I’m struggling. This is likely to be an unpopular blog entry, but I’m struggling with difficult issues, and I hope you understand that and don’t judge me by my musings.
Let me say first off that I have had cancer. I don’t have it any more, at least I don’t think so. It could pop up again and haunt me, but for now, I’m what they call NED, or No Evidence of Disease. But my bout with cancer has rendered me all but uninsurable. The minimal insurance I have is basically in case of a catastrophic event. It is very expensive, I have a very high deductible, and all the “wellness” stuff I do — mammograms, etc. — aren’t covered. They don’t even count toward my deductible.
And yet I hear about 90-year-old people having hips replaced. An 87-year-old woman having a mastectomy. Yet another round of chemo for an 85-year-old woman with inoperable, incurable, terminal pancreatic cancer.
Who pays for that? You and I do.
People on Medicare? People on Medicaid? People who are blessed with good insurance coverage? You and I pay for all of that, one way or another.
Fertility treatments–wretchedly expensive–are covered by insurance in seven states where it is the law to do so. Isn’t that an elective procedure? I know it isn’t fair that some people can breed indiscriminately and others cannot conceive no matter what, but hey, life isn’t fair. Why should I pay for that?
I have a friend whose elderly mother-in-law is dying of lung cancer. I’m not entirely certain of her age, but I believe her to be in her early 90s. He said to me, “Knowing what I know now, I would have stopped the chemo a year or more ago and let her feel as good as possible this past year, instead of continually, horribly sick.” I’ve heard that before.
I’ve also heard doctors say, “We can’t take away their hope.” Hope? What do you mean, hope? Does the 90-year-old woman really believe that she isn’t going to die — if not by this cancer than by something else — and soon?
So they pump these poor people full of yet another round of chemo and collect their Medicare payments and think that they’ve given the family some hope.
I’m a big fan of Leroy Sievers’. I’ve been following his blog since I saw the “Living With Cancer” special with Ted Koppel, Elizabeth Edwards and Lance Armstrong several months ago. Leroy is quite the warrior, with recurrent, metatastic colon cancer. He has had mets removed from his brain, his rib, his lungs and last Monday, they took out diseased vertebrae and replaced them. I root for him to beat this disease.
But is the medical professional leading him on? Is there really a cure right around the corner, and all they need to do is buy him some more time until that cure is available for him? Or are they sucking away his insurance dollars and giving him false hope? Does the medical profession ever run out of hope for people with cancer — midlife people like Leroy, like me? Should they just… stop… at some point?
I don’t know. I don’t have to make those tough decisions today, not for myself, my husband, my elderly mother or anybody else. I am not walking a mile in anyone’s moccasins here. I am merely troubled, and trying to come to terms with the fact that millions of children go without any health insurance at all, while all this money is sent to Iraq and shot into the fading veins of patients for whom there really is no hope.
Leroy posted a cancer joke not too long ago. Q: Why do they nail coffins shut? A. So the doctors can’t try just one more round of chemo.
Here’s my bottom line question: Just because we can, does that mean we should?
To me, the people who give this planet hope are the ones with enough faith to understand that we’re all going to die, and that death is not a tragedy for someone who has reached their elder years. All these resources should be going to the children, who still have much yet to experience.
But as I said, I’m not making any decisions today. I’m just thinking, preparing for the time when I will have to say “enough,” because surely that day will come.