Recent studies have shown that 1 in 3 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. However, this statistic does not provide an appropriate context for cancer. While 1 in 3 may be diagnosed with some form of cancer, ALL Canadians will be affected by it.
I recently came across a study, conducted in 2010, titled, "Five-Year Action Plan to Address the Financial Hardship of cancer in Canada." While this particular study was based in Manitoba, the stories collected are relevant to all of Canada.
For the next few weeks, I will post different stories from this paper that show just how far cancer affects individuals and families; often well beyond any physical symptoms or treatments. While you read these stories, keep in mind that there are options available to reduce, or even avoid, the financial impact cancer can have.
Without further ado, here is the first story:
This is Margaret's story.
It begins with a lump on her daughter's collarbone. It ends with a life on social assistance.
When Margaret's daughter was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, both of them were professionals with good benefit programs and a stable employment outlook. Her daughter's diagnosis changed all of that. It seemed that Margaret's only option was to quit her job and care for her 17-month grandson. They had no one else to turn to.
A stem cell transplant meant her daughter would need to move to Winnipeg for at least six months. Margaret made the three hour trip from their rural home countless times so her grandson and very sick daughter could be together. As a divorced parent herself, she understood the need.
As the illness progressed, costs mounted. Margaret's savings were depleted by fuel costs, hotel stays, restaurant meals and non-covered cancer drugs. She also wanted to bestow occasional treats on a daughter and grandson who would have precious little time together.
When her daughter died at age 27, Margaret took custody of her three-year old grandson. As a grandmother, she isn't entitled to the support a foster parent would receive. And although she once had a good-paying job, those days are behind her now.
Today Margaret and her grandson live on the $1,145 per month she receives from provincial welfare. She can see how the rest of her life will unfold, and she worries about the future of her grandson. As he grows up, he misses the things most other kids in the community take for granted - including the love of his mother.