Sometimes the phrase “life or death” is not a cliché. Even more surprising than the words “you have cancer” were the words from the secretary when I tried to make a appointment for a second opinion: “You have no insurance.”
I left my job three weeks prior to my diagnosis to transition to a new workplace. COBRA would have carried my insurance through, but my former employer apparently forgot to submit the paperwork. I was 27, had a sudden pre-existing condition, and no health coverage. The government, insurance companies, my former employer – none of them were willing to pick up the tab for my cancer care.
I needed an operation to remove my thyroid and 30 tumors that were laced throughout my neck and shoulder. There were no healing candle lit baths, no journaling, no “you can fight this cancer” phone calls with friends, and no doctors visits during my first month of cancer. Instead I spent 40 hours a week on the phone with the national COBRAServe headquarters. When the phones were closed I spent my time strategizing back up plans. (Would I be able to fly to another country for care?)
I was raised in an extremely patriotic family of both democrats and republicans. The common theme was not about political parties, but about our love for a great country. But, when did this country go so wrong that I might actually die because nobody would cover me, a hardworking 20-something cancer patient?
I lied my butt off to the government and finally obtained insurance that allowed me to receive surgery. (I don’t recommend this to anyone. It was a horrible being wheeled into surgery knowing that my house of insurance cards could tumble at any minute.) Nine years later I am still living with thyroid cancer. I have had scans, more surgery and radioactive iodine treatments. I have likely spent more time on the phone arguing for coverage and fighting for insurance to pay my claims than I have spent in doctors’ offices.
Nothing has felt so important to me as the House of Representatives passing the healthcare reform bill on Sunday. But I’m not interested in fighting with teabaggers, nor in trying to prove the benefits of healthcare reform to people who don’t already see why it’s so necessary. Instead, I am writing this post to the majority of Americans, people who know health insurance reform is worth ten minutes of your time today and on Saturday. Put down your iPhone apps, your facebooking, your twittering, your blogging, and pick up the phone and call, call, call your congress person. Use this link to find the phone number of your representative and politely reiterate to them how important healthcare reform is and they should vote yes. I know our country can do better than where we are right now. I’m counting on you.
Please leave a comment letting me know you have called your congress person today and will do it again tomorrow! Please forward this post to others.