By Adriana Ermter
In our monthly column, senior writer and editor Adriana Ermter shares her personal experiences with breast cancer.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had no idea how hard it would be. Not the surgery, I’ve had major surgery before, so I wasn’t afraid of being put under anesthetic and being operated on. Mentally, I was focused on one sole factor, survival, so my head space at the time was very clear and didn’t allow for any other emotions or thoughts. Reality, fear, anxiety, hope…that all came later.
What I hadn’t prepared for was the financial toll breast cancer would have on me. The pressure to act as if everything was normal so that maybe it could be/would be, inclusive of working because I’m single and I live alone and the absolute necessity to pay for my groceries, mortgage, medication and vet bills for my beloved cat Trixie, was real. The idea of not being able to financially take care of myself or my cat, was a heavy and ongoing ache I hadn’t prepared for. Had I known then that I didn’t have to wage this financial battle alone, I would have made very different decisions.
Why? Because having peace of mind about your finances contributes to your healing. You can sleep soundly. Not fret about what is or isn’t in the fridge. Or worry about having enough funds to take care of those who depend on you, like your children or if you’re like me, your fur children.
There are several financial support programs and resources that individuals living with breast cancer can tap into to help alleviate the financial burden associated with the disease and its treatment. Here is a list of five resources that I hope can provide you with some financial and emotional relief. Yes, breast cancer demands awareness, but from my perspective as a single woman who battled this disease on my own, this awareness needs to include the solutions and the hope financial funding can provide.
Along with free nutrition, therapy, exercise classes and more, this national organization offers a program called Money Matters to help women sort through the financial impact of having breast cancer. A case manager will connect with you over the phone, online or in person to identify your needs and next steps and to share critical information with you. It’s kind of like having a super-smart banker in your corner.
2. The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS)
A big name when it comes to cancer, this national organization provides financial assistance through their CCS Financial Support Program. The program can help cover the cost of medication, medical equipment, transportation to and from your appointments, and accommodation expenses for patients with financial need. Additionally, the CCS has the Breast Cancer Financial Support Program, which specifically assists women with the costs of breast prostheses, wigs and post-surgical garments.
Your next steps: Call 1-888-939-3333 or log onto https://cancer.ca/en/living-with-cancer/how-we-can-help. The site also has an email contact form you can access once you log on.
3. Breast Cancer Support Fund
This is one of my favourite breast cancer charities, because, as they so accurately note on their website, they “help women with breast cancer. Not someday. Today. Because the rent is due. Groceries must be bought. Hospital parking is expensive…” When people donate to this organization, the most vulnerable women with breast cancer are supported. This charity benefits women who are living in poverty and provides them with financial assistance for their basic necessities, such as food, shelter and medication—all while they’re in treatment. If this is you, reach out.
Your next steps: Fill out their online application by logging onto www.breastcancersupportfund.ca/apply-for-support
4. Employment Insurance (EI) and Sick Leave Benefits
I wish I hadn’t been so stupidly overwhelmed with having a cancer diagnosis, that I’d had the mental capacity to explore my options and discovered this option. Then maybe, I would’ve/could’ve had some reprieve from work and healed faster. So, if you are currently employed and undergoing or about to undergo breast cancer treatment, look into applying for EI sickness benefits. These benefits will provide you with income replacement during your absence from work, so that you can actually take time off from your job to focus on your treatment and your recovery.
Your next steps: Log onto https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness.html and follow the Government of Canada’s application steps.
5. Disability Tax Credit (DTC)
This is a tax credit available to Canadians with disabilities, including breast cancer treatment. Your breast cancer may qualify for this credit if your condition meets the criteria outlined by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). By claiming the DTC, you can reduce your taxable income and potentially receive a tax refund or lower your tax liability.
Your next steps: Log onto https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/segments/tax-credits-deductions-persons-disabilities/disability-tax-credit.html and follow the CRA’s application steps.
Adriana Ermter is a multi award-winning writer and editor. Her work can be read in Figure Skater Fitness, Living Luxe and IN Magazine, as well as online at 29Secrets.com, RethinkBreastCancer.ca, Popsugar.com and AmongMen.com. The former Beauty Director for FASHION and Editor-in-Chief for Salon and Childview magazines lives in Toronto with her two very spoiled rescue cats, Murphy and Olive. You can follow Adriana on Instagram @AdrianaErmter