How Ovarian Cancer Flips Our Financial, Family, & Personal Lives

How Ovarian Cancer Flips Our Financial, Family, & Personal Lives

May 02, 2024

Cancer of any kind casts a long shadow over the lives of patients and their loved ones by placing incredible stress on financial, personal, and logistical topics. Around 19,680 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year, and another 12,740 are expected to pass on. 

I’m not presenting these numbers to frighten those already trying to manage this challenging diagnosis. Rather, I want to provide stark evidence that this issue requires our full attention. 

The risk of ending up with ovarian cancer is about 1 in 87 women. Even if you live in a small town, you probably know of or have a close personal connection to a strong woman dealing with this diagnosis. 

This topic is personal to me as I know loved ones waiting to hear if ovarian cancer will be a reality in the near future. So, I wanted to take a moment and discuss what this means for each of us, how it impacts our lives, and the crucial planning we must do to ensure everything is taken care of properly. At Meyers Financial Services Inc. we can help give us a call. 

What is Ovarian Cancer? 

Cancer works by causing some abnormal cells inside our bodies to grow out of control. Instead of being manageable and destroyed by our internal systems, these cells begin to multiply rapidly so that our bodies cannot respond and systems begin shutting down. 

When abnormal cancer cells originate in the ovaries near the fallopian tube and peritoneum, it is known as ovarian cancer. This form of cancer affects people assigned female at birth (AFAB) and is slightly more commonly found in POC communities than in Caucasian populations. Most of the time, you’ll go to the doctor when you experience common symptoms like: 

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain like bloating
  • Loss of appetite or bowel changes
  • Vaginal discharge or abnormal bleeding
  • An increase in the size of your abdomen
  • Frequent urination 

Those who are over the age of 60 or on the heavier side of the scale are likely to be at higher risk. The same is true for anyone with a family history of ovarian cancer through inherited genes (BRCA1 or BRCA2). 

What About Treatment? 

To diagnose ovarian cancer in women, you’ll usually go to your healthcare provider and discuss your symptoms before or after a pelvic exam. That is when they may look for enlarged organs or abnormal growths. This is also when they may schedule an ultrasound, MRI, CT, or PET scan. 

Once diagnosed, you will be given a stage of ovarian cancer. These are: 

  • Stage I: The cancer is only in the ovary or one fallopian tube, but grows rapidly and may be found just outside of the ovaries inside the peritoneal cavity.
  • Stage II: The cancer has spread to your uterus or the nearby structures around your pelvis.
  • Stage III: The cancer is spreading into your abdomen or within the lymph nodes and may be measurable up to 2 centimeters or more.
  • Stage IV: The most dangerous stage where the cancer has spread to many organs throughout your body, including near your lungs or the lymph nodes in your chest or groin. 

To manage ovarian cancer, women need immediate treatment. Finding help for this treatment comes in a variety of methods. The goal is to remove as much, if not all, of the cancer from your body. 

Most often, this will involve some sort of targeted treatment via prescription medications so the cancer cells cannot continue to multiply. Hormone therapy may also help to block or slow the cancer progression. 

If neither of those work, it is time for surgery to remove the cancer (usually via laparotomy, which is a small incision or surgery on the abdomen), chemotherapy to target and kill any cancerous cells, and radiation therapy.

The Emotional and Physical Toll 

The overall five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is about 49%. However, the earlier it is diagnosed, the better that percentage. Needless to say, a positive diagnosis is not a good time. 

The treatments for ovarian cancer in women will take a massive toll on your body. We’ve all seen ER dramas and medical shows that show patients struggling with hair loss from chemotherapy and the side effects of radiation treatment. 

What many don’t discuss is the emotional toll of fear of the unknown. When you’re diagnosed with cancer, your anxiety levels will naturally heighten. Depression and the constant worry about what may or may not happen and how that will affect your family are only natural, but need to be handled with care so the mind-body connection isn’t further harmed. 

In the end, you have an emotional rollercoaster that covers everything from shock from diagnosis to sadness, anger, frustration, and more. We must do more to help women during this darkest moment, so they feel supported and not alone. 

Financial Impact on Women's Lives 

At Meyers Financial Services, we do receive clients with positive cancer diagnoses from time to time. Managing cancer is not a cheap situation in the United States. There are frequent visits to the healthcare provider you work with, specialists, medications, other therapies, and so much more. 

If you do not adopt a plan of some sort early on, you can find your insurance running out or being dropped completely without a way to pay for treatment. Add on top of that you’re going to need to take time off or sell some assets you were using for retirement, and you have a formula for financial distress. 

You’ll want to work your way through financial planning after an ovarian cancer diagnosis. That could include: 

  • Securing or pursuing additional health insurance
  • Seeking public or government programs for help
  • Working with public and nonprofit organizations
  • Copay relief programs
  • PACs (Patient Assistance Programs)
  • Fundraising
  • Personal financial planning
  • And more. 

Ovarian Cancer’s Impact on Friends & Family 

As ovarian cancer ripples throughout your personal community, you’ll quickly see many of the family and friend dynamics shift. Cancer of any form is not going to be an easy journey unless you are incredibly lucky to catch it early. 

The best way to navigate these various relationships is through communication and mutual understanding of what lies ahead. You want people to be in your corner, cheering you on through the process. 

Some good ways to strengthen support are organizing what actions you can take to not feel powerless. Of course, start with the treatment plan from your healthcare provider, then: 

  • Breathe, you can do this!
  • Find and develop a support system of friends, previous patients, family members, therapists, and support groups.
  • Get informed about your diagnosis. The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) is an excellent place to start.
  • Choose your medical team carefully based on their success rate and the way they interact with patients.
  • Make a comprehensive treatment plan based on the stage of ovarian cancer you are experiencing.
  • Take care of yourself. Get outside, do some yoga, eat well, get enough sleep. You are about to fight a battle, so equip your body as best you can.
  • Consider fertility preservation if you are on the younger side and want to ensure you can still have children some way down the road.
  • Make a financial plan that looks at all aspects of your current future needs from establishing a will to financial assistance programs. 

Talk to your loved ones throughout this entire process. Some will shy away from you during the diagnosis and treatment. This could be because they are scared or unprepared for what could happen. That is fine, but you want to keep the ones willing to battle on your behalf as close as possible. 

Early Detection and Advocacy 

The best way to combat ovarian cancer is through early detection. While you can always find support groups through Our Way Forward, it is much better to attack this issue head-on and early. 

The two most common tests you can use to detect ovarian cancer (besides a complete pelvic exam) are transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) and the CA-125 blood test. If you think for even a moment you are in danger of ovarian cancer, request an exam from your healthcare provider and bring up these screening tests as a precaution. Your insurance provider is much more willing to pay for preventative measures to find help than the treatment schedule that follows. 

If you are in the “high-risk” category of women with previous family history, obesity, or other parameters your healthcare provider can discuss, you should get checked as early as 30 to 35, with most diagnoses happening nearer the age of 60. Over two-thirds of those diagnosed are over 55 years old. 

Wrapping Up 

The personal and community-driven journey you will have with ovarian cancer is a challenge. I’m not going to sugarcoat this and tell you everything is going to be okay because it is not. Even a Stage I diagnosis will place stress on your family, friends, personal life, health, and finances. 

The best way forward is to face the challenge head-on. Get your support system into order and start addressing your mental, emotional, physical, and financial health. 

We at Meyers Financial Services can help. Our women-led team has supported clients from all stages of cancer and understands what needs to happen to better prepare you for what lies ahead. We can help navigate the many pitfalls and details that may go unnoticed because your mind is focused on treatment – as it should be. 

Give us a call today, and let’s schedule a consultation. No matter what, find strength. You can do this! Women like you are much stronger and more stubborn than the world gives credit. At Meyers Financial Services, we’ve got your back!