Younger breast cancer patients have medical and financial challenges

First comes the shock of the diagnosis. Then comes the financial insult.

Molly MacDonald, founder and executive director of The Pink Fund, knows — firsthand — how a serious illness can wreck your financial life. In 2006, MacDonald established the nonprofit, which provides short-term financial assistance during breast cancer treatment, because of the financial fallout she experienced after being diagnosed with an early-stage breast cancer in 2005.

At the time, MacDonald had no savings and no job. Her COBRA insurance plan through a previous employer cost $1,300 a month and, based on her most recent tax returns, she didn’t qualify for any federal or state aid. “We were underwater very quickly,” MacDonald said. Her house went into foreclosure, but she was able to rescue it.

She worked with creditors, received a patchwork of support services and worked out a three-year payment plan with her medical providers. She depended on a local food bank to feed her family. And when she recovered, she decided she wanted to help others so they wouldn’t have to struggle as she had.

In 2016-17, The Pink Fund provided $671,000 in financial aid.

The nonprofit also wants to better understand how breast cancer impacts a patient’s overall finances. Breast Cancer Awareness Month shines a light on the disease, but the finances of treatment often go under the radar.

According to the fund’s recent study, which surveyed 1,000 patients online in July, younger women suffer even more than other generations because of the financial toll of breast cancer.

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