A childhood cancer diagnosis creates high anxiety within the entire family. There are many costs - social, emotional, spiritual, and financial. Financial pressures that occur as a result of a diagnosis further adds to an already stressful time.
The attitude and health of parents directly affects the coping of their child. Parents need to be supported so that they can be present and focused on caring for their family. These financial pressures add to the already overwhelming worries about the outcome of the diagnosis, treatment schedule, and how they will juggle other sibling needs.
“During the first, inpatient, week of treatment the sum of income lost plus additional expenditure exceeded 50% of total income in over 45% of families. During a subsequent week of out-patient treatment, loss of income plus additional expenditure amounted to more than 20% of income in over half the families,” reported the British Medical Journal article "Financial burden of childhood cancer.”
Loss of income occurs as parents take time off from their jobs to be available for their child during hospital stays, for frequent out-patient clinic appointments, and a demanding at home medications schedule. Children also have compromised immune systems and many times cannot attend school or daycare. This can necessitate that one parent quit their job altogether. While income is lost, costs increase. This combination creates additional anxiety as parents try to navigate a balance between caring for their child and maintaining their financial responsibilities.
Increased costs come from out-of-pocket medical expenses and non-medical expenses such as transportation, food, lodging, family care, parking, and other miscellaneous items. In some cases, families must set up a separate residence closer to the treatment facility. Unlike medical bills, non-medical bills must be paid immediately and are rarely reimbursed.
The American Childhood Cancer Organization Inland Northwest distributed nearly $40,000.00 in calendar year 2010 to assist families with some of these direct costs. With roughly 50% of our membership coming from outside of Spokane County, travel expenses can add up quickly. Even for families within Spokane County, additional expenses can result in high levels of additional stress.
Financial pressures can persist long after active treatment has ended. It can take many years for families to recover. Many families still face long-term costly follow-up care and sometimes life-long medications for their child. Families who subsequently experience the loss of their child face even greater financial problems. Read more here: “Losing a child to cancer takes financial toll too.” Along with overwhelming grief, they must also cope with financial devastation.