Friday, April 23, 2010

Spending my son's inheritance

Thirty minutes in the same position in the bone scan machine gives you lots of time to think. For some reason I spent that time this morning thinking about money. Not worrying about it, just reflecting on how my view of money and spending has changed recently.

My family didn’t have a lot of money growing up. After my parents split, my mom struggled to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. I repeated the same pattern in my own life, struggling to raise my son alone on a modest salary after my marriage ended.

Even in the later years when I was earning a decent wage, I continued to be careful with money. I had some catch-up to do with my RRSPs and worried about my retirement. I haven’t had credit card or other personal debt for years; I chose to buy 2nd hand cars for cash, rather a new one that would lose a chunk of it's value as I drove it off the lot. I still have a mortgage, but it’s relatively small and I live in a modest townhouse well within my means. Since going on long-term disability, my income has dropped but I am still able to live comfortably, as long as I am careful.

About a week ago I found myself in Zellers trying to justify buying a new patio umbrella and chair cushions. My old set was faded and stained, but still servicable. I had some HBC points I could put towards it and the umbrella WAS on sale… but I really didn’t NEED it.

Then it hit me: I have metastatic cancer and I’m AGONIZING over buying an umbrella set from Zellers? How crazy is that? (Especially after recently reading the 5 year survival rate for metastatic breast cancer... let's not even go there!).

My friend Vanessa (financial planner extraordinaire) is putting together an estate plan for me. After looking at the numbers I realized that what they say is true: you really are worth more dead than alive. Vanessa says that the best plan is to die broke.

I recently registered for the Conference for Advanced Breast Cancer in Philadelphia. The registration is only $75, but attending involves spending a chunk on flights and hotels. Even though I’m trying to watch what I spend, I didn’t hesitate to register and book a flight. I felt I needed to be there. Other attendees that I’ve met online have told me that they’ve received a travel grant through LBBC (and they aren’t necessarily poor). Even though there’s still money there, I was not approved because I registered before applying. It seemed unfair to me, but I’m not going to stress about it. I think it’s money well spent.

I recently got a $45 parking ticket at the cancer clinic for parking on the side street just past the parking boundaries. At first I was pissed. I felt like city is making money off the backs of cancer patients. The last time I got a parking ticket was in 1998, the day I was told I was having a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy. I spent longer that planned in my surgeon’s office, trying to convince him that he could get it all with a lumpectomy. I even drew him pictures of my breast and the incisions he could make. (He was incredibly patient with me!)

Back to the parking ticket... After I did the math, I realized that if I spread the fine out over all of the times I’ve parked on that street for chemo, blood tests, bone scans, MRIs, a biopsy, port flushes, injections, doctor’s visits, etc., it was probably pennies a visit. So I paid the fine and let it go.

As you can see, I went all "C-R-A-Z-Y" and bought the damn umbrella set.

I have a Visa card and a line of credit. I could be dangerous!

Sorry for the rather long post, but it’s funny where your mind goes when you have too much time on your hands in a bone scan machine. I’d love to hear from others about if and how your view of money and spending changed after your diagnosis.

1 comment:

Lisa Rendall said...

Hi Christine! I've been metastatic since diagnosis in the summer of 2000. Two years later I decided to use some of my RRSP's to buy a 5th wheel trailer. My husband and I planned for this to happen in our 50's or 60's, but when I was diagnosed at 35 and found out the median survival rate is 2.5 years I realized I DON'T HAVE TIME TO WAIT FOR THESE GOALS. I need to make them happen NOW. Life is too short. I worked my ass off for years putting money into RRSP's and it's fairly obvious I won't be retiring because the breast cancer will likely get me first. My feeling is that it's MY money and I want to enjoy it NOW! Luckily my husband agrees :) The only hard part was seeing the tax bill later on! I have never regretted doing that. Spend the money! We can't take it with us :)