Joyce Minor

Belt-tightening weighs us down

It could be the most difficult and frustrating part of recovery from cancer and cancer treatment. It is totally unavoidable and hangs on even longer than the side effects of chemotherapy. What is this bane of my existence? Debt, unplanned and ever-growing. It is bad enough to be sick and fatigued for months on end. But add to that the pain of a ton of debt dragging us down for months, or more accurately years, and full recovery becomes a pipe dream we may never reach. It began with the $5,000 deductible on my medical insurance. Every dime of that must come from our pockets so we had to put it on a monthly payment plan, which tacked on interest, of course. Add to that the doctors' per-visit co-pays (dozens of times over), prescription co-pays (stretching through the next five years), plus the full cost of an emergency surgery that my insurance refused to cover, and the hit is mind-boggling.
Altogether, it easily totals over $10,000 out of pocket, in addition to my $507 per month insurance premiums that are set to go up at least 20% when Obamacare starts in 2014. Don't get me wrong. I am grateful for modern medicine, no matter the cost. I'm also thankful for the blessing of medical insurance. There's no way we could have afforded the treatment I needed without it. We are also thankful that John has found a part-time job he enjoys which helps with expenses. Still, all this puts a major unplanned crimp in our retirement budget. Thus, some additional belt-tightening is in order. Let's see, where could we cut? There's our satellite TV service; we could live without that. But in Highlands County there's little we could get on TV without it. Besides, we gave up going to movies almost a year ago so satellite TV, with no premium channels, is virtually our only entertainment option. We gave up eating out during chemotherapy to avoid exposure to infections. Now that it's safe to go out, we've limited ourselves to fast food to save money. But burgers and pizza can get pretty boring, so now we mostly just eat at home. Of course, that gets boring too, so we occasionally splurge on ribs or steaks to do on the grill, but we feel guilty every time and have to cut somewhere else to make up for it. Neither of us has bought new clothes in nearly a year, and we've actually found it not hard to get by with what we have, since we don't go out much. However, I do miss shopping for gifts for family. Obviously, those too have been cut back severely, and with a new grandbaby on the way, it's pure torture to know I can't buy all those cute little baby things for him. But now, the coup de grace. Both of our vehicles are on their last legs. We have a 1997 pickup truck and a 1999 SUV. We've been nursing them along for years to avoid taking on a car payment. Unfortunately, both vehicles now need major repairs. One has quit entirely. We promised our daughter we would be with her in Alabama for the birth of our grandson, so we squeezed out the money for minimal repairs on John's pickup. God willing, it will get us there and back. All-in-all, life these days is very different from what we enjoyed a few years ago when we were both working and healthy. And it is certainly not what we anticipated for our retirement. But it's okay, because it is life, cancer-free life. And that is worth it all.