I found a lump in my right breast when I was twelve and another in my left breast the next day. It was one of the weirdest days of my life. I remember feeling embarrassed and like I had done something wrong even though I clearly hadn’t.
I don’t quite remember the series of events in the exact order that they happened but I remember eventually telling my mom. I remember that she reassured me, updated me on some family history and then we got them both checked out by a doctor. I had to get a mammogram and they told me that both of the tumors were benign and that they’d most likely always be that way.
“If anything changes,” my doctor said “In their shape or in their size. Tell your mom and we’ll get them checked out.” That was 16 years ago and there were no changes until recently when I found a new lump in my right breast.
I was sitting on my bed, Patrick was sitting next to me and we were both reading. We had just finished cleaning up from dinner and we both had new books that we were excited to dive in to. I sat down to read and for some reason I got the notion that I should feel the bottom left side of my right breast and there it was. A new lump that I had never felt before.
I immediately felt shame and like I had done something wrong. I was embarrassed and all of the feeling of guilt that I felt when I was 12 came rushing back. A first I didn’t say anything but eventually I told Patrick about it. He reassured me that everything was fine but encouraged me to make a doctor’s appointment to have it checked out.
I went to the doctor and though she couldn’t find the new lump that I had felt just a few days earlier, she had some concerns about the original two. She sent me to get an ultrasound and after a few tests and a few doctor’s visits we were told that everything was fine. As I sat in the ultrasound room with a thin floral gown over my chest, I again received the advice “that if anything changes, let your doctor know and we’ll get them checked out.”
It was a scary experience. I remember feeling so nervous about my doctor’s appointment, I had a feeling that everything would be fine but the looming fear still found it’s way to my mind. After my appointment someone from the financial department of the hospital called me and asked me if I need assistance talking through the portions of my care that my insurance didn’t cover. I said sure to be kind but I knew that I had the support and resources to cover any costs that I would accrue, which leads to this blog.
The reason that I’m writing this today is not just to share my experience but also to share some thoughts that arose in me about people who do not have access to affordable and reliable health care.
According to an article written by CNBC 12.2% of the US population is uninsured. That’s roughly 40 million people.The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation wrote in 2016 that out of the millions of people that are uninsured the majority of them are low income families and People of Color are at a higher risk of being uninsured than white people. Out of the close to 40 million uninsured people, one in five uninsured adults has went without needed medical care due to costs.
I repeat the number over and over because it’s staggering. 40 million people are living without health insurance. Doesn’t that number just stop you in your tracks? It should.
When I was sitting in the Doctor’s office waiting for the results of my tests the last thing on my mind was how I was going to be able to afford it. Rather, I was thinking about how grateful I was that I was able to take time off work to go to the doctor and that Patrick was able to take time off too to go with me. I was grateful that I had an HSA that my job contributes too that would offset the costs that my insurance did not cover and grateful to have family that would be able to help if for any reason I couldn’t foot the bill.
I can’t imagine what it feels like to notice something abnormal in your body and not be able to take the appropriate steps to find out what is wrong.
So what can be done about this? Well, that’s a great question and I haven’t quite figured out all of the answers but I have thought about two responses and the first one is voting. The primaries just passed and the way that I fought for the rights of people that don’t have access to resources and support was by voting for policies and people that don’t make the process more difficult for them. In two years all of America will have the chance to vote and use their voice to play a part in who runs our country. One of my priorities, especially after this experience, is someone that has a plan and continued solutions for affordable and accessible health care for everyone regardless of their income.
Another way that we can all play a part is by donating to and volunteering our time with organizations that offer often free but always affordable health care to those in need. Depending on where you live the organizations and programs may be different so you’ll need to do some research but they definitely exist. There’s a website called freeclinics.com and it’s a resource that I’ve used to get more information about clinics in my area that are either free or operate on a sliding scale of payment depending on the patients income.
I haven’t chosen a specific clinic that I’m going to support with my time and money but I’m doing the research and picking the program that I think provides the most accessible and affordable care.
This year, Patrick and I are really making an effort to do less talking and more doing. Instead of spending hours on hours having deep philosophical talks about healthcare and how we think it needs to be accessible to all; we’re volunteering our time and voting and donating to the programs that are making these ideologies a reality.
I had a scary health moment and because of my resources I was able to get it addressed and get answers within a week. The peace of mind that came from knowing what was going on and what I needed to do moving forward was and continues to be invaluable. I believe that everyone should have the peace of mind and the sense of security that reliable healthcare brings.
A person should not have to opt out of necessary healthcare because of costs. Accessibility and affordability has to be the goal. Will you do your part in making that possible? Vote, donate, volunteer. It’s a lot for one person to accomplish but when we all do our part, it’s possible.