Often times when talking to people I hear them pontificate, even lecture, about how those of us afflicted with cancer must fight, ‘fight to the death’, or, as they say in the Godfather, ‘go to the mattresses’ when it comes to dealing with our disease.  When listening to those expressing this view, suggesting I pursue this treatment hope or that possibility; to fly all over the world seeking a remedy, I wonder if they have the least little clue of the costs of such pursuits, not only monetary, but emotionally.  I really wonder if they recognize the enormous cost, in terms of time, that come with such endeavors.  It seems to me, at least having listened to all of these ‘suggestions’ they speak from more of the perspective of desperation than the pragmatic.

The monetary implications of cancer are pretty straight forward.  One simply adds all the costs, treatments, medicine, travel, health insurance, premiums, co-insurance and co-pays,  and time away from work.  In my case, the cost to those companies insuring me is pretty straightforward, something on the order of $500,000, to date, over the seven years I’ve been under treatment.  Ancillary to that our the direct costs to me, the absolute need to maintain health insurance, without a break and no matter what the cost, the medicines and the cost to travel to treatments which in my case is not inconsequential.  To that paid by the insurance companies, my personal, out of pocket, costs add up to nearly $70,000, the largest portion being health insurance, be it with a large company or small company; individually, if forced to that option, being nearly $40,000 in premiums for one year.  Less quantifiable are the limitations imposed on my ability to work and when working, time lost due to all the issues, stent pain being one.  While manageable for someone in my situation, pragmatically, I see my son’s inheritance dwindling, our ability to do things we enjoy, such as traveling, being limited for financial reasons.  Monetarily, it is clear my disease is expensive, cancer is expensive.  To put it in another form,  for those afflicted, cancer is their Sandy or Katrina.

Alternatively, and often less considered, is the ‘life’ cost of cancer.  For those unaffected it is somewhat easy to say, try this, go do that, check this out, call that specialist, never really conceiving of the effort and infiltrations doing so has on living.  I’ve long-held that while I will likely die, something better defined in the last month, from cancer or a side effect therefrom, I will refuse to allow it to become my life, to let cancer become and me become cancer.  For many this is a hard concept, difficult to understand because what is more important that sustaining physical life, to remain in the physical world.  I often wonder from where this view is born, be it from an intense love of life, or, a fear of the unknown, a fear of death.  For me, I like to think of myself as more of a realist, someone with goals and aspirations, milestones to achieve and a life to live  by maintaining some degree of normalcy.  Honestly I can’t say I possess an irrepressible love of life, however, I do know I retain no fear of death for in either case, I am at peace with myself, and with my maker.  I suppose the one driver of my perspectives is that I refuse to allow cancer to kill me twice by taking my physical life and that which I live everyday.

The other, and perhaps most important cost of cancer is time.  A blog I read about this, about the notion and value of time, underscored the need to respect that which remains for me.  It is a blog I follow and titled, ‘Bucket List Publications”.  The entry was more a review of the book ‘The Time Keeper’ by Mitch Albom, a book I admit I’ve never heard of and obviously never read.  The topic, however, is relevant to any one dealing with a life threatening circumstance and certainly my circumstance.

Since I’ve learned of my latest treatment failure, and for all intents and purposes, last true hope of keeping my disease at bay, I’ve begun looking at time in terms of holidays remaining to me, milestones to realize and lastly, moments left with my friends, my family and most importantly my son.  Buried within all of this is completing all things tasked to the dying, wills, trusts, documentation of all accounts and the tying up of any possible loose ends so as to make my survivors better enabled to close my accounts.  Interspersed is the matter of living, of doing that necessary to sustain life, to continue any possible treatments, to continue maintenance procedures such as replacement of the stents in my ureters, at least for as long as that is possible.  In some ways, more than ever, I feel time closing in on me, fighting for my spirit, fighting for my attention and, as with the cancer, trying to kill me.

Happy reading, happy thoughts and happy trails.

As always, feel free to comment or you may email me at lifeabstractions@gmail.com



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