Five Steps to Manage Your Cancer Diagnosis
By Melanie Young, author of Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor’s Guide to Staying Fearless and Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer (Cedar Fort, Inc., 2013)
Photos: Courtesy of Melanie Young
Acancer diagnosis can make your head spin, but it’s important not to let your life go into a tailspin. Cancer is a journey you didn’t plan for and hope will go as smoothly as possible. To help plan for this journey, here are tips from someone who has been down that road to help you get organized from the start:
➜ Create a digital or physical binder to maintain your health and medical history, doctors’ appointments, notes from each visit and diagnostic test results. This binder of your health history should include allergies, immunizations, blood type, medications and supplements you take, health insurance information and phone numbers for your doctors, dentist, pharmacist and emergency contacts.
➜ Review your health insurance policy with your broker.
➜ Do you need a primary-care physician referral for specialists as well as for diagnostic tests? Does this require having a paper referral, or can it be digital and sent to the health-care provider’s web portal?
➜ What is each doctor’s National Provider Identifier (NPI, a unique 10-digit identification number) that your health insurance provider may request to process claims?
➜ Confirm deductibles, co-insurance, and co-payments as well as maximum allowable coverage and expenses.
➜ Confirm which services, treatments, exams and prescription drugs are covered by your insurer and which are not. This includes experimental drugs and clinical trials.
➜ Will your insurance cover a second or even third doctor’s opinion?
➜ Which services and doctors are in-network, and which are not? Do you have an out-of-network option?
➜ Ask your financial advisor or CPA to help you budget and plan for nonreimbursable medical expenses in the event you cannot work.
➜ Make a list of bank accounts, credit cards, insurance policies, mortgage(s) or other loan obligations in case you are incapacitated and need to rely on someone to pay your bills. Consider automating bill payments through your bank account to manage payments on time.
➜ Confirm spending limits with your credit-card companies and negotiate lower interest rates and expanded credit to cover medical expenses. CareCredit provides a line of credit for emergencies (www.carecredit.com).
➜ Ask one person to update friends and family on your condition. Responding to everyone’s texts, emails and calls yourself can be overwhelming. CaringBridge provides an online portal for posting updates and photos to a private group you set up (www.caringbridge.org).
➜ Assign a health-care proxy to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. You will need to fill out a proxy form, which may require notarization. Also, review power-of-attorney options with your estate lawyer to address any legal, financial or medical concerns.
For more information visit, www.melanieyoung.com. █
• SHARE provides free peer support, educational programs and a toll-free helpline for women diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer. 844.ASK.SHAR (844.275.7427)
• CancerCare helps individuals experiencing financial hardship during cancer treatment. 800.813.HOPE (800.813.4673)
• The Pink Fund provides short-term financial aid for breast-cancer patients who have lost all or part of their income during active treatment. 877.234.PINK (877.234.7465)