My first experience with this disease was a classmate of mine, one of my first crushes. Vincent Taylor was a very promising quarterback and we had known each other since before kindergarten. In high school, he led his freshman team to a winning season at a school that was long overdue for a winning football team. He and his teammates had formed a tight knit group in peewee and Pop Warner and we were ready for another three years under his leadership. I knew that Vinnie, also a very good student and well-liked young man, was destined for scholarship offers and maybe the pros due to his consistency on and off the field.
The winter after that winning season, Vinnie was absent, all the time, something that was incredibly unlike him. I couldn’t remember not seeing him in class or in band with his saxophone. A few short months later, my classmates and I were attending his funeral. Vinnie had lost a battle with lung cancer. I don’t know which of his friends and teammates were aware; nothing was said to us until it was too late. It was the first funeral I would attend in my life.
We were all shocked and stunned; even teachers were in tears because Vincent Taylor was one of those young men you knew would go one to do great things and always make people smile. Almost 40 years later, I still remember that smile and his tiny ears. Ears that were slightly too small for his head but you knew he heard everything that was said to him.
Cancer, especially lung cancer, in someone so young was inconceivable to us. Cancer was a word we heard only in reference to old people. We were slapped into the reality that we don’t always live to be our grandparents’ age. We were 14. Vinnie left behind a younger brother who never quite got over losing his brother. I always saw a pain in his eyes whenever I saw him many years later.
I have lost a few friends to cancer since then. Just last week, my old friend who taught me the love of kayaking, who had fallen out of my world for a few reasons, passed away from brain cancer. He was given next to no time to adjust, let alone fight.
My mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2010. Cancer was how we lost my grandmother. My sister and I went with her to that first oncology appointment. The fact that it was caught in its beginning stages didn’t diminish the fear she felt and the fear I felt for her. I was so glad my mother was insured through Medicare and a supplemental policy and her treatments would be 6 months of chemo and prayers. Today, she remains cancer free.
Given my affinity to follow in my mother’s footsteps with medical issues, I felt compelled to ask if I had to consider that I would someday face the prospect of this diagnosis as well. My answer was delivered in a very matter-of-fact approach, “Probably yes.” I put that information in the back of my mind. I had been unemployed or dreadfully underemployed for years and wasn’t holding my breath that it would change. I was in my late 40’s and insurance was unattainable. I only see doctors when I’m sick (and I have to be really sick). For all other injuries, it’s the ER. One look at my credit report will tell you why I avoid simple checkups. At least it was that way until ACA.
I still worry about my genetic lottery ticket and lately, I am reminded that going to the ER might (a very large MIGHT) facilitate a diagnosis. Without ACA or anything else like it, I’m pretty much SOL.
We ALL know someone who has been diagnosed or succumbed to the Big C. Anyone who has had any exposure to the devastation cancer can bring will seethe at the time ignorance of Rep. DeSantis (or any proponent of the AHCA).
Cancer requires a continuity in care that an ER visit is NOT equipped nor staffed for. The emergency room is for emergencies. Not chemotherapy. Not radiation treatments. And absolutely none of the other options an oncologist can provide.
We should, each and every one of us, be thoroughly infuriated by the idiotic and blatantly uninsightful statements spewing forth from the GOP regarding low income people getting all of their necessary medical care at an emergency room.
A cancer patient in an emergency room means that they are either in a crisis that could be the end their lives or they are about to be given a tentative diagnosis for the first time. An emergency room is not the place to hear such news and if you are a low income, uninsured individual, only having an ER is surely a death sentence.