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Vicki’s cancer diagnosis left her in financial distress

Saturday 24 October, 2020

Vicki’s cancer diagnosis caught her completely by surprise and it quickly left her in financial trouble.

When a persistent cough hadn’t cleared, Vicki was sent for tests. Just a few days after her birthday, a PET scan confirmed the worst. She had aggressive stage 1 cancer in her lungs.

“It all happened so quickly. My head just spun. When you hear a diagnosis like that it’s true what they say. Your whole life flashes before your eyes in an instant.”

Within two weeks, Vicki was in hospital getting ready for life-saving surgery.

There’s no good time to get cancer, but the timing of Vicki’s diagnosis could barely have been worse. She’d only just moved into a new job in aged care.

As a casual worker, Vicki had no leave or sick pay, and no way to earn an income during her recovery.

“Someone brought some mail in for me and it was all bills. Electricity, gas and my car rego were all due. All my savings had already gone to paying for all the visits to the specialists.

“When those bills started piling up, I was just so scared. I’ve never been in debt in my life.”

Vicki faced financial stress after being diagnosed with an agressive cancer.

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Treatment often comes with a number of unexpected and hidden costs such as expensive medications, tests, specialist appointments and travelling for treatment. Many of these things are not covered by either Medicare or private health insurance.

Things can quickly spiral out of control and leave people in desperate financial trouble.

As she began three months of intense chemotherapy, Vicki’s financial situation continued to worsen.

“The doctors told me every time I had chest pain, I had to ring an ambulance straight away. As someone who’d just had a lung operation, that was pretty often,” she says.

“I also ended up getting a fluid build-up in the lungs, so I kept getting admitted back to hospital for that, too.”

As Vicki’s expenses continued to build up, so did her stress and anxiety levels. 

“I wasn't coping. I had no idea what to do about the whole money side of things.

Feeling totally overwhelmed and not knowing who to turn to, Vicki called Cancer Council’s 13 11 20 information and support line and was connected to our financial counsellor Antony.

She says it is one of the most important phone calls she’s ever made.

Antony was able to help Vicki work her way through her finances and access suppport.

This is a heartbreaking story. But there is hope for families who face the same situation in the future.

“When I spoke to him, I was crying on the phone. Antony was really lovely. The way he spoke to me made me feel like I was getting a hug.”

As a highly qualified and experienced financial counsellor, Antony offers expert practical advice and guidance over the phone to help patients manage the cost of their cancer.

Vicki says her 40-minute conversation with Antony was life-changing. It put her mind at ease and helped her get back on top of her finances.

“When I got off the phone with him, I had everything in perspective. I knew what I had to do and how I could get it done.”

While Vicki has a whole lot more treatment and care in front of her, at the moment she’s strong and healthy enough to be back at work and spending precious time with her grandchildren, Harley and Oliver.

Our 13 11 20 financial counselling program is funded by generous supporters like you. With the need for these vital services on the rise, your gift will help reduce the emotional and financial stress on people like Vicki, so they can focus on getting better.

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