This is the roughest lesson I’ve learned in my whole life. I was cruisin’ along doing fine! I was out of college in my 30’s, new job making three times more than I EVER have, nice home, healthy kids, awesome credit–I was set for the future. I also thought I was very average middle class; turns out I had a false sense of security & an inflated sense of my own abilities. Soon I was feeling bad all the time & I scheduled an appointment with my Ob/gyn. At that appointment he check everything thoroughly and assured me it was not reproductive. That day I also scheduled with a gastroenterologist but couldn’t get in for nearly six weeks.
In the meantime I was muddling on through my day blindly, usually with a fever of 101 degrees. I went to my family Dr. and received a short course of antibiotics. I felt better temporarily but was sick again within two weeks. In another two weeks I was falling onto the couch as soon as I got home from work with a fever of 102 degrees on tylenol, and sleeping until time to go to work the next day. One evening I felt even more miserable & I went to the emergency room. After sitting there sick for hours, I finally got into a room and had a series of tests, pain medications, scans and cultures. I fell asleep on the ER stretcher and don’t wake up until 5 am, with the Dr. telling me I had an infection in my abdomen and would need to be admitted. I was so grateful they had found something to treat! Little did I know what a haul it would become.
I spent nine days in the hospital on IV steroids and multiple antibiotic therapies and was initially diagnosed with diverticulitis. I was off work for four weeks and tried to go back, but was too sick. I took off another three weeks and went back for my follow-up appointment. The Dr scheduled a colonoscopy asap and eventually found abnormal ulcers. When they were biopsied the verdict was Crohn’s disease and a whole new chapter of fun and games ensued.
I was too sick to work, had no savings but had two teenagers at home. For nearly a year my medication co-pays were approximately $1,000 a month, so I was maxing out credit cards just to live. My little bit of disability insurance wasn’t paying the bills and I had no idea what to do. I wanted to keep my home and I wanted my life back; too bad I couldn’t find a way to make it happen. Christmas came and went-we had no tree and no gifts but shared a fantastic meal. We took the time to realize we were still more blessed than most & I realized I had to come to terms with my “new” life.
After much prayer & counseling, I chose to file bankruptcy. Not the greatest thing to do but the best thing for us. Otherwise we would be homeless in just a few short weeks. Having the debt off of my shoulders was a tremendous relief, then I set about creating a budget which would allow me some flexibility if I had another set-back. Living beneath my means became my mantra & I saved every nickle I could get my hands on. The kids grudgingly pitched in (sometimes) and sometimes I had to make an executive decision and piss them off. Overall it all worked out.
Over a span of three years I had at least eight lengthy hospital admissions and was able to survive (not thrive) without financial implosion. Some of the changes I made that saved my sanity & gave me some peace of mind were:
1. I found a part-time job with decent benefits & a comparable pay scale to what I was accustomed to. That way I could volunteer to work extra when I felt well and could work the bare minimum (2 days a week) when I felt bad.
2. I found a second almost part -time job which allows me the flexibility to work from home most of the time. This was a direct answer to a prayer & fell right into my lap. Keep praying. I’ve never been let down.
3. Set up a bank account and have your main bills direct debited from the account. I’m talking about the mortgage & electric bill and whatever you consider necessary for survival. Before I set this up, my power was nearly shut off. Thank goodness my sweetie remembered it! He saved the day!
4. Also set up some sort of automatic savings, even if it’s only $5-$10 a payday. You won’t regret it.
5. Take advantage of pre-tax medical withholding if available. Each employer has a different name for it. Mine is a medical flex spending plan.
6. Stock up on extra staple groceries-a little at a time. T-paper, pasta, frozen meats, rice, quick prep. things for the kids, what ever will store well and help out. When I’m sick I can’t always get to the store so I stock up on a few extra cases of soda. My fave sicko drink is 1/2 sprite and 1/2 apricot nectar–try it! I also have a case of protein drinks (ensure or whatever is on sale), packed puddings & jello and other “smooth” foods that slide. Sorry if that’s a little graphic. I do have folks to help me, but I try to NOT ask unless I’m really strapped. Let’s face it-none of us want to be a burden or inconvenience to the ones we love.
These are some of the things that helped me make it through and I hope you can benefit. Out of adversity came a life I’ve learned to enjoy and recognize as my own.