– improvisational response to a word received in my In Box from Dictionary.com
The word of the day that comes in my In Box this morning means that which is favorable to promoting health. In other words, to eat right, exercise a lot, keep calm and carry on. To engage in those and other activities that will keep me in good mind and shape. Another of them, and also very important, is going to a doctor and getting tested when you’re supposed to. Which means taking the medical community’s advice and getting a colonoscopy when you turn fifty. Which, well, you guessed it, is something I didn’t do. And which was why, two and half years ago, constipated and in unbearable pain, I walked to the medical center two blocks away bent in half as if shot in the stomach. A few tests later the doctor sent me to the radiologist further down the street. Checking my scan, she told me to take myself to the hospital. “What hospital?” “Whichever one you want to go to. But do it today, now.” Still in agony, sprawled across the back seat of the town car that took me there, the look in my driver’s eyes seemed to wonder if I was going to make it to Beth Israel’s Emergency Room alive? And that was where, you guessed right again, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. Oh the joy in finding out there’s a malignant tumor growing inside you that a simple, painless test might have caught in time and you have a year of brutal treatments ahead that may or may not cure you. Then you find out, because there had never been a reason to give it much thought, you’re never actually “cured” of cancer. Once the beast is loose it can be shrunk and removed, but there’s always a chance of it coming back anytime anywhere. The best you can hope for is to be “in remission.” A slippery medical term meaning the diminution of the seriousness or intensity of a disease. Not a complete recovery in other words as, say, stitches close a cut on your finger and that’s that until the next time you mismanage a kitchen knife. The dictionary definition of remission is to pardon, to forgive, as of sins or offenses. Though in my case it’s difficult to pick an offender? Me? Latent malignant cells that were always going to hatch? The environment? Life? Life as a preexisting condition? That always gave me a chuckle. How, before the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010 health care insurers could reject an application due to a preexisting condition. Hah, hah. I could total my car and an insurer would still sign me on. But health insurance if I got cancer? I’m guessing if everyone forty and over had comprehensive testing done on them something would be found that would likely lead to, at some point, sooner, later, who knows, but sooner or later to a problem requiring extensive treatment and thus the outlaying of a lot of cash by both parties, insurer (private or public) and patient, with, nowadays, the patient taking on more and more of that cost. I say this knowing that without the ACA I’d have no insurance right now. I’d be insurance-less. I, someone who can afford to buy a plan from a provider without a subsidy, would be among the uninsured. No way any of them would have taken me on as my current provider “had to” this year even if the worst (most costly part) of my treatment (two operations, radiation, two stints of chemo, five scans, an MRI) was over with. I’m too much of a risk. And someday you will be too. The two insurance companies I had prior to my current one went out of business in successive years and I just received notice that next year the one I have now will no longer offer individual plans. But fortunately the ACA eliminated pre-existing conditions. I can’t be denied coverage or charged more. I won’t have to find out what it’s like living without insurance. I won’t have to go about my days with the fear of cancer returning and bankrupting me. The possibility of its coming back is enough to keep me on edge. So I’m good. For now. Albeit with a plan that covers less for more money. But that’s the current state of health insurance, a chart with a descending line reflecting the relationship between cost and coverage. And as more insurers exit the ACA I expect plans will get even more pricey and thus more unaffordable. But never mind that. Somehow, somewhere, get checked out. That’s a salubrious thing to do.