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Cancer Genetics

Chemotherapy versus Finances

04/25/2006

Question:

I have been told I have 3rd stage NHL cancer. I have begun chemo but I feel bad most of the time. Due to my company red tape I have not received any short term or long term disability benefits. Thus I have not had any income since Febuary. I can either lose my house, or return to work and discontinue chemo. My question is approximately what time frame could I expect to live without any treatment. I am not crazy just looking out for my family.

Answer:

The first thing I suggest you do is contact Human Resources at your workplace and find out what is preventing you from getting any disability benefits.  Secondly, see if the hospital where you receive your treatments has a social worker who can help you with these issues.  He or she can try working with your employer to find out what kind of benefits you qualify for, help with paperwork, and find other sources of support for you.  A social worker can also help you deal with the experience of treatment and all the feelings it can bring up.  Another important source of help is through your local social welfare agency.  You might qualify for state assistance programs.  And also see if your local office of the American Cancer Society has caseworkers or assistance programs in which you can participate.

As for your original question, the best person to discuss this with is your doctor.  He or she will bet better able to give you appropriate information about life expectancy with or without treatment.  I don't think you are crazy, but I'm guessing you are overwhelmed by the whole experience by now.  There may be quite a few options that you could consider before deciding between stopping chemo so you can work, or continuing chemo and losing your house.  Cancer treatments are challenging for nearly everyone in a number of ways.  But please try to find out more about the various resources that might helpful before you make the decision to stop treatment. 

Let friends and extended family know that you need some help.  It's not an easy thing to do, but you might be surprised at how many people are looking for opportunities to help someone who is in need.  And someday, you may be in a position to offer the same kind of help to someone else.  Most importantly, talk with someone about your fears and concerns.  If you attend a church, temple, mosque or synagogue you can talk with your clergy.  You might consider contacting the local board of mental health or welfare agency; they have counselors and social workers who might be able to help you.  This can be a lonely experience, but you don't have to go through it by yourself.

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Response by:

Duane D Culler, PhD, MS Duane D Culler, PhD, MS
Clinical Instructor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University