Photo courtesy of Marie

Financial Coaching: Free Expert Guidance Helps Couple Run Towards Recovery

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Just shy of 30, Marie was checking off all of the bucket-list items and then some. She and her husband Jeremy moved to California so she could go to graduate school. In between running, hiking, camping, skiing, and exploring the Bay Area with their dogs, Marie earned her Master of Business Administration in May of 2019, flew to southern France for a once-in-a-lifetime family trip, and promptly started her dream job when she returned.

There was just one problem: She wasn’t feeling her best self, and when she started experiencing some severe and confusing symptoms, her doctor recommended an endoscopy to find out what her body was trying to tell her. Three days before her big birthday, Marie found out she had a tumor.

“It was the start of the hardest few months of my life,” Marie said. “I never, ever thought I would be diagnosed with esophageal cancer so young and while so healthy – but it changed everything. Our world shrunk down into day-to-day survival mode, just trying to get through what would be six months of chemotherapy and major surgery.”

Marie and Jeremy had no choice but to pause on planning trips with friends, building careers, and starting a family. Instead, the worries of treatment and its side effects took over the forefront of their minds.

Marie when she was a Division 1 runner at Rice University.

Facing an uncertain financial future  

While Marie and her husband were lucky to have good insurance, savings, and support from family when she was diagnosed, their finances had already taken a hit from living on a single income during Marie’s grad school days. Before they could fully recover, both Marie and her husband had to take extended time off work due to the demands of treatment.

“It became almost impossible to think about the future or know how to plan given our work absences and the additional hit to our savings from medical expenses,” Marie explained. “We knew our financial future was at risk but we had no idea how to assess the damage.”

When a friend told Marie about Family Reach, she decided to apply for our Financial Treatment Program. One of the free services we offer is financial coaching. Developed with the Foundation for Financial Planning (FFP) and the Financial Planning Association (FPA), financial coaching pairs cancer patients with a volunteer Certified Financial Planner™ professional for free financial advice.

The service was the perfect fit for the needs and concerns Marie expressed in her application, and we didn’t waste any time introducing her to Adam, a financial coach who also lives in The Golden State.

Adding a financial expert to the care team  

Once connected with Marie and Jeremy, Adam’s first step was calling the couple to better understand their current situation. More than digging into their bank statements and outgoings, Adam wanted to learn more about them so he could create a financial plan that matched their goals, interests, and lifestyle.

“When Adam gave us a call, it was remarkable how quickly he understood,” Marie explained. “He asked us questions, took his time, and from the uncertainty I talked about, he put together next steps that felt so clear and easy.”

Our volunteer financial planners work with patients and caregivers to schedule the most convenient times to talk.

Adam walked Marie and Jeremy through materials that showed they weren’t as far off course as they had feared, and explained options like switching from a higher-fee, lower performance mutual fund to one that better suited the couple.

“I could tell Marie was already organized and engaged from our first call,” Adam said. “I developed a comprehensive financial plan to point her and Jeremy in the right direction, but I think one of the biggest things I could do was validate that they were doing the right thing financially while also encouraging them to enjoy the present – even if that meant spending a little money.”

What started as a casual, supportive conversation turned into a huge sigh of relief for Marie and Jeremy. For Adam, the goal is to help families like these realize that once they get past this struggle, they can be in a better place financially.

“I can relate to these families because I remember sifting through resources when my son went through cancer treatment,” Adam shared. “Combining my personal experience and professional knowledge, I hope to give patients like Marie the tools to save money and find efficiencies in what they’re already doing. Maybe their finances are as organized as Marie’s or maybe not – either way I want to help put the pieces of the puzzle together.”

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Looking forward to the future

In March 2020, Marie received news worth celebrating: she’s officially in remission. And while recovering from cancer is far from easy, she’s grateful for the role Family Reach played in her journey.

“With Adam’s help, we have a new, simple structure to think about our long-term finances that doesn’t feel like a burden, and that has been the biggest shift of all,” she said. “We are so incredibly grateful for Adam and Family Reach for helping to make one of cancer’s many challenges less overwhelming!”

Now that the worry of finances is off her shoulders, Marie is focused on healing.

“On my worst days, it’s helpful to remember that my body that’s feeling miserable is the same body that used to race and run fast. Even though my running looks a lot different these days (it’s mostly walking), movement outside is still one of the best parts of my day,” Marie explained. “Cancer recovery is confusing in so many ways – but I’m grateful for anything that feels familiar.”

Keep on running, Marie! We’re rooting for you.

Could financial coaching help you or someone you know? Learn more about the program here.

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Stevie Snow
Senior Creative and Brand Manager • Family Reach Team

Always walking the fine line between her right and left brain, Stevie brings her creative and strategic thinking to her role as Senior Creative and Brand Manager. Her work amplifies Family Reach’s voice and brings attention to the financial impacts of a cancer diagnosis.

Read more from Stevie

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