Beyond the Card: My Caregiver Journey with Cancer

Beyond the Card: My Caregiver Journey with Cancer

In January 2011, my husband David was diagnosed with stage four cancer. It came as a complete shock, and I had no idea where to start. Questions started to swirl through my head, “How would we pay for care? What would this diagnosis entail?” There were so many unknowns but the care I received through the process made a big difference.  It’s important to understand more than one person goes through the trauma of a dire diagnosis.

The journey with my husband started at Lemmen-Holten Cancer Pavilion in Grand Rapids, where we found out that my husband had stage 4 Mantle Cell Lymphoma, and that we needed to start taking action – immediately. So many concerns were running through my mind – how are we going to do this from a financial perspective, when do we have to start chemotherapy, what are the side effects? The questions and concerns were endless.

After six rounds of chemotherapy (which equated to six months of chemo) my husband had completed his last treatment, and we learned he then had to have a bone marrow transplant. We went to the University of Michigan and our hopes started to look up. University of Michigan did a great job with his stem cell program. During our time at U of M, I started regularly talking with a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan case manager who offered me support during the tumultuous time for our family.

carmen-btcPersonally, I had never talked to an insurance company before my husband’s diagnosis. But from the very beginning, Blue Cross called us, wanted to know how we were doing, and continually checked in to offer support. She was the first person through it all who asked me how I was doing?  I didn’t even realize what a big factor that was to consider. My nurse case manager let me know that there were services available to us, directed me to social services at University of Michigan in case I wanted help, and didn’t just pay attention to us during business hours – she also called during non-business hours at times to check in.

I didn’t know how strong I had to be for my husband and family; the stress and daily worry was a lot to manage. The conversations with the case manager offered me an opportunity to connect with someone to ensure I was receiving the support I needed in caring for my husband, receiving answers and also care for myself.

We later learned that my husband had to have a special, very expensive shot that was brand new on the market for his treatment. Again, Blue Cross reached out and talked me through the process and was there supporting me as I stood by my husband’s side. My husband finally received the shot, and they harvested 3 million of his stem cells. This meant he was now back on the path of getting a stem cell transplant, which would help him beat his cancer. And now, five years later, he is thankfully in remission. We have not had any issues, received continual care and CT scans regularly, and he’s doing great.

Looking back, I cannot imagine going through the process alone. I never knew there was a team to help you and would be there for you, but it’s important to not be afraid to pick up the phone and call (which I’ll admit, is hard to remember during your journey).

As a caregiver, I never expected to receive this type of care. For the nurse case manager to ask how I was doing and care about my journey, was something I wasn’t expecting, but completely appreciated probably more than she will know. Typically, people only think of the person diagnosed, but Blue Cross was different. Blue Cross is the only insurance company that has ever made an impact on me, and I’m thankful for them in my husband’s cancer journey.

This post is part of a storytelling series we call, “Beyond the Card.” These stories will feature Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan members, employees, and communities who are making meaningful differences throughout our state.
We invite you to follow Beyond the Card stories here at MIBluesPerspectives.com and through the hashtag, #BeyondtheCard on our social channels. If you have a story you would like to share, please feel free to contact us at stories@bcbsm.com. 

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