There Is No System
September 20, 2009

This is part three. For part one, please read "When I Was 30."

Sorry, folks, didn't mean to leave you hanging for a week for the next post, but it's been a crazy week. I probably shouldn't take time out to write this post ... but you've been waiting long enough.

I am good at getting by. I should probably be grateful for that talent, skill ... luck, whatever it is. But I'm not. I'm tired of it.

You see, that skill at getting by was what kept me going with cancer for two years before the diagnosis. Perhaps if I'd not been able to get by, my doctor would have run a simple CBC and questioned my hemoglobin count. Perhaps the cancer would have been caught earlier. Perhaps if I had just quit my job when the welfare worker told me to, I would not have had mounds of bills that I worried about paying even more than I worried about the cancer killing me.

And that skill at getting by started when I was much younger. It kept me from getting help in numerous situations as a child - learning disabilities, problems at home, problems with bullies at school. I saw the look on whatever tired adult's face and knew they did not want to deal with the issue if I could manage to deal with it. Not wanting to disappoint an adult or make them feel like I couldn't handle something ... I always found a way to handle it. Even if it meant that I simply suffered in silence.

Here I had done what I thought were the right things - got a recommendation of a doctor from a friend. A good doctor, supposedly. When I started getting sick I went to the doctor. And things fell apart because he knew I had no insurance. He assumed that I would be unable to pay for the simplest blood test. It wasn't true, but he didn't ask and I didn't know what to ask for.

At any rate, I lucked out and was given treatments. I was looking at a mountain of expenses from the chemo treatments themselves to the nearly week-long hospital stay complete with biopsy surgery, anesthesiologist and X-ray bills, CT scans, a PET scan.

After it was all over, I was hired for a full-time teaching gig - with health insurance. I was making more money than I had ever made, though it still wasn't much. I now had to figure out how I was going to pay off my college debt, pay off the debt I'd run up just living and working minimum wage jobs, trying to buy my books cheaply, fixing my clunker car so I could get to chemo treatments ...

It wasn't going to happen.

I tried to rearrange reality for a while - "I reject your reality and substitute my own" (you have to say this in Mythbusters' Adam Savage voice - but it just wasn't working.

And to be honest, I was tired of trying to make everything work by myself.

I had paid for college myself, mostly. I'd moved out at 19 and began working full time whilst I went to school. Seven years of working full time and going to school. Putting semesters on charge cards because I had no other way to pay and a belief in my future. Car repairs on the charge card because I made just enough to cover bills and have $20 every two weeks for spending money. Then there was the 1000 mile move from Texas to go to graduate school. I sold much of my furniture in an attempt to both reduce stuff I needed to move and fund the gas money and U-Haul rental.

I was doing what I had gone to school to do and was surprised to discover that despite what we'd been told, getting a full-time teaching gig was not going to be a piece of cake as the baby-boomers weren't quite ready to retire and certainly weren't retiring in the droves we'd been told to expect. So despite now having a full-time teaching gig and health insurance, we were a dime a dozen and paid accordingly.

I did what I had to do with a great deal of soul-searching ... a great deal of self-flagellation ... a great deal of telling myself that this was one of those hard choices that adults just have to make sometimes.

I declared bankruptcy. I, who had never missed any bill payment before this. I, who had rarely if ever had a bill paid late (and if so, was probably only by a day or so). I, who was paranoid about making sure there was enough money for bills.

My credit was now toast. I was out from under the ridiculous mound of bills from the chemotherapy, the hospital, surgery ... and from my college bills. And all I could think about was the fact that I shirked my responsibilities. I had meant to find a way to pay for all of those things during college. And if I hadn't gotten sick, I would have paid it all off. I felt horrible for agreeing to treatment, to the hospital, to the doctors, and knowing that there was just such a slim chance that I could pay.

But what choice did I have, in the end? Die or live?

No one should have to make that choice.

No one should skip regular doctor visits because they don't think they can afford to pay the doctor, or for the medicine or treatments if necessary.

And the doctors deserve to get paid for the work that they do.

I do not want to trust my life to an insurance company whose focus is the bottom line and how much money they can give their shareholders and their executives.

I do not trust the office manager who told another doctor (not the idiot I described earlier) that she could not spend more than 10 minutes per patient because it was not cost-effective.

I do not trust the drug companies who wine and dine doctors, nurses and support staff with awesome free lunches and swag so that the doctors will prescribe their particular drug.

I do not trust the drug companies or insurance companies who lobby congress to maintain their status quo and fatten their bottom lines.

I do not know what the answer is. I only know that we are broken right now. Change is frightening.

But dying because you're scared you can't afford treatment just shouldn't be a concern. For any of us.

Posted by Red Monkey at September 20, 2009 7:21 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

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