October 2011

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With medical bills and unexpected out-of-pocket costs piling up, many STICKER Tucked into the bustling hallways of the University of Wisconsin Hospital, the UW Carbone Cancer Center stands guard over one of the world's most prolific and dead- ly diseases. It's a place that patients must surely face with trepidation when they come for cancer treatments. But it also serves as a beacon of hope, where leading experts conduct cutting-edge research in search of more advanced treatments and, ultimately, a cure. Breezing in through the center's wide doors, it's almost easy to miss the office of the American Cancer Society's Patient Navigator. Situated off to the side, it doesn't seem like much. Just one room, one desk and one woman: Shannon Webb. But the idea is to catch the office on the way out, a last stop after a consultation or treatment before re-entering the outside world where the costs of cancer—physi- cally, emotionally, financially and other- wise—can cascade like an avalanche. For 56 BRAVA Magazine October 2011 those who meet with Webb, the impact is often monumental. She can't stamp out the disease or ad- dress all of a patient's concerns, but she does hold the key to dealing with a rising issue among many cancer patients—the out-of-pocket costs no one sees coming. "Too often people are struggling finan- cially and it feels like nothing can be done," explains Webb, who is both warmly sym- pathetic and eager to help. "In reality, we can always try." Medical bills aside, the shopping list for a cancer patient can get long in a hurry— from skin treatments or wig and prosthetic purchases to transportation and lodg- ing while receiving treatments. Sudden purchases often untouched by insurance plans, and almost never expected, the bur- den to pay for them can become enormous. Even for those with insurance, a nest egg or a supportive network of friends and family, navigating the complicated process of fighting the disease—and the financial obligations that accompany it—can be complex, presenting as many twists and turns as UW Hospital itself. Though a plethora of local organiza- tions offer help, area experts say many patients lose their way. "Financial assistance is the biggest unmet need," explains Jaime Nystuen, manager of the American Cancer Society Patient Service Center based in Minne- apolis that serves a region of the Midwest, including Madison. The calls for financial help come all day into Nystuen's office and, in recent years especially, have begun to follow a similar pattern. "The biggest increase came when gas went over $3 a gallon," she says, explaining how transportation costs to hospital ap- pointments have factored heavily into the out-of-pocket burden many patients must

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