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Money Matters

by Vidya Sury March 16, 2012 20 comments
Money cannot buy happiness, they say.
And I say yes, it can! Especially when your income is average and medical emergencies are the order of the day. Money is multi-lingual!
I know this is not one of my routine posts, but I just had to get this off my shapely chest.
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The last couple of weeks have been a little crazy for me. I developed a skin rash that freaked me out and no matter what I did, it got worse. I consulted a doc, but the topical cream he prescribed made it even worse. So, after procrastinating for a couple of days more, I consulted a dermatologist who put me on steroids and a thrice a day cream application for 20 days. He warned me I’d feel hungrier than usual. I didn’t. I did feel hyper-energetic though. 
It’s a good thing I do my own housework (cheapo fitness routine) – so I thought i warded off the hassle of adding extra weight. Silly me. 20 days is too short a time on steroids. Anyway – the rash got better. And I developed some big time digestion issues. And suffered severe pain. Cramps. Eeks. I continued to pretend to be normal.  Then remembered some home remedies – still on them – and feel a lot better today. Amen!
On top of this, last week, my friend phoned me in tears. She had to rush to go visit her mom (who lives in another town) and had to carry cash for hospital expenses. Cash she did not have.  And, regrettably, cash I did not have. She contemplated pledging some jewellery – but I discouraged her from doing that for obvious reasons. I hate that sort of thing. Then we called another friend and she suggested getting a quick cash advance (also called a payday loan) from a company she used frequently for emergencies. This is a quick and convenient short term “loan” to access cash when you need it. Approvals are fast, eligibility rules and procedures are usually simple. No risk, she said. We trusted her. And followed her advice. 
Turned out to be a good experience and my friend is all smiles. Her mom was admitted in hospital for a couple of days.  She phoned me as soon as she got back, with her mom back home and out of danger. She made the resolve to keep some cash in the bank for emergencies. Good girl.
A payday loan can be right for you, depending on how you plan to use it, how urgently you need it after you explore all your available options. Obviously you pay a price for the convenience but this can be well worth it if you have absolutely no other option and are confident of sticking to the repayment schedule. These loans are good for unexpected emergencies. 
Interestingly, I also came to know through this experience that quite a few friends who I thought were cash-rich use these cash advances routinely.
Now you know why money is on my mind
I am usually well-planned as far as my finances go. My lifestyle is simple. I don’t eat out often. I cook from scratch by habit. I don’t have any other major indulgences. I cannot afford to. I use my credit card only to replace cash, knowing I have the cash to pay for what I am buying. 
But fate has a way of testing finances. By sending an emergency your way. 
This sort of thing is a pain when there’s no medical insurance. Most people do not do this – and life more or less goes on nicely, until an emergency strikes. When my Mom was diagnosed with lung fibrosis, we had a tough time going through all those expensive tests and hospitalizations. Luckily we had just sold our apartment and we had cash available. We did explore medical insurance options, but nobody covers existing illnesses and there are so many conditions to meet. Moreover, we didn’t fancy paying thousands every year on the off-chance we may fall sick. Fortunately we somehow managed – from our savings, earnings, without getting into debt. Obviously we cut down on many expenses – and funnily enough, did not feel the lack of them. Both Sury and I have grown up frugally and we are fine with being minimalist. Sury believes less is best. But as I said, we cannot become frugal when it comes to medical emergencies and other life events we cannot avoid.
Oh, I’ll never forget the day when I went to the doc with a sore throat infection and severe cold. I paid his hefty consultation and proceeded to the medical store to get my prescription. And was shocked with the cost!. I even called the doctor back to confirm if he really meant the medication he wrote (silly me). And he said yes. I made the discovery that doctors have no idea of what their prescriptions cost. Grr. 
I am totally into home remedies, thanks to growing up with a clever grandmother and mother. For common ailments – I always go in for natural methods before it looks like a trip to the doc. Sigh. If only love could heal!

Another emergency
In the meantime, yet another friend called to tell me her sister in law, who was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery, has worrisome follow-up test results. She has been prescribed a medication which costs Rs.1, 75,000 per tablet. That is 2,647.61 Euros/ 2,205.72 British Pounds / 3,490.94 US Dollars.  
One tablet per month. With a 50/50 chance of it working.
What will she do? Can’t afford it. Now, besides working as a freelance writer and blogger I have a second job as member of an ethics committee (I am part of a team that evaluates protocols for human clinical trials). So – I got this brilliant idea about finding out whether there were on-going clinical trials for this particular medication. And became Dr.Google. Successfully. Made phone calls and now I have two doctors following up with me about the patient. She’s scheduled to go for a consultation tomorrow and then we’ll know what’s next. I am praying that she’s able to enrol in the trial for an opportunity to get the medication and heal. She’s only 42. 
Puts the fear of God into me, because I have a family history of breast cancer and am at risk for it. So far so good, but I can tell you that the benchpress on the boobs during the mammography is not fun. Ugh.  I am due for my routine tests in a couple of months. 
But before that, once Vidur gets his Grade 9 results and goes to Grade 10 in April, there are expenses in the form of school books, school uniforms, school fees…..the list is endless. Am grateful we’re prepared. 
Life’s lessons are amazing.
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Nea | Self Improvement Saga March 16, 2012 at 7:36 pm


Money and medical problems…rough subjects. I’m also very sorry to hear about your friend. I wish her healing in the possible way for her…whatever that may be.

Just last week, a friend of mine had a stroke at age 41. He’s one of the lucky ones who had lots of money and great insurance. Still, it was a wake up call for me. I must take better care of myself and continue learning & applying the many alternative therapies available for prevention and healing. I’ve seen so many people recover from cancer through energy healing and dietary changes that I just really feel that most illnesses are rooted in thoughts and emotions. I’m trying my best to remain “cleansed” inside so that the pain and struggles of my life don’t manifest as dis-ease in my body at some point.

Vidya Sury March 17, 2012 at 3:18 am

Absolutely right, Nea – I was tempted to add a note to self at the end of the post – but somehow – was too agitated to do it, what with the myriad phone calls . You know, we used to think that things like heart attacks only happened to the elderly and the middle-aged, basically because that is what we heard. My first shock was when I heard that a friend’s two year old daughter suffered massive cardiac arrest when she was playing, and in a few minutes, she had ceased to exist.

Self care, as you rightly said, is critical. Every morning, when I pray, the first thing I ask God, selfishly it may seem to some, is that I should be healthy – so I make take care of my folks. Better spiritual living takes us a long way towards health. 🙂 And yours is one of the blogs that helps me feel better, Nea. Thank you so much for visiting and your valuable input.

Rhia Roberts March 16, 2012 at 9:55 pm

I totally agree with you that money helps, Vidya. It may not buy happiness directly but it buys more freedom and less stress…and those, I believe, play a part in our happiness.I hope things go well with your friend.Rhia at

Vidya Sury March 17, 2012 at 3:26 am

Correct, Dr.Rhia. I’ve seen and experienced the frustration of not having enough, especially when just a little more could have made a big difference. We’re praying things work out for her. Somehow, I have a gut feeling they will. Thank you so much for stopping by, I appreciate it very much!

Terri Sonoda March 17, 2012 at 4:48 am

Hi Vidya. Sorry to hear about your friend. I hope things improve very soon.
I would like to add something to the part you wrote about payday loans. These loans have to be approached very carefully. I know many people who have been caught up in a vicious cycle of using them from payday to payday….Not what they are intended for. Unfortunately, the advertising for these loans baits the consumer, to include those who end up abusing the loan system. This is ok with the payday loan businesses because this is how they make their money. Payday loans are ok, but only in emergencies. When used properly, they have value. When abused, they can ruin a person’s financial well-being and credit.
Just wanted to put that out there.

Vidya Sury March 17, 2012 at 5:26 am

Dearest Terri – your advice is gold-plated. I have seen people use these intelligently. I have also seen people get sucked into the quicksand of these loans – because they’re so tempted with how easy it is – and keep borrowing until one day they have the collector sitting on their heads, making their lives miserable. Yes, loans must be very very carefully used. Half the time people have no idea about what the “terms and conditions” actually mean. Reading the fine print is not so sexy.

The only time we ever took a loan was mortgage on our house – which we paid off when we had some excess funds from one of Sury’s overseas assignments. I personally dread loans and avoid them.

I value your excellent input, as always – and this time, even more so. Thank you so much – hugs!

Kimberly March 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I don’t think that money can buy happiness but it can give you a sense of comfort/safety…
I’m so sorry that you are experiencing such a heck of a time with that stupid rash. Do they know how it was caused? And yes those steroids go right into the blood stream and make you want to fly out of your “shapely” chest…hee hee. I wish I had a shapely chest. Mines like two floppy raisins on a bread board.
Anyways, I slam Canada a lot for our free healthcare (which it is not. We pay for it in our taxes…which is still less than what the rest of the world pays for healthcare)…more so on the fact that we can’t get TiMELY care. We wait months and months for specialists. It’s ridiculous. But we don’t have to pay for it out of pocket when we need it in emergencies. That i am grateful for.
I’m really sorry that you’re friends going through that. i can’t imagine that it is easy going through something so scary and having to worry about bills.

I’m thinking of her and you. xoox

Harleena Singh March 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm

You are so right there Vidya!Money sure is needed and it is important nowadays, especially with the soaring prices in just about anything! But yes, it’s not something you only concentrate and run after- though you do need a fair amount of balanced stored away for a rainy day.It is indeed sad to learn all about your experiences and all that you had to undergo- and these are the times when you most need any kind of financial help, though no one is really ready to help. And you do wish you had some kind of a monetary reserve some place so that you could use that in such times of crisis.I remember the time when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and being from the service background with your financial limitations, it gets tough to gather a large amount. Nor is it an amount any one person can give, which leaves you asking for money from all over. Yes, those were trying times for us too, though somehow dad managed and got all the tests and chemotherapy done. You do need some kind of a financial reserve for sure, and I wish people realize this and start saving- as you never know when any kind of crisis strikes your family.Thanks for sharing 🙂

Galen Pearl March 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Sorry to hear about the health issues, of course, but struck by the additional problems of health care costs. There has got to be a better way in this day and age. After retiring here in the US, I was faced with getting private health insurance. Ironically, I could get myself insured at my age, but could not insure my two young adult daughters who still live with me. Both had pre-existing conditions that disqualified them although they are both very healthy!

Two years ago I was in Paris with them when one got very sick with a vicious virus. A doctor came to the hotel and spent about 45 minutes–cost @ $70. I had to go to the pharmacy to get five different medications–total cost @ $35. So about $105 total for a personal doctor visit and medication.

Compare: Last week I went to the dentist. Although I have medical insurance now, I have no dental insurance. Cost to get my teeth cleaned and X-rays –almost $300.

What’s wrong with this picture?!

Vidya Sury March 18, 2012 at 7:37 am

Dear Galen, I see what you mean. I think the biggest fear is the risk of falling sick. And for some people, that fear alone can cause sickness :-)turning them into hypochondriacs. I always dread needing to see a doctor while traveling. I can only imagine how aggravating it must have been for you! Plus the worry. Worse still, is the hassle of explaining the entire medical history when there’s a preexisting condition.

About the dental insurance – yikes! Here, in India, I don’t think we have dental insurance. On top of that, I wear eyeglasses and need to change them every six months 😀 – no insurance for those either!

This is one of the reasons I pray for world health and especially for all my friends every morning! 😀 For me, world health is a bigger issue than world peace :-).

Thanks so much for stopping by, Galen!

My Inner Chick March 17, 2012 at 9:29 pm

–Dearest Vidya,
I agree w/ some of the comments above.

Money buys “Freedom.” Period.

If I had more, I’d come see you, dear..so we could eat, discuss life & drink wine!

How far are you from London?

Is your rash gone?

XX Love.

Vidya Sury March 18, 2012 at 7:40 am

Oh, Kim, how I’d love that! Hugs! Yes, money makes a huge difference indeed. My rash appears to be disappearing, thank God. Just praying it doesn’t pop up again. No idea what caused it in the first place, but with skin issues, even stress is a factor.

Bangalore-London’s shortest direct flight is about 11 hours I think. 🙂 And US $ 1000. Sigh.

Hugs – got a gut feeling we will meet in this life, though.

Vidya Sury March 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Oh Kim! The latest update is – my friend just called to say her sister in law has been pronounced ineligible for that clinical trial. Now the only option is to get the medication at that crazy price. A government cancer hospital has been approached and they may offer the standard 30% discount – but even then – as an 18-month course – my head is spinning. And thinking about the “no guarantees that it will work” part is even more aggravating.

Sigh. Our health care system, while we don’t have concessions, does allow us to wangle our way to specialists unless they are out of the country. If the job covers medical expenses (not all of it), well and good. Otherwise we are all out in the cold.

Thank you for your kind words, Kim. They mean much to me. Incidentally – back in high school I did not have a shapely chest. I always got the male role in plays. Somewhere in my 20’s I actually began to em….develop 😀 Hugs. Love ya!

Hiten March 17, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Hi Vidya,

I really liked this post. I hope your friend gets enrolled onto the trial. The price of the medication she needs is obscene.

Truth of the matter is, money does matter. Europe for instance, is in an economic mess, and living in the UK is getting increasingly difficult. Food and petrol is very expensive. Jobs are hard to come by as well.

Overall, times are hard.

Vidya Sury March 18, 2012 at 7:45 am

Hiten, the bad news is she does not meet the inclusion criteria – which is, event though her report mentions metastasis – according to the trial’s definition, the cancer should have spread and affected another organ, which for her, has not happened. So – no scope as far as the clinical trials go. Which puts her in a bad spot. The brightest option now is to approach the government cancer hospital for the 30% discount on the medication – which still keeps it at a whopping Rs.1.25 LAKH! per month for 18 months – as that is the course. For each session, she has to admit herself in the hospital for close to nine hours because they’ll keep her in after administering the drug for observation. So frustrating.

The cost of living is scary – more so now as we see glimpses of our latest budget. Everything will get dearer, except our income 🙂 In some ways, life is unfair. Obscene is the perfect word.

Thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts. Hugs!

Hiten March 18, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Hi Vidya,

My good wishes are with the both of you. I hope your friend gets some kind of good outcome soon.

Take care,


Hiten March 18, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Hi Vidya,

My good wishes are with the both of you. I hope your friend gets some kind of good outcome soon.

Take care,


Paige | simple mindfulness March 18, 2012 at 7:05 am

And I thought the healthcare system in the US was messed up! Yes, more money can definitely make dealing with these kinds of emergencies much easier.I’m very sorry to hear that your friend’s sister-in-law isn’t eligible for the trials. I’ve heard quite a bit about people who go to foreign countries to obtain cheaper healthcare. I think they call it medical arbitrage.For the less severe issues, your knowledge of home remedies is invaluable!

Vidya Sury March 18, 2012 at 7:51 am

Indeed, Paige, I am so grateful to have grown up with home remedies.

The funny thing is – India is a major medical tourism destination. I’ve written about it in depth – and its all true. But for our own people, in some ways, life is hard.

You know, last year I was in Delhi in November attending the National Bioethics Conference (as member of an independent ethics committee that evaluates protocols for human clinical trials). The venue was the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, one of the premier hosptials and medical colleges in the country. Gosh, as we walked the route from the entrance of the hospital complex to the auditorium building where the conference was being held, we were shocked at the sea of human sickness. People were everywhere, literally camping in the couple of square feet they could occupy, eating their meagre meals from whatever they could scrounge up. There were bodies on stretchers waiting to be admitted. On one side, there was construction going on.

Scary, and very very sad. But that’s how life is – even in the smaller hospitals. More sick people than the hospital can ever accommodate. I know we hear about these things all the time, but seeing it first-hand leaves an indelible impression forever.

Thank you for coming by, Paige!

Betsy at Zen-Mama March 19, 2012 at 2:36 am

Our crazy money/health issue happened a few years ago when we decided to take my husband off the best insurance because he was always so healthy and go on something cheaper to save money. Well he had three pretty big issues happen that year, including 5 days in the hospital with pneumonia. It took several years to pay off that bill. The lesson we learned was invaluable. And now he’s back on the other insurance with the rest of us.


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