Upon being diagnosed with cancer, my first memories past the initial shock are of a plethora of support pouring in – people close to me, people I had hardly had much contact with beforehand and people I had not had contact with in many years – all of them appeared at once to offer me their well wishes and their services, whether it be driving me to appointments, doing my shopping, offering to clean my apartment, bringing over cooked meals, etc.
It is such an over-whelming experience and nothing makes you feel more humbled than to witness the people around you bring their best selves forward to make your life a little easier. During the first couple of months, such gestures, no matter how small, meant the world to me; it was the period in between my diagnosis and the commencement of radiotherapy, in which I would undergo dental surgery and IVF treatment, so each day was filled with back-to-back appointments, giving me little time to consider much else.
It was only when I commenced radiotherapy (and therefore had only one hurdle in front of me at the time) that I started to realise my savings were nearly gone and there were still months of appointments and treatments ahead that I would need money to undertake. In a flurry of worry, I called a friend of mine whose mother sadly passed from breast cancer years earlier to ask what advice she had in relation to financial assistance. She re-assured me that there were payment options available for such events from the government and my superannuation provider, so I relaxed a bit and started casually perusing what options I had in my spare time.
It was through my first couple of days of research online and calls to various departments that I started to panic all over again – and this time the panic was certainly valid. From that date onward over the next 3 months, I endured a battle for any form of financial assistance. I feel I exhausted every possible option that was available to me – I had no idea back then that I was opening Pandora’s box of red tape and that for someone with a life-threatening illness, attaining financial help would become the most stressful element of the illness itself.
In the end I am grateful for the strong counselling support that was provided by the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, as well as my family therapist and my loving partner, as there were certainly moments when I felt all hope was lost. I want to save anyone else who is currently going through treatment (or is about to commence treatment) to learn from my mistakes and not put yourself through the same ordeal, as hind-sight is a burden at times and if I could go back in time, there are many decisions I would change in order to make this financial path of mine a less treacherous journey. Your health should always be at the forefront of your mind so if you are ever feeling overwhelmed or stressed, be sure to let those around you know what you are going through. Help is always available – you just need to ask for it sometimes!