Cancer is tough, but you are tougher. Thanks to Walgreens and SheKnows Media for sponsoring this post.
One of the biggest things cancer has taught me is that you’re not alone. Even in the moments that feel like it. Even if you’re in isolation, separated from the ones you love the most there is an army of both familiar faces and perfect strangers there ready to help. It takes a village, they say. I’m here to tell you that your village is larger than you think.
Some of them show up without you even asking. The neighbor who lovingly demands that your husband send the whole family’s laundry to her so it’s one less thing for him to worry about. The nurses who pop their heads into your room even though you’re not their patient that day – they just genuinely want to see how you’re doing. The parents from school who organize playdates to give your kids the illusion of normalcy through a time that is anything but normal.
Then there are others who can help, you just might need to ask for it. Or know it exists. Help and support are in so many places we may not realize. In the past few months I’ve discovered diagnosis specific Facebook groups to answer the burning question of who else is like me? Who has lived through this? Most AML patients are in their 60’s and 70’s, not their 20’s and 30’s.
My daughter’s after school program director let me know that our local YMCA hosts free exercise classes for survivors. I’ve also learned that Walgreens, a place I look to for the occasional prescription, a birthday card on the fly or a road trip snack actually has a specialty pharmacy division trained specifically to help cancer patients.
When you’re battling cancer, you quickly accumulate a collection of things that were likely unfamiliar before. For me it was a PICC line, a big old box of ear loop face masks, little bottles of hand sanitizer stashed everywhere and of course, a multitude of pill bottles. Each one containing something I urgently needed to keep me going, fight off the potential of something or combat the side effects of something else.
I called the Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy line at 888-782-8443 to see what it was like. I wanted to know how long it would take me to get to an actual human? After all, one of the hardest things about cancer is waiting. You are ALWAYS waiting. Would they be knowledgeable? Could they help me figure out options for an expensive drug if my insurance didn’t cover it? How else are they helping patients like me?
After selecting the third of five easy to understand menu options I was connected to Kimberly within three rings. I gave her the drug I knew to be the most expensive of the three prescriptions I currently have, which can easily run around $400 a month if it’s not covered by insurance.
In less than a minute she was able to point me to a program to help pay for the cost of the drug if it was a hardship and told me how she could easily go through a list of prescriptions, explain insurance coverage, and help find ways to better afford medications, be it through copay cards or public programs. The Specialty Pharmacy team can even help fill out insurance paperwork, send refill reminders, monitor side effects, etc.
As someone who spent two and half hours on the phone this morning going back and forth between hospital billing and insurance billing I see the value in this. After all, cancer also teaches you that time is your most important and non-replenishable resource. Regardless of what happens in the future, or how much time we have, how we spend it matters. I’d like more trips to the park and the beach, more time to paint and play with my kids and less time dealing with red tape.
I was also happy to find that Walgreens can help women with fertility preservation treatment. I’ll never forget the moment I was sitting in the emergency room, being treated and asked if I planned on having more children. As if being diagnosed isn’t hard enough, it feels like you need to make a massive life decision in the midst of a medical crisis.
My answer at the time was no. My husband and I are thoroughly blessed to have two happy, healthy children. We planned on two, we have two. But my answer could have easily been different. And if it was, I would hope there was someone there looking to help me through that process. And it turns out there is.
Cancer is tough. But YOU are tougher than it. Especially when you have an entire village behind you. My village continues to grow each week and month that passes and for that I’m incredibly grateful.