October 23, 2016

Look me in the eye



Each of these last years, when October comes around, I haven't known quite what to do with it.  One year I went on a decent rant about Pinktober and awareness--I don't feel the need to do that this year. 

I do, however, feel like each October I need to think about what it means to support the other people who have gone through cancer.  I want to be sure I am maintaining some integrity in how I live my life so that I'm not undermining these same people.

So here's what I feel the need to do this year: get a little political.  (This is where some of you groan, roll you eyes, and close the post.   Thanks and goodbye for now--I understand.) 

There's a lot to really dislike about this year's political season, and I don't think it has brought out the best in many people.  I could go on and on about various political issues for hours, and with some friends I do, but I don't want to get lost in the weeds here.  It's easy to get cynical and think that ultimately not much changes and there's not much that the average American gets out of it.  Now I don't buy that kind of cynicism, I know that elections DO matter and take our country in very different directions, I know that every politician isn't the same.  Our system of government is sooooo complex, and there is no way to boil it down to a slogan or a single-issue for me.

But I do want to focus on one issue that is very political and for me, very personal: healthcare.  For me, how we view healthcare is very representative overall of how we treat each other as a society.  It also matters to me because it is my chosen profession.  But I am bringing it up in October to remind everyone of how it ties to how we treat our breast cancer survivors.

It is an extremely easy catch phrase to throw out "repeal Obamacare" and call it a "disaster".  Yes, it is easy to say that healthcare costs have not come down yet and that the program hasn't always hit its goals.  But please, when you vote for people wanting to take away the ACA (Affordable Care Act) programs and have no ready replacement plan, please think about what that means for those of us with cancer in our present or history.  Please think about what you'd take away from me.  Yes, me specifically, and many of my friends and family.

Look me in the eye when you say you want to get rid of the protection from denying insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions.  Tell me that I should have to face insurance premiums that I can't afford because of my pre-existing condition if I ever lose or want to leave my job.  Remember, I was diagnosed at 34, and diagnosis certainly happens younger than that.

Look me in the eye when you want to get rid of annual and lifetime benefit maximums.  Look me in the eye when you vote to get rid of protection from rescinding insurance coverage in the middle of a diagnosis. 

Look me in the eye and tell me that routine check-ups and screenings shouldn't be guaranteed coverage for me or for Olive.  Look me in the eye and tell me that if Olive inherited my BRCA1 mutation, that she shouldn't have protections against paying astronomically more for insurance for her lifetime.

Again, the ACA isn't perfect by any means; we have a lot of improving to do.  But when you vote for people who want to get rid of the protections that came with the ACA, you are potentially taking those protections away from me, and I take that personally. 

It's one thing to support breast cancer awareness and breast cancer survivors, and I know so many of you do that (and I am grateful).  It's another thing to be consistent in the policies and the politicians we support.  I'm not just talking about the presidency--there is a lot more at stake for healthcare with the senators and representatives we send to Congress.  There is a lot more at stake in how we choose state senators and reps who decide how state programs supporting low-income residents and children are run.  These are real policies with real impacts in the cancer community, low-income communities, and our community as a whole.

This is a very simplified version of how the ACA impacts cancer patients from the American Cancer Society, but it helps me to see it written out: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@editorial/documents/document/acspc-026864.pdf 

And a summary from breastcancer.org:
http://community.breastcancer.org/blog/the-aca-and-breast-cancer-some-good-news-for-diagnosed-women/

I know this is just one piece of a complicated puzzle of who we vote for and why.  I know we don't always have candidate choices that reflect every one of our values.  Just remember how much it matters for the day-to-day lives of people, and vote with conscience, conviction, clarity, and integrity.

Thanks.

Artery Ink: Mara Natkin & Gloria Ramirez

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