A padlock with chains being unlocked by a key with a handicap symbol on it

''Permanently Disabled'': The Ways You Can Benefit as an MBC Patient

Being young and active, I'll admit that I cried the first time I realized I fit the criteria of "permanently disabled". Me? Permanently Disabled? I looked at my handicap placard through tears. But then I realized the freedom (yes freedom) that comes along with it. Making lemonade out of lemons, right? I decided since living with metastatic breast cancer has robbed me of so much, being declared "permanently disabled", was, ironically, a way to reclaim some of what I had lost.

Disabled parking

One of my most favorite things to do is go on nature walks and picnics. The trouble is, I have breast cancer in my lung, causing me to get out of breath very easily. Many times I have had a picnic lunch packed for a day on the trail, only to find that all the close spots are taken and we have to go home. Now with my disabled placards, I can park in a space right next to the trail and know if I get out of breath, my car is a short walk away. While cancer has taken my ability to hike like I used to, being declared permanently disabled has given me the freedom to do something that I love again. It is up to your doctor to sign the required documents from your local state Department of Driver Services.

Student loans

Did you know that if you have student loans and are a stage IV patient in active treatment, you are eligible to have your student loans deferred? You have to inform your student loan provider of your diagnosis, and they will send you the application. You can also find the document, Cancer Treatment Deferment Request. Your doctor completes it and states that you are in cancer treatment and that your treatment is not expected to end. They will have to attest to this periodically, in the event your diagnosis should change and you are able to leave active treatment.

Social security & disability

I continued to work as a teacher for six months after my stage IV diagnosis. When oral chemo failed and I began weekly IV chemotherapy, I realized I could not keep up with teaching anymore. I continued, with extreme side effects and constant stress, because I thought I had no other choice...I needed my income and insurance. Then I learned that as a stage IV patient, I was automatically qualified for SSDI. In fact, they even expedite the process. Even though my particular payment doesn't pay enough to pay the bills, I am allowed to earn up to $900/month to supplement my income. My quality of life has improved so much since I retired. For more information on applying, you can visit the Social Security Administration website. You can also work directly with a caseworker who will help you through the process step by step!

Embracing disability

By embracing my disability instead of hiding from it, I have been able to find freedom. Being Permanently Disabled is certainly not my dream scenario. I would much rather still be healthy, climbing mountain trails and changing the world in my classroom! But, I have learned to accept my life for what is now, not what it once was. I can spend days out on trails again, and don't have to worry about crippling student loan debt, or making it through an eight-hour workday with a chemo hangover. Actually, I have been able to reclaim a lot of what I lost from cancer. The day I cried looking at my handicap placards, I never thought that I would view them as a sense of empowerment, but I do. I really do.

Have you found freedom in embracing the identity of a "permanently disabled" person? Or do you have a different view entirely? Please share your thoughts with our ABC Community!

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