Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

Undaunted

We emailed, called, facebooked and messaged everyone we knew. We pounded the pavement to get attendance at our Pancakes for a Purpose event. We made signs, recruited volunteers, and we paid the venue for the event. And then we showed up and waited, and waited, and waited for people to come.

Kansas City greeted our event with a cold, drizzly stay-in-bed-and-cuddle-up kind of day. As we waited, we started to receive regretful texts from friends who simply weren’t going to be able to make it that day. My heart sank. I choked back tears. This event that I hoped would help bring us halfway to our fundraising goal simply wasn’t going to get us there. A lead weight settled in my gut. Would we even break even?

As I struggled to process that our event just wasn’t going to be the success we had hoped for, I looked around the room. It was filled with volunteers who had gotten out of bed super early to help us ensure a successful day. My family had driven four hours just to help out. They got in after 11 p.m. and were ready by 7 a.m. to serve pancakes to others.

I was wrong. This event was a success. I now know how much my family and Tim’s family supports this adoption. I know that I am so fortunate to have friends and coworkers that would drag themselves out of bed to come help out.

An hour into the event, guests started to trickle in. Former and current coworkers who wanted to say congratulations and eat some pancakes. People in my twin mommy club, ladies from my mommy group, a couple from our daycare whom we’d never even met. Even a couple of people who just heard of our event online or saw the signs and thought it was a great thing. Neighbors joined us.

We were blessed.

True, it wasn’t the sellout crowd that we had dreamed and hoped for, but people came, people ate, people wanted to be part of our journey. People care. People want Baby H to have a home with us.

And we are even closer to our fundraising goal. We knew when we started that we had a lofty goal for just five months. Three months into our fundraising and we’ve raised over $4,000. That’s an amazing amount of money. Countless people have bought cookie jars and cupcakes, attended our events or made donations. We’ve received donations from both friends and strangers of items we can sell on Craigslist to raise more money. We received an amazing gift that we can raffle off to raise more money: a three night stay at the Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach, Missouri.

People have helped us get the word out. People who don’t know us are rooting for us, cheering for us, praying for us. We couldn’t ask for more.

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Tips and Tricks

There are little things we’ve stumbled on as we navigated the waters of infertility treatments and adoption–small changes we’ve been able to do that have helped us better afford trying to have children. If you are currently trying to finance treatment or adoption, maybe some of these will be new ways that will help you as you navigate.

Get a credit card with rewards. We used Southwest Airlines since our doctor was in another state. We used the Southwest credit card for every single payment for copays, groceries, etc. Then each month we would try to pay it off in full. This allowed us to charge as much as possible to get reward points, which we then used for airline tickets and gift cards. The Southwest card also lets you turn points into gift cards, which helped us when we had to cover daycare costs for twins. We charged daycare to the card each month and used our points for rewards at Walmart and Amazon to cover groceries and baby wipes. We’ve even continued to use those rewards to help us provide gift cards to our birth mom.

Know your insurance. This applies for both infertility treatments and adoption. Call, call and call some more. Ask for everything in writing and read all of the fine print. We had bills that were denied that we had to fight to get covered. We had to challenge to get out-of-network procedures covered as in-network. Do not accept the first answer. Read, research, and reach out for assistance. My first employer had a nurse advocate program that helped us navigate many of these issues. Knowing how you are covered and fighting the good fight can save you thousands. This also applies to adoption. Know exactly how the baby will be covered when it is born. How soon will coverage kick in? What happens if the adoption is disrupted? How much will you be expected to pay? This is a major expense in an infant adoption. Know how much you need to plan for. Also, talk to the hospital about using a payment plan.

Ask for coverage. My current employer does not offer coverage for infertility treatment. They announced they were doing an insurance review and I provided this letter from Resolve to our CEO and asked for them to consider coverage. They strongly considered it. Due to our size, the insurance plans would not allow it, but my answer was not an outright “no.” Infertility treatments can take years, so it’s worth it to ask for coverage starting the next year. When I asked them to consider adoption assistance instead with this package from the Dave Thomas Foundation, they added benefits. As one of my wise coworkers has said, “’No’ is the answer you already have. ‘Yes’ is the answer you can get.” Go get it.

Consider changing jobs. Ask your fertility clinic which employers offer infertility coverage. Review the Resolve website for a list of states that mandate infertility coverage and look for employers in your industry based out of that state. Before you accept any job, ask for detailed information on exactly what is covered in the medical plan to evaluate if the benefits are comparable to what you have. Ask friends to check their benefits at their companies. If you can get $30,000 in treatment coverage or $10,000 in adoption benefits, it might be worth a job change.

Track every last penny spent. If your medical expenses and travel-related expenses for medical treatments exceed 10% of your income, you can deduct some of those expenses. (Trust me, we’ve done this three years running.) Keep track of everything. If you aren’t sure, visit your insurance website and dowload all of your expenses for the year. Call each of your doctors and ask for a statement for the entire calendar year. Track down every receipt that you can. Then add them up and see if you can deduct. This holds true for adoption expenses, as well. State laws may vary slightly on what allowable expenses are, but keep track of every penny spent, both for your court finalization, and also for a possible adoption tax credit.

Loan, withdrawal, then distribution. Ideally, you won’t have to raid your retirement. But if you do, try to do a loan first, so that you are paying that money back and will still have retirement down the line. If you’ve already used that option, look into whether or not a hardship withdrawal is an option. Ideally, you would take this in a year when you know your medical expenses will exceed 10% of your income so that the early withdrawal penalty can possibly be waived. (Read the full IRS rules around this–I’m no tax expert.) The impact of taking a distribution is much bigger and this is only an option if you quit or change jobs. Use this as a complete last resort as it will deplete your retirement.

Negotiate your bills. The only one I’ve been able to do this successfully with is our cell phone/internet. Every six months, I have a chat with my provider and see if there is a new package that will save us money. We’re pretty bare bones, so there isn’t always savings, but the initial conversation saved me $40 a month, minimum. Also, consider ditching cable if you haven’t already. Amazon, Netflix or Hulu are viable alternatives that are much cheaper.

Libraries are your friend. Prior to infertility, I spent a lot of money on books. As soon as we were diagnosed, we began getting all of our books and movies through the library to save money for treatments. Find out how to preorder items online to get new releases. Work the system to get the books and movies you want. This can save you a lot on entertainment expenses.

Compare loan options. Tim and I contacted several places that offered adoption loans, and then on a whim, we also contacted our credit union. They offered both collateralized loans (if we had anything we could use) or home equity lines of credit at cheaper interest rates than the adoption loans we had looked into. What you can qualify for on loans can vary greatly, but don’t be afraid to shop around. The same is true for medical loans. If you have a hard time getting approved, the places that advertise for adoption loans or medical loans may be your best bet, but look at at least three of them. Compare rates, compare fees and compare how long they will let you repay on the loan.

Get your home study done right away! Our biggest roadblock has been our lack of a home study in the adoption process. We could only apply for one grant because we did not have a completed home study, which is the gold standard and a requirement for almost all grants. And even though we have our home study now, we don’t qualify for most of those, because the grant must be awarded before your adoption is finalized. Our adoption is simply moving too quickly for that. Do everything you can to get the work for the home study done as quickly as possible, so that you have more time to apply for grants.

I’m sure there are a million more tips and tricks out there if you are currently navigating these waters. Share yours! I would love to hear them.

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