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[cancer] Field notes from Cancerland, further observations - Lakeshore
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Jay Lake
Date: 2013-01-31 06:16
Subject: [cancer] Field notes from Cancerland, further observations
Security: Public
Tags:cancer, family, friends, health, personal, publishing, videos
Taking Umbrage

A couple of days ago, I linked to the Alternate History of My Cancer video that Waterloo Productions did with me while I was recently in the hospital. I am aware this has offended some people, especially those who have lost loved ones to cancer. Still, if I can't make fun of cancer, who can? I'm losing myself to cancer, my life has been eroding around me for years. If I couldn't laugh at it, I'd already be dead. Everyone has different lines of taste, propriety and offense-taking, but I'm not going to apologize for making light of that which has already stolen half a decade of my life and is highly likely to steal what's left, permanently. This isn't a time for decorum, this is a time for spitting in cancer's eye.

Publishing

I'm starting to have conversations with publishers along the lines of, "If you die before this finishes production, how do you want us to…" Cheery as heck, but not beside the point. Chances are fair that I'll spend most of the rest of my life in treatment, which seriously impairs my ability to write. Likewise, I received a convention GoH invitation this week to which I can't respond positively, because I cannot confirm future availability with any confidence. Even if I get through this by some hook or crook, my publishing career is decidedly winding down. I'll wind it back up again, should circumstances permit, but this depresses me. Another thing cancer has stolen from me.

Life Insurance and Long Term Disability

It turns out that I can draw down from my death benefits associated with my life insurance policies. Early disbursement would allow me a lot of flexibility in settling my debts and arranging end-of-life care expenses, as well as funeral costs and so forth. Unfortunately, thanks to the magnificence of our tax laws, the same funds which are tax-free if paid to my beneficiaries are taxable income if paid to me in advance of my death. Which makes drawing down from the policies financially ridiculous. I'm now investigating whether my credit union will accept life insurance policies as collateral on a personal loan, should such become necessary.

I'm also still puzzled at the fundamental cruel illogic of long term disability benefits. First of all, virtually every LTD benefit out there, including SSI, assumes that sick people can get by on less money than well people. They only pay a reduced percentage of your income. This is a ridiculous assumption, as experience as well as common sense clearly indicate that being sick is more expensive than being healthy. Even worse, as I've commented before, my primary LTD coverage, through my employer, explicitly deducts the value of any secondary LTD benefits, such as my much smaller self-paid plan and/or SSI benefits, from their benefit. Which appears to be perfectly legal and horridly unfair at the same time.

The system is very much stacked against sick people, and the terminally ill. The time, mental energy and organizational skills required to navigate all the nonsense is overwhelming, at a time of life when people are the least prepared to deal with that. I've come to realize this is a great moral failing in our society, one that we are largely blind to, and which we make excuses for when confronted. Meanwhile, sick people fall deeper into poverty and the miles-long tangle of paperwork imposed by compliance and fraud prevention, which are strongly prioritized over helping those in actual need.

Privilege

Once again I am also confronted with the exceptional amount of privilege (in the social justice sense of that term) with which I am blessed. That, and sheer luck. Sheer luck caused my cancer to present in a relatively early stage back in 2008 (for all the good that wound up doing me). Likewise luck found my lung metastasis in 2009 was found literally by accident. But the privilege…?

Having a job I can perform the essentials of even when rather ill is huge. If I had to work on my feet or face to face with customers, I would have been unemployed most of the past three years. Instead I enjoy remarkably flexible working conditions with a very supportive manager.

Having a high-end white collar job with good benefits, and smart people managing those benefits.

Knowing how to navigate complex administrative impediments because of my socioeconomic background and education and work experience.

Having a wide circle of friends and family so that I enjoy considerable support for lifestyle issues, caring issues, and administrative/paperwork issues.

Having a wide circle of friends and fans so when financial necessity finally caught up to me in the form of the extensive out-of-pocket costs for the genomic testing, funds could be raised through the generosity of hundreds of people.

The list goes on, but basically, without sheer luck and substantial privilege, I'd be destitute or more likely dead by now. Not because of the basic healthcare issues — after all, I've survived this long — but because of the drain on personal and financial resources discussed above. I simply couldn't have afforded to stay alive if I were doing this all on my own.

Longevity

Though I haven't personally seen the stats, I'm told I've outlived 92% of my cancer cohort. Certainly my disease progression has neared the end of the treatment flow charts. I probably shouldn't be alive even now, and as discouraging as things are, I'm not exactly at death's door at the moment. I don't know what this means to me, emotionally or logically, but it seems important to take note of. And to be thankful for.

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Matthew S. Rotundo: Me with bird
User: matthewsrotundo
Date: 2013-01-31 15:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Me with bird
I'm now investigating whether my credit union will accept life insurance policies as collateral on a personal loan, should such become necessary.

If you're talking about whole life insurance--i.e., insurance with a cash value--the credit union should have no problem accepting a collateral assignment.

If it's term life insurance, it has no cash value, and so cannot be used as collateral.

Probably you knew this already, but as an insurance professional, I can't help myself.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2013-01-31 15:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Heh. Thank you. One policy is whole, the other is term. It's highly likely I'll pass away before the term life policy expires.
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Shannon Leight
User: sleightly
Date: 2013-01-31 16:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Depending on how important it is, you might consider whether you'd be willing (or able) to make the credit union a beneficiary of the policy. Don't know if that's even an option for the policies you have. Also your wife may be required to sign a form indicating she knows this is happening, since there are rules about not naming your spouse as primary beneficiary on life insurance. Not 100% sure what they are or if they're state or federal (I'm in banking, not insurance). You might be able to name the credit union and your wife as joint primary beneficiaries.

I also don't know if the credit union would accept any of this, but it's a pretty safe bet from a credit risk standpoint, since they get paid no matter what happens to you. I'm sorry, that sounds terrible, but I can't think of a less terrible way to say it. I hope I haven't offended.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2013-01-31 17:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Not offended at all. This stuff isn't easy to talk about at its best. Thank you for the advice.
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Matthew S. Rotundo: Me with bird
User: matthewsrotundo
Date: 2013-01-31 20:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Me with bird
I also don't know if the credit union would accept any of this, but it's a pretty safe bet from a credit risk standpoint, since they get paid no matter what happens to you.

It's only a safe bet from the credit union's standpoint if Jay doesn't change the beneficiary again.

Now, Jay would likely be able to execute an absolute assignment, in which he assigns all his rights under the policy--including the right to change his beneficiary--to the credit union. The credit union would then designate itself the beneficiary, and that would be that.

Not all insurance policies will allow an absolute assignment to a financial institution, however, so Jay would need to check on that. Also, an absolute assignment would obviously be a drastic measure. It would be better to put up the cash value of the policy as collateral, if you can. That way, you still control your policy.

Each person's financial situation dictates what is the best course of action, natch.
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thecoughlin
User: thecoughlin
Date: 2013-01-31 16:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
If you know how much of the advanced benefits *approximately* will be eaten by medical bills ( which if you go on LTD will clearly exceed 15% of your income and become deductible) the taxible nature of the advance on the life insurance may turn out a wash...
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2013-01-31 16:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hmm. Good point. Thank you.
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Reynardo the Red
User: reynardo
Date: 2013-01-31 16:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Crazy question that for some reason I'm sure you know the answer to - if you were to choose voluntary euthanasia, would that invalidate your life insurance?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2013-01-31 17:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oregon is one of (I think) two U.S. states where assisted suicide for terminally ill patients is legal. I have queried my insurance agent about this, just for future reference. Thanks.
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Msconduct
User: msconduct
Date: 2013-02-01 02:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I am aware this has offended some people

What?

Still, if I can't make fun of cancer, who can?...This isn't a time for decorum, this is a time for spitting in cancer's eye.

So say we all.

Although this is a journey all of us will take, I'm sure all of us readers are painfully aware that we can't take your particular one with you, much as we would like to to ease your situation. But if good thoughts and caring count at all, you are being borne up on thousands of hands.
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