Photos of the three featured families: Camila, Brooklyn, and Nolan

3 Parents Share Unexpected Costs of Childhood Cancer

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Before a parent can even process the heartbreaking news that their child has cancer, they often put on their caregiver hat and start carrying as much of the weight for their child as possible.

Beyond the emotional and physical toll, parents who double as caregivers also navigate the financial impacts of childhood cancer. Many take time off work to be full-time caregivers and then face growing out-of-pocket costs, such as medications, nutritious foods for healing, and extra gas for frequent trips to the care center.

In the hopes of spreading awareness and helping other caregivers feel less alone, three parents shared the costs they didn’t expect to encounter while their children faced cancer treatment.

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Camila, 6, neuroblastoma

1. The smaller items cost big for Camila’s family

During 6-year-old Camila’s first intense months of chemotherapy, her immune system was so weak she could hardly see any visitors.

“My daughter’s diagnosis broke our hearts and changed our lifestyle,” her mother, Graciela, shared. “I couldn’t leave her to go to work, care for my other children, or even go grocery shopping.”

Camila’s loving family did what they could to meet Camila’s health needs, such as diligently using hand sanitizer and wearing masks when around her. Though necessary for Camila’s safety and treatment adherence, Graciela hadn’t expected to add these items to the growing list of treatment-related costs.

On top of paying for food, gas to drive to treatment, and other medical expenses, it’s the smaller items like cleaning supplies that can push a family like Camila’s too far over budget.

Brooklyn, 3, neuroblastoma

2. Wanda is forced to make impossible choices

When 3-year-old Brooklyn was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in July 2020, his mother Wanda didn’t expect the bills to add up so quickly. The unexpected price of services like ambulances, home health, and prescription medications for young Brooklyn quickly put Wanda under significant financial stress.

Then came the tradeoffs — Wanda was forced to make sacrifices and choices she never imagined making.

“There is a lot of guilt when you leave your child at treatment because you have to go to work in order to keep providing,” Wanda shared. “Especially for single parents, it’s extremely challenging and stressful.”

And while Wanda is mindful that her son has fun experiences during this tough time, activities like swimming lessons are now out of the picture due to the high costs of treatment-related bills and everyday needs.

Thankfully, Family Reach was able to help Wanda maintain stable housing so that she could focus on paying for medical bills and other expenses. She shared that “as a single parent, it has been a challenging roller coaster but I feel so grateful for the support. We certainly need it and now I don’t feel like we are alone in this journey.”

Nolan, 9, other pediatric cancer

3. Travel expenses add up for Nolan’s family

Since 9-year-old Nolan was diagnosed with cancer, his family has no roadmap for what comes next. Financially, they’re planning from scan to scan.

“As if having cancer isn’t enough, we have to travel states away and deal with all the costs that come with traveling,” Nolan’s mom, Amanda explained. “We didn’t expect to pay so much to get Nolan to treatment.”

This travel both exacerbates the financial burden of cancer and disrupts the lives of children like Nolan and their families. These costs – financial, emotional, and social – are just as impactful as the medical side of cancer.

“If it weren’t for organizations like Family Reach, our family and many others would be in worse shape,” Amanda said. “The help and support are much needed and greatly appreciated.”

As costs of everyday living rise, you can help meet the rising needs of families facing cancer. Donate to the Rising Costs, Rising Needs campaign today.

Mary Corcoran Headshot
Mary Corcoran
Content & Storytelling Coordinator • Family Reach Team

As Communications Coordinator, Mary creates and promotes content that spreads the word about Family Reach’s mission. Mary brings her love of storytelling to her work, and a commitment to a world where socioeconomic status doesn’t determine chances of survival.

Read more from Mary Corcoran.

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