ABCs of INSURANCE
A – “Apple a Day”- Health Insurance
My mom and I sat at her computer to view her CT scan results. She was shaking as she logged in—awaiting to find if the cancer had returned. We opened the email. The results showed no return of the cancer! Bursting with joy, I hugged my mom.
Although her treatment of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to remove her esophagus, half her stomach and 77 lymph nodes in 2013 was successful, this was her sixth CT scan since the surgery and we feared—with a 70% recurrence rate—that the news would not be good.
We found that my mom was diagnosed with stage 3 esophageal cancer—a cancer with a 15% five-year survival rate—when I was in ninth grade. My older sister, single mom and I had never faced such a challenge. We went into overdrive to beat the odds. During the long journey, I took a week off from school to stay in ICU with her after the surgery to remove her esophagus. I helped my mom with everything from picking out wigs during chemotherapy to changing her feeding tube bags and preparing her medicine post-surgery.
As teen caregivers, my sister and I shared what we learned with others facing similar challenges. We wrote a book: “ABCs of CANCER: Tips for Teens to Help a Parent Survive.” Here’s a link to a review. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/katherine-carr/abcs-of-cancer/ We donated copies to Kids Konnected and Camp Kesem, two nonprofit organizations which have camps and support groups for teens whose parents have cancer.
We learned a lot about health insurance when we our family was facing cancer, and we wrote about insurance in our book. Some of the tips included helping a parent research online, calling member services to see exactly what coverage a parent has, keeping written records of who you talked to and what was said, and keeping organized records of documents.
If my mom didn’t have such excellent health insurance, she would have been left with a big bill for all the chemotherapy and radiation treatment she had.
B -“Better Plan Ahead”- Life Insurance
Because my mom was facing such a deadly cancer, she also reviewed her life insurance. She had term life insurance and she wasn’t sure exactly when the term was up. She had bought a 20-year plan when I was young, so it was still in place which was good. But unfortunately, when she called about increasing the amount of the life insurance or the duration of the insurance she was told she couldn’t change it because she had been diagnosed with cancer. So I think the lesson in that is that it’s a good idea to get a little more insurance or have it cover a little longer time because you never know what the future holds.
C – “Cruisin’ for a Bruisin'”- Car Insurance
My sister got her license shortly before my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Her license came in really handy when my sister had to drive my mom to radiation five days a week for five weeks, and the hospital was about an hour away. Having a good student discount allowed us to get slightly better rates for insurance. Although our mom is usually a somewhat nervous passenger, when she was drugged from the chemo and my sister drove, our mom actually fell asleep in the car sometimes. Not having to worry about car insurance I’m sure made my sister and mom more relaxed. Fortunately we haven’t had any accidents but it is reassuring to know we have a policy in place in case we need it.
D – “Daily Dose”- Long Term Care Insurance
After our mom got cancer she shopped for long term care insurance, which would have paid for her care if she couldn’t take care of herself, such as in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility. Even though she made lots of calls to many insurance brokers, she couldn’t find any company that would provide long term care insurance for her no matter how long she survived after her esophageal cancer diagnosis because it is such a deadly cancer.
Our family was aware of the cost of long term care because my grandfather was fortunate to have this type of insurance. I was six months old when my grandfather was taken by ambulance to the hospital with congestive heart failure. Although I don’t remember that night, it changed my family’s life forever because my grandfather never got well enough to move back into his home where he had been living by himself at age 76. Instead, for the next seven years he lived in a skilled nursing facility. I would visit him often with my family, and my sister and I would play in the courtyard and run around on the grass while he watched us and sat with my mother.
He was diabetic and had a lot of other problems so he couldn’t care for himself and the nurses cared for him. When I was older my mother explained to me that my grandfather had purchased long term care insurance when he was younger and it paid the full amount of about $12,000 a month for the skilled nursing facility for about seven years. That was really smart of my grandfather.
E – “Everything Under the Sun”- Umbrella Insurance
Although our family has home owner’s insurance and auto insurance, our mom is concerned that her insurance won’t be enough in case something extreme happened and we didn’t have enough insurance. That is why she also signed up for umbrella insurance which will cover any needs we have that our regular insurance doesn’t cover.
I didn’t know what umbrella insurance was and I found it best to understand it by visualizing an umbrella and thinking of the definition of a “protective force or influence” that covers lots of things.
As I set off into the world in a new environment, I have to think about the different types of insurance I can get to stay as protected and secure as possible. It’s also important for young people to know what types of insurance their parents have in case of emergency.
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