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Caring for Cancer by Jennifer Faherty

A few months ago, I was asked to lead a workshop on financial planning for the CancerCare Center in Ridgewood. Speaking with some of the patients and families affected by the disease, I was reminded of one of the great paradoxes of money: on the one hand, how incredibly important it is and, on the other, how little it really matters.

Where money matters the most, it seems, is in providing options and a sense of security. Not surprisingly, having savings and adequate healthcare to draw on gives choices around providers, available treatments, pain management, dependent care, and so many other things. And where one also has a more comprehensive financial plan in place, with long-term investments, estate planning and life insurance, patients and their families find some sense of comfort that they will be taken care of.

Yet, recently, I also spoke with a woman who had little savings and was relying mostly on social security and a small pension from her deceased husband. While she admitted to worrying about the future now and then, at times with a crackled voice that seemed on the verge of crying, there were also moments when she seemed incredibly content.

Although she was going to fight and do everything she possibly could to win her battle, she was accepting of whatever the future might bring, whether that was full remission or not. She has a rare peace and enviable trust that no financial plan could buy her, which allowed her to focus on the present and what was most important to her in the here and now—the health she had, her friends, her family, a new day.

A cancer diagnosis tends to magnify everything and, paradoxically, put everything into perspective. Our fears around money become extreme – will I have enough to pay for my treatments? Will my family be able to support themselves? At the same time, the waste and excess that can consume pre-diagnosis seems to fall away. Money is reserved for care, for simple things that make one’s day better, for only our most important dreams. And we remember that as important as money is, there are also some things it cannot buy.

So this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let’s recognize both ends of this paradox: the importance and urgency of our finances as well as the importance of all those things they cannot buy.

For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, check to see if you have the following essential items in place:

  • Emergency Savings (6-8 months of expenses, minimum)

  • Health Care Proxy and Living Will

  • Wills/Trusts

  • Document of passwords/accounts, etc. so loved ones can find important information if necessary

  • Updated beneficiaries on retirement accounts and life insurance policies

  • Springing Power of Attorney

~Jennifer Faherty is a Certified Life Coach, specializing in helping women find their passion and develop a healthy relationship with money. She can be found at or on Twitter @jenniferfaherty.


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