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The Voice of People With Breast Cancer

your path to accessing financial resources


Planning Tips

How to Plan

Step 1 – Understanding Your Situation

Once you have met with the oncologist and have a better understanding your treatment plan, it can be helpful to make of list of the things you will need to consider during your treatment.  This can include changes in pay (and when they will occur), bills that need to be paid (and when they are due), and costs that may increase.  Making this type of list can lessen feelings of being overwhelmed and identify things you need to work on.  Click here for a sample checklist of things to consider.

Checking your insurance

One of your first steps is to determine what types of insurance you have access to and what each policy covers.  There are different types of insurance – some provide a supplementary income when you can’t work, some cover bank & debt payments, while others provide coverage of health and drug items you might need during your treatment.  You may have access to different types of insurance through your employee benefit plan, or through a plan you took out on your own.

This is how you can check to see what types of insurance you may have:

  • Look at your latest paystub to see if there are deductions for insurance items like Long Term Disability, Critical Illness Insurance, or Health Benefits
  • Read any employee manuals or (if you are a student) handbooks you were given
  • Check to see if you have an insurance card
  • Speak to your Human Resources department, your manager, or financial advisor
  • Call your bank, loan agency, car company or credit card company to see if you took out any insurance on your mortgage/loan/credit card payments
  • Check your bank statements to see if you have any annual or monthly payments to an insurance
Speak to your employer, program, or school (if appropriate)

The decision to disclose your cancer diagnosis to your employer or school is entirely up to you.  Discrimination by an employer based on illness is illegal in Canada.  However, if you think you will need to take time off or need some job/study flexibility, it is a good idea to speak to your employer or school about your situation.  It can also be helpful so a decline in job performance isn’t misunderstood.  If you are part of a work or student union, it is good to have a conversation with the local union office ahead of this meeting to understand your rights under a collective agreement, or the terms of your contract.  These are some of the topics to discuss: 

  • If you need to leave work - your date of leave and how long you anticipate being off;
  • if your position can be held (if you intend to return);  
  • if any credits/seniority can be maintained;
  • if you are to continue working, if there are flexible job arrangements (e.g. work from home);
  • what your obligations are during your absence (e.g. if you have to pay more towards your insurance benefits, if you have to report in on your ability to work, etc.)
  • what benefits may be available outside of the insurance benefits outlined above (e.g. case management, nurse navigation, counseling)

For more information on what an employer is entitled to know or how the information will be treated, click here

Identify your bill payments

If you don’t already have a clear understanding of your financial obligations each month – list them.  Many of us have automatic bill payments each month that come off a credit card or our bank account and we rarely give them a second thought.  It is important to identify all financial obligations early so you can identify which can be removed or negotiated (if needed).    Listing bill payments can also be reassuring as it may show you that your situation is manageable if you need to reduce your work hours.

Speak to your bank or loan companies

If you have a credit card, mortgage, car payment, or loan, it is helpful to contact the bank or loan company to determine if you have loan insurance applied to your loan.  Many banks and finance companies now offer (or require) that you pay insurance on financing options to cover situations of illness or job loss.  Many people do not realize they have insurance on these loans as the fees are often made part of the monthly loan payments.  Your bank or loan representative will be able to identify if this insurance is in place and the process for making a claim.

Identify possible extra household costs

It can be helpful to identify possible increases in your usual day-to-day bills that could occur from participating in cancer treatment.  Will you need to hire extra child care, eldercare, or pet care?  Will you have a change in the type of groceries you need to buy?   Will you need to take taxis for a while instead of the bus?

Step 2 – See What Bills Can be Negotiated (and do it)

If you anticipate that during your cancer treatment you will have difficulty making your bill payments on time (or if you find you are already behind), then consider negotiating the terms of certain bills. Most utility companies (e.g. electric, wireless, water) and credit card companies will negotiate their terms of payment based on sudden illness.  It is important to speak to these companies before you get behind in payments.  If you are not already on a budget payment system, speak to them about this option.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with your bills and feel you need more help in looking at your options, there are non-profit credit counselling resources available in most provinces.  See Credit Counselling Canada for more information.

Step 3 – Create a Budget

If you are expecting a change in income or payment of insurance, create a calendar of when these changes will take effect.  It can be difficult to be exact so get as much information as you can from your employer, insurer, or government program on when changes might occur. You can expect*:

*Estimates only – will vary based on volume, employer, insurance company policy, etc.

Once you have an idea of the income you will have that month, list the expenses you anticipate that month as well.  This will provide a clearer picture of the gaps you might have in your finances and if you may need additional help. 

If you need help with budgeting, there is help available.  The following are community options. Some cancer centres also offer their own programs, you can inquire with your local centre or navigator:



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