(Springfield, MO) -- It's an unexpected expense most families never budget for: breast cancer treatment.
Even the earliest detection can cost thousands of dollars.
"When it hits you, it's just like someone punching you in the stomach," says cancer survivor Candi Pennington.
Pennington started adding up the cost for curing the deadly disease.
"You budget your utilities," she says. "You certainly aren't thinking about dining out."
It never crossed Shelly Jones' mind to start a cancer fund.
"You really don't plan on saying, 'well, I'm going to get breast cancer, so I think I'll save up for it.'"
But she too soon realized the disease attacking her physically would also challenge her financially.
"In a ball park, probably about $100,000," says Jones.
"It can become quite costly very quickly," says Laura Bowles with CoxHealth's Hulston Cancer Center.
Bowles says a typical chemo treatment costs $1,500 and that's just the start.
"They'll be off a minimum of two weeks typically. Then with the radiation therapy, you have six weeks of daily trips to the radiation center."
But Bowles says there are financial relief options, like the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks.
"Extra savings evaporates," says director Crystal Webster. "The paid time off is eaten up and their left with a big dent in their household income."
Webster says the group helps patients with non-medical needs.
"Rent, mortgage payments, utility bills, sometimes clothing for their children, or lunches for kids."
It's help that kept Candi Pennington afloat.
"They made sure I had heat, a roof over my head, my car insurance was taken care of."
And while Shelly says it's taken her years to pay off her cancer diagnosis, she recommends others focus on the physical first then the financial.
"Don't worry about that part of it just yet," says Jones. "They're not going to beat down your door for your money."
Advice from a survivor who knows what it's like to be pulled at both ends.
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