Last August we published a Money Diary featuring a thirty-one-year-old creative director making $87,000 a year in Chicago, IL. She spoke about having cancer in her thirties, took us through spending money while getting chemo, and bought tickets to a John Mayer concert (which we can confirm she attended). Six months later, we followed up with her to see how she is doing, how her treatment is going, and how the current state of the world has affected her.
In your Money Diary you were in the midst of chemotherapy, how has your life changed since you wrote your diary?
I had surgery in January and that was a lot. Surgery was definitely what I was most afraid of. I knew this is what would have long term repercussions. The surgery went really really well, but I was quarantined in my house for eight weeks after. I got cleared to go back to work and I made it two days before coronavirus shut us down. I was thrilled. I put on real clothes, I did my hair, I put makeup on, but now I’m right back on my couch. My doctor told me to get food on my way home and stay inside. I’m supposed to have another surgery at the end of April, if it doesn’t get canceled, and then I’ll get scans every three months for three years to make sure there’s no new growth.
Did your Money Diary change the way you think about money?
Cancer is something that has made me really good with my money and I was in the very early stages of cancer when I wrote my Money Diary. The diary was a really good problem identifier. It made me pay attention more. There was one day where I spent $15 on four chicken wings. I thought nothing of it at the time, but looking back I can learn from that and not do that again.
What’s the biggest purchase you’ve made since writing your diary?
Well, I hit my $5,000 deductible six days into the year, so that. I also bought a new couch for $1,200.
Oh, wow was that all for one treatment?
I had a couple of small bills and then my hospital system told me I had $3,500 left on my deductible so I should just pay it. I had a set of scans coming up that was going to cost more than $3,500 so I just paid it all upfront. Luckily I have good insurance so I don’t have to pay much more than copays and my premium now.
Has having cancer changed the way you handle money? How are you paying for all your treatment?
It’s crazy as a patient, you’re going through treatment, but the money part is also your responsibility. I talked to a financial advisor who has a background in insurance and cancer patients and she helped me choose the best health insurance plan. I also can’t eat out or drink or any of that right now, so if I do spend money it’s on clothes, but not often at all. I put my deductible on my credit card. My parents helped me out by paying off my credit card bill so I could avoid interest payments. I’m paying them back now, interest-free.
How has your job been through all of this?
So, I was actually supposed to start a new job the week before I found out about the cancer. The call I made to my boss to tell her I had cancer was supposed to be the call I made to quit my job. It was an insane instance of good timing. I’ve been at my agency for five years. I’ve built up clout and a good reputation so they trust me. I used to work 70-hour weeks and travel all the time for work, which I physically can’t do anymore, but they’ve been really understanding. It was hard at first to go to a job that I didn’t necessarily want to be in. Obviously I was grateful for the stability, but I wasn’t feeling invigorated at all. I had to reframe it in my head. I care about keeping myself mentally busy and this job and this work is what can do that for me right now. Oh, and I got a raise, which was great since I have to pay for cancer.
What about the day-to-day before you were quarantined? When we followed up with you at the end of 2019 you said that dating with cancer was challenging — can you talk about that?
Dating is..a mindfuck with cancer. I’ve been single the whole time I’ve had cancer. There’s a dance I have to do in my head, do I want to be upfront and honest about it or do I want to just keep it to myself and feel normal while I go through the process of online dating...I chose not to tell guys that I went on dates with about it. However, I found myself not present on dates. They would ask, ‘what’s your thing? What’s your life like?” and I would just think, “My life is cancer. It’s all I think about, it affects ever single decision. It also affects my physical ability to have sex, the side effects have really affected my vagina as well as my emotional ability to have sex. Sometimes I really wish I had a partner to go through this with, but I went off the apps when I started radiation and I haven’t been back on.
What about friendships?
I actually made a best friend on Instagram because of cancer. We were diagnosed with the same kind of cancer at the same stage in our lives within the same week. She’s been such a pillar of support for me and vice versa. I’m somebody who sees best friend as a tier not a single person and I think anybody who isn’t on that tier has fallen to the wayside, but everyone that is on that tier I’ve gotten closer with.
Is there anything else you want to share?
I did a Money Diary because I wanted to raise awareness about colorectal cancer. So, I don't know who needs to hear this right now but, GO TO THE DOCTOR. 1 in 5 colorectal cancer patients are 24-50 years old and there are 45+ new cases every day. Colorectal cancer is now the third leading cause of cancer deaths in young adults in the United States and doctors don't know why. If you have any kind of family history or are experiencing any symptoms whatsoever, please go to your doctor for a screening. When detected in its early stages, 90% of colon cancer cases are preventable, treatable, and beatable. For more information check out https://www.ccalliance.org/
This interview was edited for length and clarity.