Yahoo! News asked Americans to tell their personal health care stories as the Supreme Court hears arguments on provisions of President Barack Obama’s health care overall.
FIRST PERSON I didn’t need it until I became a cancer survivor. Then I became uninsurable.
I am a 50-year-old inflammatory breast cancer survivor, and I am alive because I had the best coverage available. I provided massage therapy to outpatients in a hospital, and my benefits were excellent. The doctors who treated me were the best, and the care I got was extraordinary. From biopsy to diagnosis was four days. From diagnosis to my first chemotherapy infusion was six days. My cancer was aggressive, and there was not a day to lose.
A friend of mine also went through treatment recently for breast cancer. She was not insured because she’s poor. It took three months for her to get her diagnosis, and several weeks after that to begin treatment. If that had happened to me I would be dead.
After nine months of treatment, I returned to work part-time, adding hours as I recovered. The recession hit hard in 2008 and our department closed. I had to have insurance, so I took a secretarial job in the hospital to keep my family insured. I hated being a secretary, but the price had to be paid. The computer work was hard on my left arm, which was at risk for lymphedema because my lymph nodes were gone. I developed lymphedema by the time that department closed.
I investigated insurance, and was shocked that people actually told me that my cancer history made me ineligible. That I could die for lack of care did not seem to perturb anyone.
My cancer was not anything I brought upon myself. No one knows what causes inflammatory breast cancer. At 45, I was the picture of health. After cancer, I was appalled to discover that insurance carriers had no legal obligation to provide insurance for me or my dependents. It made me angry and frightened. It made me view the United States as an uncivilized country.
I deeply appreciate President Obama for attempting to make our insurance system humane. It isn’t perfect yet, but denying anyone access to basic health care is inexcusable.
I met my husband before I lost my secretarial job, and he provides health insurance to my children and me through his employer. He complains about “Obamacare” causing the premiums to go up, but we’re grateful that we have good care.
I have recovered and am working as a massage therapist at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital, as well as teaching the Drama Club at a local school. These jobs do not provide health insurance. If my husband were to lose his job, under the old system I would not have insurance. A recurrence of my cancer would likely kill me before anyone would agree to treat me.
The attack on health care reform makes me angry. Every person’s life matters.