*Modified with permission from https://familyreach.org/blog/mom-navigates-a-world-upturned-by-cancer-and-a-global-pandemic/.
As a school teacher, nanny, and adoptive parent to her 10 year old daughter Deleiyah, Pamela spent her life taking care of the people around her. But when she was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer at 51 years old, she knew she had to start redirecting some of her caring, helpful nature towards herself. As she began aggressive chemotherapy treatment, Pamela came face-to-face with a stressful situation that could impact both her health and her finances.
Before her diagnosis, Pamela had steady income from two jobs and received supplemental support from food stamps and an adoption subsidy. While she was able to make ends meet, her financial situation was not optimal, and once she was diagnosed and began treatment, it began to deteriorate. In preparation for surgery and treatment, she had to leave both jobs. Additionally, as she began to drive to the hospital several times a week for treatment, her 19-year old car began to show its age and eventually broke down. When she consulted her mechanic about repairs, he advised her to buy a “new-to-her” car as her current vehicle wasn’t worth the money to repair; however, due to her lack of income and need to use any available funds to support her daughter and pay their living expenses, Pamela couldn’t afford to buy another vehicle. With her health and finances on the line, Pamela turned to her social worker for guidance, and her social worker connected her to FFP Grantee and Financial Planning for Cancer partner, Family Reach.
After reviewing her situation, Family Reach decided she was eligible for several services within its Financial Treatment Program. First, Pamela received a grant covering 2 months of rent, which provided instant financial relief and gave her enough wiggle room in her budget to buy a more reliable car so she could continue going to treatment. Then, Pamela was paired with a pro bono Certified Financial Planner®, Charles Boulware, who began helping her to stabilize her finances.
Charles helped Pamela with a variety of financial issues. They organized her finances, examined some banking issues, and reviewed her bill payments and cash flow management. They also explored debt consolidation and reviewed her insurance. Pamela was also very concerned about the financial future of her daughter, Deleiyah. Charles was able to set up Pamela’s will with a power of attorney, and also helped her establish a trust fund for her daughter, as well as a savings account so she could hopefully purchase a car when she turns 16.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the quality of life of both Pamela and her daughter was drastically affected. Deleiyah, a 5th grader, was no longer able to attend after school activities, meet with her Girl Scout troop, or go to band practice. Pamela had to continue going to the hospital for her chemotherapy treatments. The treatments not only made her extremely tired but also by going to the hospital to receive them, Pamela was at risk for COVID-19 exposure. While a lot of precautions were being taken both by her and the hospital amid the pandemic, it made her medical situation even more stressful. Additionally, since her daughter was no longer away at school and extracurricular activities, Pamela had to find a friend who was comfortable taking care of Deleiyah when she went in for her treatment.
Despite both her serious medical condition and the global pandemic, there has been an upside for Pamela. The grant from Family Reach and the opportunity to meet with a CFP®, helped her to stabilize her financial situation before the pandemic hit. “Today, I am much better than a year ago,” she said. “Everything I’ve learned, I’ll keep it dear to my heart. I’ll keep my finances going, save money, and keep the will up to date.”
Rather than learn how to handle her money well during the pandemic, Pamela was already prepared and in a more stable financial situation. She had also already purchased a more reliable vehicle when COVID-19 hit, so she was able to continue going to the hospital for treatment and didn’t have to rely on public transport or ride shares which would have potentially exposed her to COVID-19.
“I see the glass as half full. I see myself as fortunate, compared to folks who can’t get around at all,” said Pamela. “I always thought there is a reason for my cancer, to teach my family to get closer.”
“Everything I’ve learned, I’ll keep it dear to my heart. I’ll keep my finances going, save money, and keep the will up to date.”
- Prepared for her daughter’s future by setting up a trust fund & savings account, and making sure her will included a power of attorney.
- Learned to manage cash flow, organized her finances, and consolidated her debt.
- Through a Family Reach grant and the Financial Treatment program, Pamela was able to buy a reliable car to ensure she can get to the hospital for treatment, which has proven essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.