Q: I have just gone through a series of treatments in my recent battle with breast cancer.

Because I was overcome with side effects of this treatment, including some emotional instability, I forgot to pay some of my bills for two months.

When I called the creditor, I was told they had already sent one of my accounts to a collection agency. I asked them if I could make arrangements to make payments. They said I could but it would have to be on their terms.

Can the creditor hold it against me if I am at least trying to make payments on each account?

A: I am sorry about your medical diagnosis, but it sounds as though you’re up for the fight and have not regained control of your life.

Unfortunately, having cancer, or some other awful disease, doesn’t give you a pass on paying your bills. You were required to make your payments, on time. Unless you are ready to make your payments in full, the creditors are in complete control of the situation, and they can hold it against you. Your credit history has likely suffered as a result of these late payments.

But making some payments is better than doing nothing. So work out a payment plan and get going.

What you might have done is called the creditors in advance to let them know what you were going through and asked for an extension of time in which to pay your bills. Or, you might have set up an auto-debit account at your bank so that your bills would be paid on time no matter what.

Long-time readers of this column know that I think paying bills electronically is a great idea. Every credit card company and many utility companies allow you to set up an auto-debit system where these bills are paid automatically.

I hope that your diagnosis is favorable and that you are on the road to recovery.

Published: Jul 7, 2007