The Vicious Financial Cycle of Chronic Illness

There comes a time in the life of a person with a chronic illness when a vicious cycle begins and the consequences of their temporary or permanent inability to work due to their chronic illness is compounded by their mounting medical bills.  They get sick, so they can’t work; but they need to work, to pay for being sick.  As the chronic illness becomes more persistent, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay ahead of this cycle.  This is when the availability, or unavailability, of money and wealth becomes the sole determining factor of survival and happiness.  On second thought, survival is not so much affected because of the mitigating and temporary stop-gaps provided by medical insurance and credit cards.  However, living with the obligation to pay for these outstanding staggering and always increasing medical costs represents the “difference” between mere existence and truly living life and thus experiencing even occasional happiness.  If you do not have the money and wealth necessary to keep up with this chronic illness cycle, some look to Bankruptcy as a strategy for negating this “difference.”  But if the illness is indeed chronic in nature and/or incurable, there will always be the need for monthly credit to pay for future medications and the frequent necessary doctor visits.  However, if you declare Bankruptcy, this monthly credit will not legally be available to you and besides, what doctor will continue treating you if he or she knows that you will accumulate a significant balance and then have it extinguished through a legal proceeding such as Bankruptcy?   You are then stuck between a Rock and a Hard Place.  Welcome to my Life.  (Doesn’t it seem that there should be an option for “Medical Bill Bankruptcy” for this undoubtedly common predicament?)

Brought to my Knees by Crohn’s Disease

I am writing about this because most people are not aware of the aforementioned severe and unsolvable financial problems caused by chronic illness.  In my case, I tried to work while suffering from Crohn’s Disease and I was actually productive and successful for approximately 25 years (despite several physicians over the last few years suggesting that I apply for permanent disability) but a few years ago the vicious cycle described above took hold of me and I am now barely hanging on.  To that end, I have finally applied for Permanent Disability and am in the midst of the application process but I have serious concerns about my future.   People like me have to rely upon government assistance on a variety of levels and, while I am not blaming anyone for my fate and I am obviously not embarrassed by what I must do to survive, it nevertheless seems inherently unjust that a hard-working person, from the middle class, without family money or wealth, but with an earned law degree and MBA, can be brought to his knees by any chronic illness.

I can still “think” and write (and if you got this far I sincerely appreciate you reading my writings and being interested in what I have to say) but between Crohn’s Disease flare-ups, constant pain, unexpected hospitalizations, presently going through Chemotherapy for a rare lung condition called “BOOP” (which my doctors believe I contracted from medication I took for my Crohn’s Disease), the side effects of Chemo,  the side effects of the various Crohn’s Disease medications and the understandable emotional and mental difficulties in somehow trying to function to reach my fullest potential, it is impossible for me to be reliably productive.   In other words, there is now a “limit” to my potential and my body gives me no choice but to accept that.  Some people refer to that as “embracing” your illness but ….  It also looks like the unpredictability of my health will prevent me from forever owning a Dog which was a lifelong dream of mine.  This modest aspiration is going to be difficult to attain given the multitude of responsibilities a dog owner must be willing to shoulder which my inconsistent health and dire financial straits would seem to render virtually impossible.

 A Chronically Ill Person’s Purpose in Life

I know I am not alone in my predicament and mere words cannot convey how stressful it feels to be “attacked” or “squeezed” on all possible “human fronts” by a chronic illness such as Crohn’s Disease.  By “human fronts,” I mean the physical, emotional, mental, financial, professional and familial aspects of life.  But, writing about it is therapeutic for me and I want to bring attention to what must be a fallacy in our healthcare system as it doesn’t seem logical that my life be forever severely limited in its potential simply because I was born with a chronic illness instead of into a wealthy family.  Why should money matter when a person is victimized by a chronic illness for which they had nothing to do with in contracting?  That’s a rhetorical question as I “get it” and that’s life.  No problem.  I was dealt some rough cards which I now must master in the game of life.  Besides, there are MANY people who have it MUCH worse than I do.  My heart goes out to them.  Therefore, I assume my purpose in life is to share my experiences for the benefit of others similarly afflicted to help them or at least to let them know that they are not alone in navigating this extremely challenging human experience.  I also hope they enjoy my perspective and get “taken away” from their difficulties when they read about mine.  But, given the way things are, I’d be a fool not to also hope that my very attractive 70ish widowed Mom soon hooks up with a kind, compassionate and wealthy similarly situated single man who will help me separate the Rock from the Hard Place as therein lies a ray of hope and happiness.  After all, money matters.