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Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-19-2006, 09:27 AM   #1
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Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

My friend's father has cancer. He's been told it can't be cured, but they will be trying to slow it's progression down via chemo.

She tells me he gets a series of chemo treatments. Each series is something like 10 treatments...and each treatment costs $18,000!!! He's had several series of chemo treatments over the past 1 1/2 years. Wow. Fortunately for him it has all been covered by Medicare and his supplemental.

Another sad note...he is now 65 and only had one year of retirement before being diagnosed. He was extremely healthy his entire life. My friend has said, "It's not the retirement they had dreamed of." It is so sad.

This story further motivates us to work towards FIRE, and also to enjoy TODAY. It also reinforces the need for good health coverage when retired.

Things we knew, but it all hits home a little closer when something like this happens to those you care about.
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-19-2006, 09:41 AM   #2
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

Quote:
Originally Posted by simple girl

She tells me he gets a series of chemo treatments. Each series is something like 10 treatments...and each treatment costs $18,000!!!This story further motivates us to work towards FIRE, and also to enjoy TODAY. It also reinforces the need for good health coverage when retired.
Yes, it's staggering, and much of it results in prolongation of life by just a few months (with notable exceptions). Those few months can be indescribably precious for some, and awful for others. Tough calls all the time.

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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-19-2006, 09:56 AM   #3
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

My Dad was diagnosed with cancer in '98. They started him on radiation for 30 days straight, to see if they could nip it quick. However, during that time they found more cancer. They suggested chemo. He asked how much time that would buy him. They said maybe a few months, maybe a year, but the chemo would wreak havoc on his 'not-so-great' health, and could possibly even shorten his life.

He thanked the doctor for her help and treatment, and said no thanks. He enjoyed about a year of decent health 'til the big "C" took control for about 3 or 4 months 'til his final breath.

He retired at 62, passed away at 74.....so, thankfully, he had a nice time of retirement, and only a few months of lower quality of life.
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-19-2006, 10:10 AM   #4
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

It's tragedies like this that drive the point of ER home.

Coincidently, I just got a call today from a client/friend who also said he has cancer. He's an older guy, but keeps in great shape. He's lived a good life, solid family man, straight an an arrow, WWII vet. He's got more money than he could ever spend and is very generous. In short, the kind of guy you can easily admire and respect.

In our conversation today, he told me to enjoy life while I'm still young. He doesn't know about my ER plans, but he sure reinforced them today.
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-19-2006, 12:43 PM   #5
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

Quote:
Originally Posted by retire@40
It's tragedies like this that drive the point of ER home.
Agreed, but even more importantly, it drives home the point of enjoying your life in its totality. I find it sad to read stories from my fellow posters of how they hate their jobs and other aspects of their current, pre-ER, life. ER is wonderful, I just love it. But I would have never lead an unhappy life pre-ER just to expedite ER.
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-19-2006, 01:21 PM   #6
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

My sister is a good example of living life, although she was not able to ER. First diagnosis was in 1993, with breast cancer. She made the "magic" 5-year number, but 18 months later, it returned by moving to the liver. That was February of 2000. I was devastated by the news.

Fact is, my sister lived lifr fuller than anyone I know her last 6 and a half years. Her oncologist was stunned at all she did, traveling around the world, being a national caliber cycling official, etc. It was almost as if she "knew" time was precious and when she wasn't cured there was a chance it would not go away.

The last 6-8 months of her life, she didn't feel all that hot, but she hid it well. I never saw fear in her eyes the last few days of her life, just sadness. However, I am convinced she knew she did all she could to have no regrets.........

And yes, the chemo that kept her alive was WORTH EVERY PENNY!!!!
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-19-2006, 10:06 PM   #7
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

Quote:
Originally Posted by simple girl
She tells me he gets a series of chemo treatments. Each series is something like 10 treatments...and each treatment costs $18,000!!! He's had several series of chemo treatments over the past 1 1/2 years. Wow. Fortunately for him it has all been covered by Medicare and his supplemental.
Yep - my MIL's treatment was $17,000 retail per treatment. Most of that was for Avastin and Oxalyplatin (sp?). They didn't have medicare supplemental, but still after medicare some prices were knocked down and the copay ended up around $1,000 per treatment.

Fortunately they were able to apply for the grants which cover the copays for the major drugs, and so copay just ended up around a couple of hundred dollars per session.

It just totally blew our mind!!!!!!

Audrey
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-20-2006, 02:50 AM   #8
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

I wonder how much this would cost in a medical destination like Thailand or India? Would the high drug costs associated with certain kinds of chemo mean that the "discount" at such a destination is much less for something so drug-intensive?

For instance, Thai expat health insurance policies often top out at about $50K US dollars per event.

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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-20-2006, 05:48 AM   #9
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

I look at medical bills all day the days I work. The pharmacy bills are astounding to me. Not just chemo, but even all these anti-hypertensives, anti-cholesterol and anti-inflammatories everyone is taking. Then people balk if the insurance company wants them to try an older cheaper drug first instead of the latest and greatest they saw on TV. Well, how do you think they are going to pay for the advertising. One of the toughest things you see in medicine is people making that decision whether to forgo treatment or try to extend their lives, even if for a few months. The lucky ones are the people who truly understand that treatment might only buy them a few months and make an informed decision.

As far as physician fees, physicians have to borrow hundreds of thousands to pay for their schooling. I don't want to go to Thailand for my medical care. I went to a few MD's before I found a primary care as well as gynecologist I really liked. Well worth the money to me.
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-20-2006, 07:52 AM   #10
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

Quote:
Originally Posted by kramer
I wonder how much this would cost in a medical destination like Thailand or India? Would the high drug costs associated with certain kinds of chemo mean that the "discount" at such a destination is much less for something so drug-intensive?

For instance, Thai expat health insurance policies often top out at about $50K US dollars per event.

Kramer
I don't know the answer to the above questions. In the past, I have thought about medical care in Thailand as a good option. From what I understand, the care is excellent. However, when you think about having something like cancer...well, I can't imagine being that far away from my friends and family while being treated for that. Not to mention - traveling to/from the USA when that sick doesn't seem like a good option. So the option getting health care coverage in another country doesn't seem as feasible to me as it had in the past.



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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-20-2006, 08:03 AM   #11
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

I think there is some logic to seeking health care abroad in certain situations, typically high end-surgical procedures with accepted and known mortality rates, etc.

But for chemo and the like, I'd be very cautious unless all your homes, friends, and support systems are nearby. Chemo is often associated with drastic drops in blood counts 10-14 days later, with serious infection, platelet and blood transfusions, readmission for dehydration, and profound emotional challenges for many. Treatment of these complications can be tricky and sophisticated. Then you get to repeated for many cycles, in some cases.

Wow. Not for me.
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-20-2006, 08:32 AM   #12
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

Yes, I would definitely want to be near my home and family for something like chemo. For simpler things, I could see doing them overseas. I've had 8 MRI's this year, and they cost my insurance company $2,500 each. If I'd had to pay for these myself, I'd be in a deep hole. I wonder what an MRI costs in Thailand?

I also want to comment on the "live life to the fullest" philosophy. The lesson is a hard one to learn for many. Others seem born (or raised) with it. I think that having had a close call medically myself this year, it's starting to sink in for me. We all know intellectually that we could be hit by a bus or cancer at anytime. But for many, it just doesn't sink into the soul until something happens to you or someone close to you. Then you realize every day is a gift to be cherished. I consider myself lucky to have had a bad enough scare to learn that, but to still have the possibility of a long and healthy life in front of me.

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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-20-2006, 11:22 AM   #13
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

Quote:
I think that having had a close call medically myself this year, it's starting to sink in for me. But for many, it just doesn't sink into the soul until something happens to you or someone close to you. Then you realize every day is a gift to be cherished. I consider myself lucky to have had a bad enough scare to learn that, but to still have the possibility of a long and healthy life in front of me.
Sheryl, I do wish you the best in your health. I certainly agree with you on what you said. When we have health scares, it seems that ‘everything’ gets re-prioritized, and I think that this can be a profound experience for the better if we allow it to be. I hope that the joy you feel in life itself simply increases. You have been given a precious opportunity.

Quote:
I've had 8 MRI's this year, and they cost my insurance company $2,500 each. If I'd had to pay for these myself, I'd be in a deep hole. I wonder what an MRI costs in Thailand?
I just had an MRI in Chiang Mai, Thailand this year and it was only $150 or $200. It might be a bit more expensive in Bangkok. You could probably check it out online at the Bumrungrad Hospital link: http://www.bumrungrad.com/

Be well,
Akaisha
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-22-2006, 10:49 PM   #14
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

Quote:
Originally Posted by retire@40
It's tragedies like this that drive the point of ER home.

Coincidently, I just got a call today from a client/friend who also said he has cancer. He's an older guy, but keeps in great shape. He's lived a good life, solid family man, straight an an arrow, WWII vet. He's got more money than he could ever spend and is very generous. In short, the kind of guy you can easily admire and respect.

In our conversation today, he told me to enjoy life while I'm still young. He doesn't know about my ER plans, but he sure reinforced them today.
Let me add my amen and hallelujah to that. Sister died two years ago at 53 and this past summer, my dr. called me at work to tell me I had multiple myeloma, same as our dad died of. After a week of hell and thoughts of actually ending up there sooner than I had planned, drs. did more tests and bone marrow biopsy to confirm and turns out I'm ok after all.

But let me tell you, this episode has made me even more determined to FIRE at the soonest possible date and it has certainly changed my wife's thoughts. Gone are the big "wow" house and fancy kitchen in an expensive area and now she just wants a simple house and life in low-cost Alabama with me for as long as possible. Maybe it turned out ok after all - what more could I ask for?
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-29-2006, 08:25 AM   #15
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

I'm sorry to hear about your friend.

Although my family has a history of living to old age (mid-80s to mid-90s), my mother has had breast cancer - twice. Once at 49, and again at about 62. She's 69 now, going strong after the two masectemies (sp?), and should live to a ripe old age (knock on wood).

I also had a good friend about 2 years ago die at the age of 42 of a rare form of leukemia. This was a guy who was an athlete, had many many hobbies, and traveled the world. After his nine month fight ended in his passing, I vowed to take his life as an inspiration in how to reach for dreams and enjoy today while planning for the future.
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-29-2006, 11:27 AM   #16
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Billy
Sheryl, I do wish you the best in your health. I certainly agree with you on what you said. When we have health scares, it seems that ‘everything’ gets re-prioritized, and I think that this can be a profound experience for the better if we allow it to be. I hope that the joy you feel in life itself simply increases. You have been given a precious opportunity.

I just had an MRI in Chiang Mai, Thailand this year and it was only $150 or $200. It might be a bit more expensive in Bangkok. You could probably check it out online at the Bumrungrad Hospital link: http://www.bumrungrad.com/
Be well,
Akaisha
Author, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement
Very interesting Akaisha! What an amazing cost difference. Thanks for the link.
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 12-29-2006, 12:34 PM   #17
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

Last month my brother underwent a surgery for prostate cancer at the age of 59 one year after his retirement. Fortunatly it was localized and he now has to go for precautionary radiation therapy in a couple of months or so. He never had any health issues before then and we have no history of cancer in my family. My brother's surgeon told him to advise his male siblings to be checked for the disease.

His illness changed my outlook on life as I am not so unhappy about my job as before and I am not as obssessed about the need to retire early.

I agree with everyone that stated the need to live life to the fullest while planning to RE with a decent health coverage.
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 01-03-2007, 09:57 PM   #18
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

Wholesale cost of avastin is rather expensive. Its not your typical chemotherapy drug and I would wonder if you would be treated that aggressively or if they would have the drug everywhere.

I would also think that in the scheme of things the money drug companies spend in advertising is dwarfed by their research and development costs.

I also think its not really fair to put all cancers in the same group. Some cancers have high survival rates and others unfortunately dont take well to treatment. Its still a much better picture today then yrs ago.

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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs
Old 01-05-2007, 02:13 PM   #19
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Re: Wow - amazing how much chemo costs

At age 68 (retired at 62), my father is fighting stage IV colon cancer and is in pretty good spirits. As a doctor, he considers his condition to be a "chronic disease" that can be managed with chemotherapy. His first rounds of chemotherapy managed to knock things back to microscopic levels (essentially undetectable), although there were some side effects (neuropathy in his fingers and toes). Then the oncologist had the bright idea to take him completely off chemotherapy, even though his cancer was the aggressive type (it first arrived by going from non-existent to stage IV in 3 years since his previous colonoscopy). Naturally, the cancer came back, and even spread a bit more. They tried another drug combination, but it only seemed to slow the progression of the disease, rather than knock it back. So, they're trying another combination that allegedly will work better. My suggestion to him is to go back on the first drug combination (the one that worked really well), tolerate the side effects for a month or two, and then go on a prophylactic chemotherapy regimen that will simply keep the disease at bay (since curing it altogether is highly unlikely).

Drug companies are coming out with new colon cancer therapies all the time. The best colon cancer therapies didn't even exist five years ago. If he can keep the disease at bay, I'd like to think he can hold out for some of the new drugs or even outlive the cancer altogether. Overall, his quality of life is pretty good these days. He's still working as a doctor to keep his mind active, and goes on quite a few vacations in between bi-weekly chemotherapy sessions. Overall, I don't believe he's regretting much these days in terms of life experiences.
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