Person opening a curtain with a bankruptcy document printed on it. Behind the curtain is a scene of a beautiful sunny day and birds flying in the distance.

Bankruptcy Is Not the End of the World

There are probably some people who file for bankruptcy because they have lived a life beyond their means, so they stiff their creditors, not giving it a second thought. Probably. If any of them felt the way I felt the first time I filed, I would guess it was the last thing they wanted to do. I knew at the time how the public judged people forced into bankruptcy, in my case, people who had never had a catastrophic illness. Deadbeats. Thieves. Irresponsible. Lazy. I heard them all. Because I knew this, I ran away from filing for a little more than a year, all the while falling deeper into the financial pothole, spending countless evenings responding to calls from bill collectors. They called me at work. At home, Monday through Friday, the calls started promptly at 5 pm through 9 pm. On the weekends, they started promptly at 8 am through 9 pm. It was maddening.

Out of pocket expenses

In 2000, when I was first diagnosed with IBC, I had amazing insurance through my employer. I never had much out-of-pocket expense, and my deductible was small. Between 2000 and 2004, when I filed the first time, our carrier changed. My deductible increased and I started seeing more and more out-of-pocket expenses. Every year the premium went up and the insurer paid less and less. I started taking cash advances on my credit cards until they were all maxed out because, at that time, most docs here would not take credit cards or checks.

The fees just kept adding up

I’m an idiot when it comes to numbers; I’m an English major. I knew the interest on cash advances was higher; what I didn’t know was that credit card companies also charge a fee, sometimes a substantial fee, depending on the advance. Before I could turn around, I was some $80,000 in debt. I suffer from a borderline personality disorder, so when I finally dragged myself out of denial to contact a bankruptcy attorney, I was deeply depressed and couldn’t see a positive thought even if my life depended on it. As soon as the attorney filed, the harassing phone calls stopped. My name was in the paper. I was deeply embarrassed.

The cost of metastatic breast cancer now and then

In the last three years, I’ve had the same docs, all the same meds, and am still being treated at the cancer center. The only thing that changed is the premium and what my insurer will cover. I take 17 drugs on a daily basis. My co-pays in 2000 were $5.00. They are now $40. Office-visit co-pays were $10. Now they are $45. My oxygen used to be covered at 100%. Two years ago, I started getting $250 bills a month for the exact same oxygen. At about the same time, I started getting $200 bills from the cancer center; thank God I only go twice a year. The shot I am using is $3,200. In May, the cancer center did not request permission to inject, so I got a bill for the whole amount. I called the insurer, and I am now only (I said only) responsible for $900. That’s more than I pay for rent. My insurer won’t cover lymphedema bandagesor sleeves, and very little for PT.

Filing for my second bankruptcy

In May of 2019, I contacted the same attorney who helped me in 2004. A lot has changed in terms of the process, but in December 2019, my second bankruptcy was discharged. This time I did not worry about what people thought. With all of the turmoil of living with and fighting stage 4 breast cancer, I know most people who turn to this alternative have arrived there as a last resort. Not to stiff their creditors.

There really is life after bankruptcy.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

Have you taken our In America survey yet?