Second Opinion features interviews and perspectives from our partners in the cancer community. This week we talked with Jeannine Walston. Jeannine is a cancer survivor, writer, advocate, consultant, cancer coach, and speaker. After reading her article entitled “New Results About Cancer Related Financial Problems” in CURE Today magazine, we were excited to connect with her and learn more about her work. She has been through a tremendous amount (cancer diagnosis at age 24, three awake brain surgeries, and lots of different treatments), and has channeled her experiences into volunteering, working, and consulting in the cancer community for many years. She now focuses her business on conventional cancer treatments and integrative cancer care for the whole person. Jeannine has an educational website and has authored articles elsewhere. We’re excited to have her on our blog today!
The Samfund: Why did you decide to write about cancer-related financial problems in CURE?
Jeannine: I was reading ASCO Daily News during the ASCO Annual Meeting in 2015, and I saw their study about increased risk of death from intense financial distress. I felt inspired to write an article. This problem is real and must be fixed. Overwhelming costs for cancer patients should not happen. Our problems must be addressed because the costs are more than many people can handle.
Cancer patients should not deal with financial chaos. Some cancer patients go into bankruptcy, and others do not get treatments since they cannot afford them. Money problems also increase stress, which can support cancer growth. Appropriate changes in the system—and support to cancer patients—are essential. The cancer community—including oncologists, nurses, cancer patients, advocates, and others—must be proactive and find solutions to reduce certain cancer costs.
TS: How did you come to focus on integrative cancer care?
J: After brain surgery, I felt confused and conflicted in many ways. I definitely needed help. I started using acupuncture, herbs, supplements, craniosacral work, continuing chiropractic care, a massage upon occasion, support groups, and other strategies. Yet I was only scratching the surface. When I was told about my recurrence in February 2004 (a tumor had been missed for 4 years by my neuro-oncologist despite regular MRI scans and appointments), I ultimately learned about and utilized integrative cancer care for the whole person.
TS: What does integrative cancer care entail for patients?
J: Integrative cancer care for the whole person includes the body, mind, and spirit, including social and environmental health, to improve quality of life, cancer survival, and cancer prevention. It includes the entire physical body, mind-body connection, spiritual vitality, social support, and a cleaner environment.
Depending on the knowledge, location, research, and costs, integrative cancer care strategies and teams can certainly vary. To start, self-care strategies can offer major benefits, including better quality sleep, stress reduction, exercise, healthy foods, spices, and herbs, a focus on mind-body wellness that includes feelings, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, actions, and the ego, self-love, spiritual connections, support from family and friends, and much more.
Additionally, an integrative cancer care team may include a nutritionist, integrative cancer doctor, functional medicine doctor, naturopath, Chinese Medicine expert, acupuncturist, herbal expert, supplements expert, osteopath, chiropractor, chiropractor neurologist, social worker, psychologist, wellness classes, events, retreats, and other doctors, providers, and experiences to help optimal health and healing.
TS: What do you know about integrative cancer care costs for patients? Are there resources offering support to help address these costs?
J: Many integrative cancer treatments are only partially or not at all covered by health insurance. Thankfully, there are specific ways to find support.
With some conventional and integrative doctors and providers, cancer patients can ask if they can do a sliding scale to lower prices. Being honest is important—at any stage of the cancer journey— and patients should mention any financial issues they have. Caregivers can do the same and inquire about a healthcare cost reduction.
Another strategy is to fundraise. Cancer patients will receive support and feel connected in community. [See what Sam had to say about crowd-funding for cancer treatment costs.]
Some pharmaceutical and biotech companies also provide help in offering treatments, namely for free through accepted applications or reduced costs.
Furthermore, there are non-profits providing financial assistance, some that are generally focused on cancer and others that provide support for people with specific types of cancer.
TS: Do you want to share anything else?
J: Cancer is not easy, but fortunately there are many sources to provide support. That certainly includes The Samfund, and I want to convey my profound appreciation for what you do supporting young adult cancer survivors. You help those in need, and I commend your work.