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This is actually DH's bust and boom year, but I was right there with him. It all started in October 2004:

First, DH got abruptly fired for no reason. Then his mother died suddenly from a brain tumor. Finally, DH was rushed into emergency surgery a few days before Halloween 2004. They removed a huge, malignant tumor growing in his spine. Doctors weren't sure if he'd live or if he did live, if he would be permanently paralyzed. Two weeks after surgery, he was sent home in a wheelchair. So at the end of 2004, I had a depressed, disabled and unemployed DH (he was doing contract work after he got fired) and months of rehab ahead. Then the credit card debt started quickly mounting.

Luckily, he was on my health plan at work. However, he was disabled for 3 months while he went through chemo and physical therapy. Our modest savings went fast. He had the breadwinner paycheck and we had to make ends meet with cash advances from the credit cards. That was the “bust” phase of our lives. Then just when I was despairing over our mounting debt, Lady Luck smiled upon us. A distant relative of mine died suddenly and I inherited an unexpected windfall—enough to pay off all our debt!

Flash forward to present: DH has a new job, is walking and has been declared cancer-free. It's been a wild ride and I'm still processing the roller-coaster ride my life has been for the last several months. But my lessons learned are:

• Emergency funds 3-6 months are a must. Even with full health coverage, between our deductible, co-insurance and co-pays we ate through the savings in a hurry

• Medical insurance is a big MUST. Our bills have topped $200K and growing. DH will require MRIs and CAT scans annually for 4 more years. My health plan paid 95% of our bills. At least get major medical from Insure.com. This is no joke. We're in our 40s and have been healthy all our lives. Neither of us smoke or drink and we both exercise.

• Get help if you are a caretaker. I can't believe I kept working, took care of DH, two big dogs and ran the household. I almost had a nervous breakdown. I was stressed out over medical bills, credit card bills, auto repair bills, etc. Get counseling, recruit people to “spell” your spouse/relative, run errands for you, bring food, help clean, return phone calls or e-mails to concerned friends. There's an excellent website I wish I had found back then: www.sharethecare.org.

Sorry this was so long…just hope my bust and boom story helps someone else out there!
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Wow, you're an inspiration! Thanks for sharing, and please continue to do so! (And welcome to the Fool.)

-InTheWindow
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You are so right about getting help. I think we all think we can do it all. But truth is we can't. And truth is if we try we end up being exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually, making us no good for anyone.

Thanks for sharing and much joy!
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• Medical insurance is a big MUST. Our bills have topped $200K and growing. DH will require MRIs and CAT scans annually for 4 more years. My health plan paid 95% of our bills. At least get major medical from Insure.com. This is no joke. We're in our 40s and have been healthy all our lives. Neither of us smoke or drink and we both exercise.


I wish I could rec this a thousand times.

We had a ambulance ride to the hospital. It cost $2000. I don't even know what the hospital bill is going to be yet. I have Cobra.

Jim

Blessing's unto you.
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We had a ambulance ride to the hospital. It cost $2000.

Holy Crap!

I woulda come pick you up and driven you to the hospital myself for that, even driving from TX to NJ and back afterwards.

xtn
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Then just when I was despairing over our mounting debt, Lady Luck smiled upon us. A distant relative of mine died suddenly...

I wonder if the relative feels that this was lucky. :)
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Well, you're right! :)

Ironically, this relative and I had a falling-out years ago over money(which I regret). She once told me that someday she would make up to me what I felt she owed me. Apparently she kept her word, posthumously.
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Yes, I thought it was important to get the message out about caregiving. You are 100% right...you get totally burned out and I only actually did it for 6 months. However, we had just moved to a new state and city and we didn't know a lot of people.
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God bless you!!!!

Big hugs of congratulations to you both for hanging in there, and showing, once again, what a marriage is really all about. (I'm so glad that windfall hit when it did, too.)

May your health and prosperity continue to improve.

Vermonter
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Thank you for the kind words!

A psychologist friend told me this kind of situation would have broken many a marriage and he applauded us for hanging in there. I would prefer NOT to have our relationship tested like this again, tho'! :)
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Just went through a medical scare of my own... severe pain in right side... went to E.R. they did tests, found nothing wrong... I went home... bill for E.R. was $4600. E.R. doctor, $412. Testing - $500.00. No health insurance, working only part-time because I caregive for relative. I called the service providers (their bills arrived first) to see if I could negotiate the debt. They each came down 15%, one said they will knock off 50% with a letter from the hospital - re: sliding scale payments. To the hospital's credit, as I worried over who would give my relative his pills if I needed surgery, I was given a form to fill out for sliding scale payments. Filled that out, mailed it in after I recovered from that dose of Morphine - holy cow - powerful stuff, Morphine!!! The end of the story is that the hospital totally forgave the debt, all $4600.00, now all I have to do is send copies to the other two companies and go from there. That happened on a Friday, Monday morning at 9 sharp I was at my insurance company's office and bought a major medical policy. It will only cover hospitalization and it costs 200/month. Thank god I don't have any pre-existing conditions... and I was worried sick because even though I have a separate business checking account, I was worried that they would take my relative's money because my name is on his checking account so I can pay his bills.... oh man, that would have been bad...
I went to an acupuncturist to find the source of the pain since it was still bothering me... she gave me a massage, worked me over, fixed the problem, cost me 125 bucks. My right ovary was twisted or some such... haven't had pain since.
I guess the long and the short of it is 1. try to have insurance, and 2, call the bill-senders and see if the amount can be negotiated. What have you got to lose?
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Just wanted to tell everyone that if you or someone in your family has cancer (or even renal problems) and you need to take aranesp or neulasta shots, Amgen has a great program that will supply you with shots if you meet income requirements. Their income requirements are (I think) below $60,000/year not the poverty line. One neulasta shot by itself costs about $3,000 from the pharmacy. Most people need them at least once a month when they are receiving chemo. Just ask at your oncologist's office or one of the nurse's at the infusion area. Sometimes people live very far from the infusion office and must drive the very next day to get their shot--it is more handy (and cheaper on the gas bill) to learn to give yourself (or your friend can learn) the shot so you don't have to drive all the way back in. We were just able to do this for a patient that had no health insurance and was medicaid-pending. It felt great!

The Aranesp is basically the same as epoieten, a substance needed for the formation of new red blood cells. That can often be ordered every two weeks. We give it to our hematology (anemic) patients as well as our chemo patients. Amgen is the company that makes these drugs.

LuceLu
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...Lady Luck smiled upon us. A distant relative of mine died suddenly and I inherited an unexpected windfall...

"Lady Luck smiled upon us." "relative...died."

When I think about it, that statement seems very unwholesome.

RBC
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Poor choice of words. I meant that the windfall was lucky...not my relative's death. However, this relative had been sick for a long time.
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It sounds like the real Lady Luck was your husband's recovery and new job - and his luck was having you to take care of him and everything else.
This has certainly been one of "those" years for you, too - ya'll should celebrate on Nov. 1 that the awful year is BEHIND you and move on.
The advice you shared is great.
good luck and happy health
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We had a ambulance ride to the hospital. It cost $2000.

Holy Crap!

I woulda come pick you up and driven you to the hospital myself for that, even driving from TX to NJ and back afterwards.

xtn


get this, the ride was free - volunteer, the cost was all the paramedics.

what a racket.

Jim
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