Wednesday, May 17, 2006


This past week has been one of ups and downs, highs and lows, good news and bad. In other words, life is conducting business as usual. In the midst of accompanying my youngest sister to the outpatient department while she had test after test after test, that wonderful book signing in Frankfort got sandwiched in somehow. The medical testing did not turn out as well as the book signing.

According to two doctors so far, my sister's colon cancer might have been growing silently and symptomless for years. Ten or fifteen years. It might have started out as a polyp and gradually transformed itself. Hearing that, I thought back to the years she worked as a nurses aide in long term care. She labored 12-16 hours a day for minimum wage and certainly no health insurance. When that labor intensive job became too much, she washed dishes in a restaurant, again for minimum wage and no benefits. No health insurance. Was the cancer growing then, undetected, because even the most rudimentary medical testing cost too much? How much does a colonoscopy cost? My guess: it is far more than most people without health insurance can afford. And even if a person has health insurance, without symptoms or a strong family history, most plans won't pay for screening tests.

If you haven't struggled to survive financially, let me remind you of the age-old hierarchy of needs. Food to nourish and sustain life, clothing to protect the body, and shelter to keep us safe from the weather are necessities. Nowhere in that hierarchy is the christ-awful cost of said food, clothing, and shelter mentioned. Nor is the cost of medical screening or treatment mentioned.

Some will say I'm a bleeding heart liberal. Others, who have their investment portfolios and the best health care available -- say, politicians for example -- will poo-poo my contemplations about hard working underpaid workers and their lack of adequate health care. Such workers have paid their bills, paid their taxes, and been a productive part of society all their adult lives. What about the citizens who, for whatever reason, cannot be a politician, rocket scientist, or heart surgeon. Do minimum wage workers contribute less to this huge, voracious, tax machine we call the USA?

My perspective is that fewer billions should be spent supporting the current despot of the day in foreign lands in hopes he will align himself at some future time with U.S. goals and schemes. Fewer billions should be spent on pet projects overseas that never seem to help anyone, here or abroad. And fewer billions and trillions should be spent on endless warring around the globe. That money would be better spent ensuring a healthy citizenry of America and supporting research to eliminate catastrophic diseases here, at home.

If my sister, for example, had been able to afford a colonoscopy five or ten years ago, she might not have colon cancer today. As it is, no doctor ever suggested that or any other screening test in years past. Why? Because they knew she could not PAY for it.

How many hundreds of thousands of Americans are in the same boat as she is today?


AstonWest said...

Even if she'd been able to afford health coverage, there's no guarantee that the doctors would have found anything...from experience, I know of at least one person who went to a doctor for years, had all the appropriate tests, and they still missed the diagnosis until it was too late.

But go figure, I'm a rocket scientist with an investment portfolio...

Christina Pacosz said...

I'm not a rocket scientist with an investment portfolio. I am a teacher without one. I have worked minimum wage jobs without health care before, sometimes by choice, sometimes not.

I am apalled by how my tax dollar is spent for war and weaponry, not to provide adequate health care for people who have none. And the U.S. claims to be number one in the world? I also know how difficult it is to watch a loved one suffer and realize that a simple test could possibly have prevented their pain and suffering and, sometimes, untimely deaths.

My sympathies go out to Laurel, her sister, and the family.

Pami Angel said...

I love you Big Sister.Thank-you for being their for me while going through all of the tests.Thanks also to My brother,other sister and my Son for all of their encouragement.I must say to anyone that may read this.It takes a positive attitude and to trust in the Lord for a healing.The cancer does not scare me,if I am not healed already I will be.I will endure because I have a loving family and Jesus guiding me through this.

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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