Getting the Support You Need When You Have Metastatic Breast Cancer
A metastatic breast cancer diagnosis can leave you and your loved ones feeling uncertain, anxious, and overwhelmed. Metastatic breast cancer can present specific challenges. Unlike earlier stage cancers, which typically have a defined period of surgery or treatment, people with metastatic breast cancer are generally in ongoing treatment and may require frequent modifications to their regimen. Sometimes friends and family who were very hands-on around the time of your diagnosis may wane in their support as time passes. Many people with metastatic breast cancer look to outside professional supports or agencies that can supplement the emotional or practical support that they receive from friends and family.
Tips for Reaching Out and Taking Control of Your Finances
Multiple years of treatment can strain your financial and emotional reserves. There are many local and national support services available to assist you. If you are considering reaching out for support, here are some tips to help make the process more manageable:
• Assess what you need emotionally, practically, and financially. Figuring out how much money is coming in to your household, as well as how much you spend and what you spend it on, may be a good start to assess your financial needs. Keep in mind that it’s OK to not know exactly what you will need all at once, and your needs will likely change throughout treatment. It can be helpful to write down your list so you can keep track of your needs as they change.
• Keep a record of your medical expenses and any communications related to your finances. This will help you anticipate and prepare for expenses related to your treatment and can be useful if you need to dispute a charge. In addition, staying organized can help make this information feel less overwhelming.
• Talk to your healthcare team. Once you have an idea of what type of assistance you may need, find out who at your treatment team or hospital center can serve as a point person for locating and accessing resources. Oftentimes, people with cancer and their families do not want to talk to their healthcare team about paying for treatment. However, talking to your healthcare team can help ensure that you have access to the treatments and support you need.
• Keep track of important papers and make copies of commonly requested documents. Many people find it helpful to keep their records and paperwork in one place for easy reference. If you are seeking financial aid, organizations typically require proof of income, Disability/Social Security award letters, and/or recent pay stubs. Important documents may include:
- Copies of medical records
- Prescription information
- Health insurance records
- Disability insurance
- Long-term care insurance
- Veterans benefits
• CancerCare has partnered with Susan G. Komen to offer a specialized breast care helpline: 877-GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636).
• Looking for information about clinical trials? Call the Komen Breast Cancer Clinical Trial Information Helpline: (877) 465-6636.
• CancerCare has also partnered with the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation to assist and support women with triple-negative breast cancer. Call 877-880-TNBC (877-880-8622) to learn more.
Finding Resources and Support
Finding and accessing support services can feel daunting. Remember: you do not need to call everywhere all at once. You may find it beneficial to use small chunks of time throughout the day to investigate resources rather than attempting to speak to multiple agencies or programs back to back. Here are a few resources that can help you get started.
• Financial and Practical Support There are many organizations that provide help with medical billing, insurance coverage, and reimbursement issues. There is also financial assistance available to help people who cannot afford the cost of their medications. A good place to start your research is the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (pparx.org).
Another resource is CancerCare’s A Helping Hand (cancercare.org/helpinghand). This is a searchable, online database of financial and practical assistance available for people with cancer. This comprehensive online tool features up-to-date contact information and descriptions for hundreds of national and regional organizations offering financial help to people with cancer. You can search by diagnosis, zip code, and type of assistance.
• Emotional Support There are many organizations, such as CancerCare, that provide support services to help people affected by cancer. Individual counseling is available to help you learn ways to cope with the emotions and challenges raised by your diagnosis. Support groups can connect you with other metastatic breast cancer survivors in a safe, supportive environment.
CancerCare offers free face-to-face, telephone, and online support groups led by professional oncology social workers. CancerCare’s social workers can also work with you to find ways to cope with a cancer diagnosis. To learn more, call (800) 813-4673 or visit CancerCare.org.
Reprinted with permission from CancerCare.org.
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2019.