a bike, hiking..etc).

Good luck to your family and remember to take some time for your own self-care while going through this. It sounds like you have a good network of folks who want to help, the best thing you can do is let them.

Guava

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Re: Mustachian with major illness/cancer?
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2016, 06:53:50 PM »
I was diagnosed with a blood cancer last year. You will have a bumpy road ahead with plenty of good and bad days. Hopefully more good than bad!

I had tons of offers for food in the beginning, especially from my work. I told them that I would let them know when I needed them. It is great to get all the help now, but that help may fade during the most stressful times. Appreciate it while you have it. As for financial gifts, I didn't receive any except for an anonymous $100 bill in the mail. I still have it and won't spend it until someone from work admits to it so I can properly thank them.

The truth is, people don't know what to do to make things better or help so they send money or gift cards or food. It makes them feel better.

As for FIRE, my $8,000 in medical bills in the last 12 months have delayed my FI but like you said, it has just made me want it more. And being on the road to FI was a blessing because when I was getting diagnosed knowing I wouldn't likely work I never had to worry about money. It was one less stressor.

Now for some cancer/chemo tips (not sure where you are in staging and treatment process):
  • bone marrow biopsies do hurt. But they don't hurt as bad as you think they will. The worst part is the numbing. That's when I cried.
  • chemo sucks but attitude goes a long way. It is important to maintain any normalcy, even if it means bowling in a surgical mask on a Friday night with a big jug of hand sanitizer and some great friends.
  • drinking tons of water during chemo makes your body feel much better during it.
  • sometimes you can taste some chemos. I had that one that I could taste starting in round 2. We called it Kool aid because it was bright red, but it did not taste like Kool aid. It was terrible. If this happens (I don't know chemo for Leukemia so not sure) try lemon heads. Sour cuts the taste.
  • If he is getting a chemo port it isn't so bad. Just a weird lump in the skin. It's great for getting pricked with needles less.
  • at some point he might also start tasting saline flushes. These taste better than chemo but still terrible
  • most important: take the nausea meds before the nausea starts. If you get it before it starts it will be good. If you don't,it feels like it will never go away.

I am hoping it all goes smoothly! Feel free to contact me if you have any general chemo questions. Each person is different but the process is all pretty similar I think. Check out the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society too. They have awesome informational resources.

retiringearly

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Re: Mustachian with major illness/cancer?
« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2016, 07:52:54 PM »
^^^^ Spend the anonymous $100 on something that you would enjoy.  The person that sent it to you didn't want to be acknowledged.  Do something you want with it.  Best of luck to you.

bestname

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Re: Mustachian with major illness/cancer?
« Reply #10 on: July 27, 2016, 08:51:19 PM »
I hope your son recovers quickly and completely. Don't worry out about the gifts. Spend them or donate them to a charity where it will do more good if you feel they are excessive. But don't stress about it as you have plenty to deal with already.

coffeehound

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Re: Mustachian with major illness/cancer?
« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2016, 05:03:53 PM »
You're 13 days in - and, speaking/writing as the primary caregiver of an AML survivor, I can tell you that you've got some uncertainty ahead. I'm sorry that you and your family are going through this struggle, and I send healing thoughts to your son! 

If I had received cash/gift cards when we were going through treatment for this illness, I would have taken the money/gift cards with thanks.  It's not worth it to tell people who care about you not to do something for you, and you can always set aside the gifts, and use them to 'pay it forward' and help someone else if you end up not needing the money.

I hate to put this in writing, but your son's treatments may extend beyond December (I sincerely hope not).  And none of us knows whether they will or won't. It's true what other commenters have stated - help and caring tend to fade away over time - not because people don't care, but because other things intervene.

Keep the gift cards and cash - thank people.  Tell them you're putting the cash gifts toward the car that you have to purchase to get your son to his treatments, and let your friends and family do things for you. Everyone who's given you grocery cards or gift cards or cash cares about you and wishes they could think of some other way to help. They don't know what to do, but they will be grateful to you if you let them give you something.

CindyBS

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Re: Mustachian with major illness/cancer?
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2016, 02:55:49 PM »
Thanks for all the kind words and advice.  I was talking to a friend about this and some of it is just plain mom guilt.  I felt guilty accepting a meal from someone when later that night I sat around on the porch.

I have not asked for any help except from my parents and sister, everything else has been an offer.  My friend basically said I was being unreasonable and that I should just accept it all and not think twice.  I just mailed a stack of thank you notes and that made me feel better as well.

I've been making some "meal packs" for lack of a better term for the freezer out of leftovers and some big batch cooking.  I figure I can pull those out on busy days and not sign up for as many meals.  I know that I can't expect people to make me meals forever and we have a long road. 


BTH7117

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Re: Mustachian with major illness/cancer?
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2016, 10:20:39 PM »
Sending you and your child lots of positive thoughts.

I was diagnosed with an MPN last month so I am learning all about the lingo of blood cancers, but especially insurance.  As for FIRE, I felt much better about things once I reached my HDHP deductible.  After that, each bill I received went from hundreds dollars to $5-$50.

The Mustachian philopsy has also really helped. When I catch myself feeling sorry for myself, I give myself a blast of Outragous Optimism (how lucky I am to be able to afford my treatment. How lucky I am that these incredible medicines exist. How lucky that I live in close proximity to amazing medical professionals).  Yes, it's thousands of dollars that would otherwise go in the stock market, but to me at least, that's the secondary purpose of money.  The first is the ability to spend more time with loved ones.

FWIW - I had my first bone marrow biopsy last month. The numbing agent stung a bit, but then I didn't feel any pain.  I asked my hematologist why it didn't hurt, as I had read such scary things about the procedure.  She just said "I'm good." I hope your child has a similar experience.

Lentils4Lunch

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Re: Mustachian with major illness/cancer?
« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2017, 08:41:21 PM »
Hi,
Just stumbled upon this thread. How is your son doing? How is the rest of the family holding up? Would love an update.

Thanks!