Breast Cancer Survivor: Disability Insurance Helped Me Heal  

by Amy Barczy

| 3 min read

Beth Fisher-Smith
At her first job right out of college, Beth Fisher-Smith received advice from her boss she’ll never forget: “Make sure you sign up for long-term disability insurance.”
Little did she know then, long-term disability insurance would help her manage her ongoing treatments and scans for breast cancer in her 50s without having to worry. First diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, and again in 2005, Fisher-Smith has been on long-term disability from her job since 2013.
“The best thing about (being on disability) is being able to sleep in. When I feel sick, it’s morning sickness,” said Fisher-Smith, now age 56 and living in Bloomfield Township. “Having time to do yoga and walk my dog – these are things I can do for myself to make me feel better.”
After 21 years of cancer treatments, Fisher-Smith has long-term effects from the tremendous amount of radiation she’s received on her brain and from ongoing medication, including balance issues, cognitive issues, neuropathy and cardiomyopathy. She also has her body scanned for developments with her cancers every three months and is watching several lesions. 
Fisher-Smith first found a lump in her breast in 2001 and was told after a mastectomy there was a 95% chance the cancer would not return. But in 2005, a bad cough landed her in her doctor’s office again. Fisher-Smith thought it was allergies, but an X-ray revealed otherwise. 
“The office called and said, ‘We need you to come back in, and bring your husband,’” Fisher-Smith said. “I knew it right away; tears started coming down my face.”
The breast cancer had returned; and had spread to her lung, liver and brain. With targeted radiation and chemotherapy, Fisher-Smith navigated each wave of treatments. But she didn’t stop working. She’d show up each day to an office where she managed a team of people – turning to a warm Coke with no ice any time the nausea hit; sometimes wearing slippers because her feet had blistered so badly from the chemotherapy.
Her friends and family begged her to stop working. It wasn’t until her company changed its time off policies Fisher-Smith realized she needed more time to take care of her health. She had the flu at the time, and knew it was time to use her disability insurance.
“The stress of work and the stress of being sick; it was too much,” Fisher-Smith said.
Disability insurance is a policy that pays part of your income so you can pay your bills if you can’t work due to an illness or injury. Some employers offer both short-term and long-term disability policies. Short-term disability insurance helps you right away after a health event or accident, while long-term disability can give you financial protection for years. 
For Fisher-Smith, disability insurance has allowed her to put her health first without worrying about how she’ll manage her finances.
If you have questions about disability insurance, talk to your employer to see if they offer it as an employee benefit. If you’re an agent or employer interested in offering disability insurance, contact your Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan sales consultant for more information.
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