- It pays to do research of your own. All the information I have provided in this blog is a share of my personal experience after feeling that I had to learn a lot of things the hard way! I hope that it will save someone else the headache of learning some things the hard way too, however everyone’s journey is different and you may not encounter any of the same issues. If you have your own experience to share it would be greatly appreciated – I feel there is a lot to learn from other patients who have been through similar experiences.
- Always keep a record of every meeting and phone call you have with anyone relevant to your cancer journey, e.g. medical professionals, Centrelink, financial providers etc. It may seem like you are being too cautious, but you never know when you are going to need that information. I kept the habit of carrying around with me a little A5 sized note book. It was easy to have on hand in my bag and it had important details listed, or conversation briefs re-written, in case I received a phone call whilst out and about.
- Always ensure both parties involved in every conversation 100% understands each other. Always relay back to someone you have spoken with/ had a consultation with what you have understood and either have them agree with you or have them explain again. If you are not 100% sure that both parties are on the same page, do not let it go! And keep a record of what was agreed at the end of each meeting.
- Always review forms that are filled out by others. Never assume that the doctor or consultant knows best! Do not leave their office until you are both 100% comfortable with all terminology and both of you have agreed to the contents of any signed documents. I certainly learned this the hard way when I had a doctor fill out a medical form that I needed to provide the RTA in order to be cleared to drive again… Upon arriving at the registry, the woman entering my drivers’ medical clearance pointed out to me that the medical form said I was epileptic! It was a simple mistake and I try to point out that the wrong box on the form had been accidentally ticked (“Brain cancer! Not epilepsy!”), however it had to be recorded and I had to return again with a letter from the doctor stating they had made a mistake.
- Don’t be shy to be vocal about your financial situation. Many people have a problem with how others perceive them and would rather act as though they have their situation sorted than ask for help. Don’t fall into this trap! People cannot guess that you are living under a tighter budget or that you could use their assistance with food, bills etc. At this stage, your health is priority number 1 – your pride should never get in the way of this. Let people know what is really going on for you and be willing to accept any help they may offer. If you are having trouble with this I strongly recommend seeking out help from a professional counsellor – it certainly helped me!
- Do not sign up to a small loan such as Nimble, Wallet Wizard etc. The interest rate associated with these small loans is not worth the small amount of cash they ‘guarantee’ to you.
- Do not sign up for funeral insurance immediately out of concern that your family will not be able to pay your funeral costs. There are plenty of other ways to ensure they will be provided for without signing up for an insurance scheme. The less insurance fees you need to pay the better!
- Do not sell off an asset you may not need now but will in future, such as your car or a treadmill. These might provide you with a decent sum but you may regret it in the not too distant future if you haven’t considered all situations when you may need it. Think very carefully before selling anything you own!
- Do not take one person’s opinion as gospel. It’s your body and your choice – professionals should always respect this and should assist you with seeking alternatives to consider before locking down a decision.Do not forget that this experience is all about YOU! Don’t feel pressured to just accept advice. If there is anything you are unsure of, or even if you just feel a gut instinct against what you’ve been told, don’t be afraid to look into it and let whoever you are dealing with know that you are not 100% sure or confident in their suggestions. Anyone that tries to force an immediate response from you is pushing you too hard – give yourself the time to consider what they have said, do your own research and feel confident in the decision you make.
- Do not assume forms that have been filled out by professionals are always correct. Always review every form you are given and ensure you agree with what the professional has included. Anything that doesn’t seem right or that you are a bit unsure of should be discussed before you leave their office!
- Do not favour phone calls over written correspondence. Although you may be diligent with recording the key points agreed, don’t assume that your phone call is always being recorded and can be used as a reference later. It is always better to have a paper trail to demonstrate what you agreed or planned etc.
If you are looking for some ideas to generate a little extra cash in a hurry, the following is a list of my attempts. Some were successful, others not so much – the key for me at the time was that I wanted to ensure that I really had exhausted absolutely every option I had available. At the time, I had a bit of trouble accepting help from others (luckily my therapy sessions helped me through this), so these were some ways I tried to ‘squeeze every penny’ when I was having a moment of financial panic:
- Rent out your spare room (if you have the option) or Air BnB your place whilst you with family or friends for a while
- Cash in your assets – I had some jewellery that I knew I could cash in if I ever got really strapped for cash, however most items I couldn’t part with as I knew I would never be able to sell them quickly for a price anywhere near their actual value. I contemplated putting them up for auction online, however the fluctuations of price I saw on eBay gave me cold feet. There was, however, one plain gold chain I was willing to part with, so I decided to shop around a few ‘cash for gold’ outlets around the CBD until I found one that gave the best price – and it was a decent price too! It was a pretty straight-forward and stress-free event.
I also had a few clothes that I had stashed at the back of my wardrobe that I would never wear again in my life but that I never donated because they were unique designer pieces. To this day they are still in my wardrobe, however I was tempted to put these up on eBay after seeing the prices that such items could attain.
- Find odd jobs for quick cash – (Airtasker – I had trouble with this due to lack of reviews, Fiver – generally need to have technical skills for this one, Gumtree – I had no luck finding my dream job of cat-sitting – you also need to be aware of being around animals when you’re sick so volunteering was a no go at the local cattery. Be careful when playing with other peoples’ pets). Remember that taking up a second job has tax implications so I would recommend trying to take on small tasks that are viewed more as ‘favours’ than a job.
- Try to skimp on spending – (“health-soup” recipe for desperate times, take people up on offers to cook for you/ go over to their homes rather than go out, cancel your gym membership sooner rather than later – when you’re in treatment you’ll need to avoid getting sweaty in a public place, so you’ll be out of action for several months anyway. Don’t let this deter you from exercise! Start planning ways in which you can work out from home or around a local park rather than inside a gym)