Cancer is F’n Expensive

Who knew that cancer could cost so much?  Do you have a bank account specifically designed to get you through a cancer diagnosis?  I certainly didn’t.  I had minimal savings and was living like a typical thirty year old.  We were buying a crib, stroller and deciding on whether or not we would use cloth or disposable diapers.  I wasn’t trying to figure out how I would afford $350 biweekly hyperthermia treatments or how I would manage the cost of supplements and organic food.  I just wanted to be a dad and move forward in my career.  I wanted to travel and give my kids all that they desired.  Isn’t that how most thirty year olds live?

Believe it or not, a couple weeks before I was diagnosed I turned down critical life insurance that would have paid me $100,000 to deal with these costs.  I said no because I figured I was healthy and not the person who gets diagnosed with cancer.  Boy was I wrong.

I hate stressing about finances and for the most part I never had to.  Raised in a small town with parents who made good money I never longed for much.  I played all the sports I wanted and my tuition was paid for.  My biggest financial stress was whether or not I could afford to go out on a Friday night with my friends.  First world problems.

I’m not going to say I’m in financial ruin but without the help of friends and family, we would be in a much worse situation.  I would have been forced to make tough decisions that I wasn’t prepared to make.  I feel I’m still here because of everything I was fortunate enough to obtain.  I got the support and help I needed because of the people who cared about me.

I am blessed and I realize that.  Last week a friend from highschool contacted me to say she was going to run a marathon on my behalf.  I haven’t really kept in touch with her but we live in the same city and have a similar network of friends.  Her father was recently diagnosed with esophageal cancer and he fought a tough fight.  He is now cancer free but it took a toll on the family.  My friend (we’ll call her Vivian) realized how traumatic this experience can be and now wants to help others. It triggered something in her.  She get’s it.  She’s no different from me wanting to help the many young families out there struggling with this illness.  She recognized the financial burden and decided to take action.  I love her for that and will be forever grateful.

Cancer costs are extreme and for the many who are not as fortunate as I to have disability insurance, it can be dramatically worse.  I met a woman in Florida who had to continue working through her chemo treatments despite the horrible side effects.  She had no choice.  She was single and had no family support.  When her treatments were finished and it was determined that they didn’t work, she reached out to her siblings for support.  They refused claiming that the alternative treatments she was now seeking were nothing more than a waste of money.  She wasn’t able to pursue the path she wanted.  She has since passed away.  A very difficult loss for me.

When my cancer returned in 2012 I went off on disability and in a matter of months my income was reduced to 70%.  This would have been manageable if it weren’t for the fact that my wife was in the middle of fighting a wrongful dismissal case.  She later won but it has been difficult for her to find work in her field.  She was also in the middle of a mat leave and wasn’t supposed to be worrying about money.  We had just purchased a new house in Toronto with a relatively large mortgage.  On two salaries it was feasible but not on less than one.  Think about all of the families out there who have single incomes.  What happens when the breadwinner falls sick?  Do you think any of them are saving for a situation like this?  I don’t.

My expenses piled up because I chose to explore alternative treatments.  At that time there were no options for me conventionally that proved worthwhile.  I did everything I could from naturopathic treatments, acupuncture, supplements, diet and lifestyle change, energy healing, psychologists, etc.  All of this comes at a price and at one point I was spending more than $1000 per week.  I am not the only one out there doing these treatments and some are doing much more than I.  When someone tells you that there is a therapy or treatment that could be beneficial, it’s not easy to let money be the deciding factor.  We all know you can’t take the money with you when you die.

So this is my new passion.  I believe that I was put on this earth to do something important.  I can’t see anything more positive than this.  I want to help families like mine who are struggling to keep their heads above water.  If the stress of the cancer isn’t enough add on the financial turmoil and it becomes a shit storm.  I want families to be able to focus on what’s truly important to them; enjoying life no matter how much might be left.  I want them to be able to remove some of this financial stress and focus on their healing.  I want them to be able to spend time with their families, afford the organic food, spend time on a beach and anything else that is important to them.  The Ten Percent Promise was created for this reason alone.  It’s about helping others and paying it forward.  We believe that we can make a difference in the lives of young families fighting this brave fight.  You can be part of this by purchasing an article of clothing from our shop.  10% of all sales will go to helping these families I speak of.

I have said this time and time again.  Big cancer charities are great and are definitely needed.  A cure can make all of this go away.  But how long have we been searching for this cure and how much money have we thrown at it.  There are many cancer patients out there today that won’t see the cure.  This is hard for me to say but it’s true.  And what are we doing for these people?  They have needs and there is a lot that we can do to better their lives.  Give that some thought and the next time you want to make a donation consider the costs of cancer and how that impacts a family like mine.

If this resonates with you and you believe in this mission, please share this page.  It is one of the easiest ways for us to build momentum and it would mean the world to us.

In health,


  1. Kath says:

    I so hear you! My cancer required us to file for bankruptcy , and lose all of our retirement savings. Even in Canada – there are expenses that are not covered! Everything you listed plus any home care, home modifications, etc.
    What you are doing is amazing and I am honored to be following you on your journey!
    Wishing you all the best!

    • MarkNewman says:

      Thank you Kath! You have been a big supporter of ours and we love what you are doing. Bankruptcy would likely have been our path as well if it weren’t for all of the support we received. I don’t think everyone truly understands the financial impact of cancer.

  2. Donna says:

    Our family has been shown the cost that cancer forces people to endure. It is through you sharing your story that I pray people will be touched and want to reach out to others in the same situation. Thank you for sharing but more for your caring of others.

    • MarkNewman says:

      I also would love to see people in our situation supported in more ways than one. It is a long and difficult road but with the help of others it can be a little less rocky.

  3. Meena says:

    We empathize with you Mark. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and have chosen to heal myself with the Gerson Therapy and other alternative modalities. Every single cent we have spent is out of pocket. We live in Canada. Nothing but routine tests are covered. I was on disability which would not cover any medical costs but a portion of my salary. It has been challenging but I am grateful for my husband and family to help us through this journey. My hope is others will reach out and help someone living with cancer in ways that have been expressed rather than donating to a charity.

    Thank-you for sharing your story and your compassion. Bless you.

    • MarkNewman says:

      Hi Meena. First of all I respect what you are trying to do. I considered doing Gerson a few years ago but the truth is I know that I wouldn’t last. It is a very demanding protocol and I had to be honest with myself. I pray that it is working for you. You are also very fortunate to have the support of family and friends. Without them I don’t think I could have made it this far. All the best to you and your health.

      With love,

  4. Daniella Barsotti says:

    Thank you for saying what I say everyday about Critical Illness Insurance. I am a financial advisor… my planning for my clients I insist on people getting Critical Illness Insurance. Cancer costs can drain your finances?

    • MarkNewman says:

      They can do more than drain your finances. They can take you into bankruptcy. Critical illness insurance sure would have helped me in the early years of my diagnosis.

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