Back in the Game

August 3, 2013 at 11:44 am (Uncategorized)

Howdy folks. Been a long 10 months since my last post. Finally completed my cancer treatment and the drug and chemo haze has faded (mostly) from my head. I’ve buckled down and finished paying off my medical costs ($5,000 deductible over 2012-2013 plus $20 dr visit copays and $25 prescription copays). Surgery and recovery is over and I’m back at work full time. I’m not fully recovered, and probably won’t be for a year or two I’m told, but I’m starting to go back to some normal activities (like going out to a movie, and seeing friends). I probably won’t be able to hike much until next year – I have no conditioning, have to start up my fitness regime again, and battle excessive fatigue (I need an average of 10-11 hours of sleep a night right now).

What has changed financially for me? Well, work has been undergoing figurative earthquakes and tsunamis to which I’ve been pretty oblivious, just trying to get through daily activities and be present (barely) enough to do my job since September ’12. Then I had surgery in early April, and was out for 5 weeks. I went back to work, but started radiation daily for 7 weeks. By the end, I physically couldn’t handle being there (lookup radiation treatment/burns/recovery online if you want to know specifics). I worked from home for about 3 weeks. During this period, we went through the hugest reorg, I had a new manager, and while I was out for surgery, she was fired and everything changed, again. However, my manager, while managing to alienate 98% of the company, decided to help me out by making my position salaried. I had been avoiding this for some time, but she convinced our CEO to pay me based on my last year’s salary, including all the overtime I acquired (which I’ve found out was the most of anyone at the company…I did try, and hard!). This was to allow me to not be penalized while I did my medical treatments. She’s gone now, but thanks to her, I basically got a $3.90/hr raise. Now that I’m back, I am no longer closing the building 2 nights a week, or going in late after hours for late crews. More money, less time at work, who doesn’t love that?

My work is insane in a way a lot of professional companies could not possibly understand. However, as crazy and dysfunctional as it is, it is a family. Many of my coworkers donated vacation time to me and for quite some time, they were also donating money out of their paychecks to help with medical bills. This has helped immeasurably. I couldn’t have asked for a better work environment – supportive coworkers and management, no issues leaving for appointments, no issues being out 5 weeks for surgery, and the ability to work from home when I couldn’t handle being at work during the healing phase. Wow. I hear stories about other women that get not only don’t get support, but become endangered of losing their jobs!

So where am I at now? Well, I did take a few months off from paying down debt beyond the minimum. I was able to get a payment plan in place for Swedish Hospital and just paid that down (with no interest, who knew?) last month. August will be the first month that I don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars in medical costs. However, I have new expenses I didn’t have before this whole shebang happened.

I’ve been seeing an acupuncturist and my maximum has been reached, so any more and I pay $70/visit. I’m going to go twice a month. It’s helped me a lot so far, and while it is difficult to see real concrete improvements, I do know it has helped with a lot of side effects and my naturopath strongly recommends that I continue treatments. I’m also considering seeing a physical therapist to help with mobility and strength training after a mastectomy (getting my right breast completely amputated). But the largest expense is seeing a Naturopath. Out of this whole cancer treatment, I’ve wanted to help prevent this EVER happening again. How to do that? Well, diet change and exercise and improving nutrients in my body to help fight off future cancers (since I’ve shown that I’m susceptible). Actually seeing a naturopath isn’t all that expensive. It’s like a dr visit – covered by insurance with a copay. What is expensive are the supplements they have you take. I’m taking things to help reduce inflammation and fight cancer (turmeric, green tea, mushroom extract, vitamin D), things to help with my long-term side effects of chemotherapy which will last for a year or two longer, plus a few other things. Right now, I’m taking 12 pills a day. These are not chemical drugs and thus not covered by insurance and totally out of pocket. I’m not completely sure yet, but this will be $1500-$2000 per year, and I’ll need to take them for at least 4-5 years (when I’m most at risk for recurrence of the cancer they treated; after that, if it hasn’t come back they consider it gone or “cured”). So, yes, this is expensive, but it’s an investment in my health. After the last year, it’s an expense I’m more than willing to pay.

Ok, now to talk about my food intake. I’ve greatly changed my diet after seeing the naturopath. As I had expected, I’m eating a mostly vegan diet – TONS of fresh fruits and veggies, lots of plant based proteins (beans/legumes/tofu), and minimal amounts of red meat. They recommend deep water ocean fish. I love salmon, but at $25-$30/lb, it’s a bit pricey!! I’m also strongly encouraged to eat organic as much as possible. Not only because chemicals are nasty nasty things, but organic produce is 30% more nutritious compared to commercially-grown foods. I’ve bucked up and started buying organic as much as I can. When I do eat meat, I try and buy pasture-raised meats and those without hormones and antibiotics. I also joined a CSA and have gotten huge amounts of organic fruits and veggies (and even some cheese and butter!) each week. My food budget has gone up exponentially, as you can imagine. But again, this is an investment in my health. I’m now spending about $500+ per month on food as an individual. That’s buying mostly fresh, organic, unpackaged, bulk foods and organic/natural meats and fresh-caught wild fish. On the upside, I haven’t been going out much, so my restaurant spending is less than $200/month. Either way, food has become much more expensive for my budget.

So what about my budget? Well, I’ll save that for another post. I will say that I am paying the minimum on my car payment, $253/month with 1.75 years to go on my loan. My only other debt is my SBA loan. I’m paying that as aggressively as I can manage. I have automatic payment set up for $325 every paycheck (for $650/month), and add extra if I am able ($50 here, $15 there, it all adds up!). I have calculated that I’ll have the SBA loan paid off by May 2014 and my car fully paid off by August 2014. Provided there’s no other big bumps in the road.



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