My Friend’s Cancer Taught Me About A Hole In Our Health System

If it was this hard for him, it’s probably unbearable for many others with fewer resources. People can be financially ruined by illness — and health insurance won’t fix that.

Last year, it’s estimated that more than 1.7 million people faced a cancer diagnosis. The year before, America spent more than $147 billion caring for people with cancer. But that doesn’t include the costs outside of health care.

This year, the National Cancer Institute will spend more than $5.7 billion on cancer research. Almost none of that will investigate how to support the families of those who have the disease.

On social media, I sought out people who had survived cancer in the last few years and asked them if they’d had similar experiences. Most said yes.

Dina Burns, a public affairs consultant from Granite Bay, Calif., learned she had Stage 2 breast cancer right before her 50th birthday. She missed four weeks of work for her operation and then two months for chemotherapy. But her support team collectively missed even more.

“My sister came up from Orange County for my surgery,” she said. “She stayed with me for almost two weeks. My daughters (one in college and one in a new post-college job) both took turns caring for me. And my husband came with me for every appointment, every hospitalization, even the trips to San Francisco to see the congenital heart defect specialist. He would sit in the recovery bay with his laptop, trying to stay on top of work and take care of me at the same time. We still had a son at home in his senior year of high school, so my husband was trying to help minimize the impact on him, too.”

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My Friend’s Cancer Taught Me About a Hole in Our Health System
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My Friend's Cancer Taught Me About a Hole in Our Health System