I Have Cancer: Thankfully I Also have Health Insurance, for now

I have cancer. I purchase my health insurance in the individual market. Which should worry me more?

October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and with the annual display of pink ribbons and awareness campaigns, one could barely make it through a day without hearing about breast cancer on the radio, on television, the newspapers and online.

I was certainly on board for the cause. On September 27, I encouraged Care2 readers to Blog For Your Breasts. On October 4, I wrote that Breast Cancer is Not Just for Women. The following day, I questioned the effectiveness of the I Like It on the Kitchen Table campaign. On October 19, I shared Dr. Hilda Hutcherson’s suggestions for Three Lifesaving Tests for Women, one of which is the mammogram.

All the while, an aggressive and fast-growing tumor was growing inside my own right breast. With all I knew about breast cancer, I did not know that a tumor could grow so quickly. I did not see this train coming until it hit me.

There is no history of breast cancer in my family. In fact, I am unaware of any cancer in my family. That, plus my lifestyle choices, put me in a rather low-risk category. A mammogram of just 13 months ago was clean.

I found the lump myself and was in a doctor’s office the very next day. But that first visit to the doctor spoke volumes about health care in America. When he handed me a receipt on which he wrote the words “breast lump,” my thoughts were not about my health. Instead, I was terror-struck by the knowledge that those words would make their way to my health insurer. I already have multiple sclerosis… and an individual insurance policy.

With annual increases of 30-35 percent in previous years, my fear is not unfounded. But here’s the kicker. A few days later, I received a letter from my insurer. My heart pounded as I opened the envelope, certain that some new horror was about to befall me. Instead, I read:

“Health care reform is now law… You are eligible for the following benefits beginning on January 1, 2011: No lifetime dollar limits or maximums.”

What that means at this particular time in my life is difficult to put into words. My premiums, high deductibles, and co-pays weigh heavily, and this new benefit is of no small comfort.

Meanwhile, the Republican Congressman from my district has retained his seat. The number one item on his agenda? Repeal the health care law.

The Affordable Care Act is not the health care law we wanted, but it is poised to begin moving us toward a more compassionate and fair system, one where concern over life and death issues would trump fear of insurers. Basic security to health care. What a concept!

I have many decisions to make now and in the months to come with regard to family, employment, and finances. Because of my experiences with multiple sclerosis, I expect to have my share of hassles with billing departments and my insurer. That’s a given.

I hope that I do not also have to witness the hard-won battle for health care unravel.

Photo Credit: http://www.kingcounty.gov


Karen Martinez
Karen Martinez5 years ago

I know so many people who are supposedly well educated who are dead set against health care reform (who do not work in the health care profession), but they don't bother to understand that before this, you could lose your health insurance for filing claims. I was denied a mammogram by two hospitals where I live because 'We don't accept that insurance'. Two months before, at one of the hospitals one of my co-workers had had open heart surgery, and another had had a baby--within a week of each other! And I couldn't get a mammogram? We have excellent health care facilities, and the best doctors in the world--if you can afford them!

Vikki H.
Vikki H8 years ago

Thank you all! We need this health care..Thank you Ann for sharing so much, hang in there!

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman8 years ago


Barb F.
Barb F8 years ago

Dear Ann, my prayers and thoughts are with you, I will think and believe ONLY positive in that you are soon deemed "cancer free", are a survivor.
My dad has been undergoing treatment for lung cancer for 14 months now, from the time of diagnosis I've never left the firm belief he will beat it, most recent PET scan result will be given on Wed, no area of activity showing is the only outcome I will accept as what is again the result. Cost of one PET scan, 8K, and based on liability reasons, the oncologist will not commit to any statement of being in remission, 8K cost, but a test that results are not specifically definitive. My parents would not have been able to afford needed treatments w/o having had insurance that cost them a fortune in prediagnosis time, the premiums, copays, coinsurance pymts are so expensive despite paying outrageous premiums, this scenario not uncommon. Those who wish to repeal healthcare reform are heartless, they have a spare no expense free to them policy, insurance companies have billions in reserve, pharmaceutical companies are zillionaires. The reality that health insurance is ran strictly as a business, NO regard for living being health and wellbeing doesn't matter, it is what any treatment or patient costs insurance companies. My state HMO openly states "we treat acute and terminal to a degree, end date must be there, we do not pay for chronic, it is not cost effective, our bottom line", yes, change from this mindset long overdue.

Anne T.
Anne T.8 years ago

I bet all our congress and senate members and their families enjoy the Health care coverage we the people help fund for them while they deny the same to those less fortunate. I say take theirs away and I they just might have a change of heart

Paige G.
Paige G8 years ago

I recently had to have a breast biopsy after I noticed a lump during a monthly self-exam. Thankfully it was benign, but I am so afraid of my health insurance dropping me anyway. I work in personal injury law, I know how nasty and under-handed insurance companies can be.

Larry W.
Larry W8 years ago

Pulling for you! I cringe reading some of these comments. What do you think of "Miss Manners And the Big C" article by C. Hitchens? I would like to see such a thing devised and widely published as this is an all too common 'problem' for everyone.

Laurie H.
Laurie H.8 years ago

Thank you for posting this. I believe we need to keep health care reform in law. My main fear of republicans taking over the house is that their main agenda will be to repeal this law.
Keep the movement going.
Peace & Love

Steve K.
Steve K.8 years ago

I had a 10-year term life insurance policy. After getting prostate cancer, I was unable to get the next 10-year term. 4 years after radiation treatment (brachytherapy), there's no sign of the cancer, but I still can't get life insurance.

(single, after wife died of colon cancer 3 years ago) Father of 3 young-uns.

Kaye S.
Kaye S8 years ago