I am grateful to be alive. To be a wife. A mother. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Business woman. Advocate. Writer. Speaker. Friend.
I’m especially grateful that my daughter and I have the privilege of being asked to write a Mother’s Day piece for a major publication. Right now, I’m on deadline and supposed to be writing my portion of this essay.
But today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with the American Health Care Act. And all I can do is wonder how many Mother’s Day celebrations I will be able to enjoy if the Senate also votes in favor of this bill.
You see, I am a 49-year-old cancer survivor. Stage IIIA breast cancer. Mastectomy. Sixteen weeks of dose dense chemo. Thirty rounds of radiation. More medications than I can count or name, even today.
For all of 2016, I fought like hell to beat this disease. With the grace of God, the love of my family and friends, and the expert care of my medical teams (yes, teams), I am cancer-free. But I am still facing at least two more surgeries and a minimum of five years of medications and intense monitoring before I cross the threshold doctors deem magical in terms of beating the odds of recurrence.
Under the language of the proposed American Health Care Act, I am now at risk of being denied coverage for my pre-existing condition. The proposed law would leave it up to individual states. Little comfort as my state is near last in the nation in funding teacher pay and education. It is also last in providing TANF benefits to the disabled, ill, and unemployed.
Even with employer-based benefits, I am also at risk of being charged a much higher premium and being subject to lifetime maximums because of my cancer.
In plain terms, my family is at risk of bankruptcy trying to afford health care insurance because I have had cancer. And I am at risk of dying, God forbid my cancer returns, because I will have easily reached my lifetime maximum.
And I am one of the lucky ones. I have an employer with more than 3,000 employees and an exceptional benefits plan. Our organization makes employee benefits a priority in our annual budgeting process. It is far better than similar organizations.
But luck eventually runs out, even for the lucky ones. And what about the millions of people like me who are facing the reality that luck is not on their side? People like my sister, also a cancer survivor. People like my nieces who were born with pre-existing conditions. People like my friend who is self-employed, a cancer survivor with a new round of medical challenges, and a chronically disabled husband who is in late-stage cancer. What in God’s name are they – we – supposed to do if this bill passes the Senate and becomes law?
So I’m back to staring at my computer screen, thinking about my daughter and the opportunity to co-write a piece with her about the joy of being her mom and the importance of motherhood. And I’m feeling like it might be a love letter to her and my boys to read when I am gone. My hope – my prayer – is that they won’t have to read it in that light for decades to come.
So, to the U.S. Senate, my life – our collective lives – are in your hands.