When I lay on my hospital bed (many times) or in my chemo chair (many times), with tears in my eyes over the pain and despair I had, I would have to confront the urge to quit. I was chemo exhausted and physically spent, at times, not wanting to go back to chemo or deal with anymore cancer news. Although there were moments of doubt and times when I wanted to give up, I never did.
I’m ominously reminded of those hospital and chemo days. I’ve been sitting watching the news crying and exhausted with all the health-care debates and seeming disregard for humanity as votes are cast and decisions seem to be made without regard to the true human toll or catastrophic consequences. As I wrote in my letter to Representative Steve Scalise (Majority Whip) and Representative Paul Ryan (Speaker of the House), “I hope you will consider citizens like me, a triple negative breast cancer survivor, when you cast your vote on any changes to health-care legislation. My eight years of survival, once considered a blessing, now possibly a curse as preexisting conditions are at the center of the proposed health-care bill. I’m concerned that the proposed health-care law changes will be deleterious.” And I’ll be honest, I’ve cried a lot over the past 24 hours. I empathize with those on the news who speak about how their life, truly, depends on affordable care. But, just as I’ve done in the past – weary, worn and wearing my cancer battle scars – I’m emboldened because this fight is not over. One thing you may not know about people with preexisting conditions (you’ll learn quickly) is that we are fighters. We’ve had to fight to survive and we know a lot about fighting!!!
It’s interesting that so many medical organizations responsible for the care and treatment of Americans opposed the American Health Care Act. But so many of you thought it was a good idea anyway. Oh, and by the way, I saw so much news about the American Health Care Act vote, but didn’t see the news on whether Congress voted to retain preexisting coverage for themselves and their staff. Hopefully, this was just overshadowed by the other “celebrations” of the day.
Well, my tears are dry. I am a preexisting condition and for every legislator who chooses to callously vote on the “better” economics of this act, I’m now your preexisting condition. You can do things like you did today, let your voicemail get full and choose not to take calls because, as your voice message stated, “it’s one of those days”. I’ll remember all of my chemo and surgery days, all of the days wondering if I’d live to see my kids grow up and if I’d have insurance coverage to help me sustain my life to do so. Yes, I plan to have a lot of “those days” and I’m encouraged that I’ll be joined by millions of others.
Preexisting conditions – sickness – are those things that are always around; sometimes at the forefront, sometimes in the background, but ever present. Their presence can be annoying and irk the $*## out of you. They can zap your energy and take a potentially good day to a day from hell. Often, they can make life difficult at best; sometimes hellish. My triple negative breast cancer can be considered a preexisting condition. And, with this new legislation, there’s the possibility that I could be a person relegated to the high-risk pool of uncertainty.
I’ll be excited during your 2018 reelection bid to put you into a high-risk (election) pool. This was never partisan, it is personal. And I’m taking it very personally. I am your preexisting condition. Hello. I won’t go away. Preexisting condition. Survivor. No quit in me!!!
Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor. Resilience Coach, Reconstructionist™ and Health and Wellness Advocate who chronicles life after a breast cancer diagnosis. Living my manifesto, Soul of a Survivor, and always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.