Now that the shoe is on the other foot, I'm supposed to shut up

I’ve been sounding off quite a bit on the whole health care issue on Facebook recently, and not surprisingly, a couple of people disagree with me. Then I got an email from a friend who said I might want to tone down my hypothetical question, “what happens if a loved one gets cancer? What are you going to do?” The reason? Because one of HIS friends has a spouse who has cancer. Oopsie.

I guess I could be a real bitch and post on this person’s Facebook account that “no one lives forever; guess your spouse should get the affairs in order and enjoy the time you both have left” but I’m not going to do that. In a discussion about health care with a former co-worker, he actually said to me, when I posed my hypothetical question, “we all have to die sometime.” I swear to you he said this. I wish he could thank me for my Medicare deductions that will probably save his life when he winds up with cancer, but this sponge-nosed asshole retired and hopefully I’ll never have to see his insensitive face again.

I think part of the reason people don’t want to think the unthinkable is because they are afraid. They know they are fucked, and don’t ever want to think that it could happen. Sick is for other people. Cancer is for other people. It just is. Until it comes home to smack them in the face. Clueless types boldly proclaim that if they get cancer, they will work until they just can’t work anymore. Oh yeah? Then what? Exactly who is going to pay your rent for the months it will take you to die? No, it’s too horrible to comprehend, so they don’t think about it. Sick is for other people. Cancer is for other people.

Another reason why people don’t want to think about it is the way we treat sick people in this country. We hate them, and at the very least, we resent them. We won’t ever admit it, but we do. And when they come back to work with their foot in a cast, or when we have to make accommodations for them, we resent it. Oh yes, we do.

I’ve been uninsured, and I’ve been insured. I’ve been uninsured for longer than I’ve been insured, but when I did get insurance in late 2008, I set about taking care of a problem I’d had for probably the last 10 years. I hadn’t worked at my job for a year before I had surgery for my fibroid tumor, a huge mass the size of a cantaloupe that was growing in a tumor in my uterus. It was growing slowly, and I had a choice: I could wait until menopause, where the tumor would shrink because my body would no longer be producing estrogen, or I could have surgery. Since I had no idea when I’d hit menopause, I opted for surgery. The first one didn’t work like it should have, so I had a hysterectomy a few months later. And by that time, I was in so much pain, I wanted to die. It shouldn’t have gotten to that point, but it did. Before the surgery, I passed a chunk of tumor that was so big, my ob/gyn said it was the largest tumor she’d ever seen self-delivered. I had my hysterectomy shortly after that, and the six weeks I had off were bliss. I slept late and read and regained the appetite I’d lost after battling an infection that went undetected for several weeks. (I lost 17 pounds because I was working three jobs, putting in 12 hour days and just didn’t feel like eating. Unfortunately, I’ve gained them back.) Of course, you don’t care about this. I understand. The only person who really, really cared died in 2004. It’s okay.

On the flip side though, I am completely disgusted with not only myself (I used to be really skinny; my lowest weight as an adult was probably 110 pounds at the age of 21) but really disgusted with the 300, 400, and 500 pound people waddling around town. I swear, 80 percent of people living in Indiana are morbidly obese. Ten percent are obese (including myself, according to a BMI test taken last year) 5 percent are merely overweight, 1 percent are underweight, and four percent are at their ideal weight. At least, it sure fucking seems that way. It bothers me because it’s not like I sit around eating bon bons all day. I eat a lot less crap than I did 10 years ago. Part of that is because greasy foods are making me sick in the morning. Sometimes I’ll wake up and feel okay, but the second I sit on the toilet, I feel nauseated, and shortly after that sometimes I’ll throw up. Only it will be clear, because my food digested several hours ago and I’m throwing up on an empty stomach. I know I’ve got to start eating better. I’ve been exercising, but I can’t seem to combine exercising consistently with eating an extremely healthy diet. But I’m trying to change that. I’m sick of being fat, and I don’t like vomiting first thing in the morning.

So I can understand people who are totally against health care. When I see 400 pounders (male and female) walking around in ugly clothes with even uglier tattoos, sometimes I really do want to vomit. Why should we spend money on people who don’t bother eating right and exercising? It’s really kind of odd; we demonize actresses for being size 2 or size 0, yet we envy them at the same time. Things really have changed; chances are if a person is slender, they will have a solidly middle class job or be upper middle class. All the poor people seem to be fat because they are working shit jobs for low pay with crazy schedules that wreak havoc on their metabolisms--YOU try eating dinner at 11:30 p.m. when you have to be at work at 6:30 a.m. the next fucking day. More often than not, I’ve eaten a brownie, or a handful of chocolate-covered raisins or some M&Ms, because I wanted to get to bed right away in order to get SOME sleep before starting another frustrating day at work. And forget about exercising on those nights. I get in my car, come home, let my dog out, stuff some crap in my mouth, take sleeping pills (another joyful aspect of getting older is trouble falling asleep) brush my teeth, then read for a while to wind down, and to let the sleeping pills do their job. So I understand the problems of eating right when you have a horrible schedule. I realized my full time job was making me miserable so I cut down to part time. I was lucky enough to do this because I had other part time jobs that I could rely on. I realize not everyone has this option, but I’m glad I had it, because not only was my physical health precarious, but my mental health wasn’t so great either.

And we have a screwy attitude about fitness in this country. We admire athletes; these overpaid assholes who would be thugs in real life if they couldn’t catch or throw balls, or hit pucks, or sink three-pointers. Yet we bitch and moan about the president’s wife encouraging us to eat better and exercise. You have strongly heterosexual men, with huge stomachs scorning vegetables and making fun of vegetarians, yet would any of those hypocrites enjoy looking at a 500-pound woman? Hell, no! Yet these jerks dismiss fitness and eating right as things only intellectual faggots do. It’s no wonder I don’t look at men. Everyone is huge!

People were convinced Medicare and Social Security would ruin this country. I’ll tell you what ruined this country: a president who stole the election in 2000, a bunch of idiots who “reelected” him in 2004, huge portions of fattening food, cheap crap, video games, Facebook, NASCAR, greed, and a stunning lack of compassion for mankind. We are so off-kilter from the rest of the world, it’s no wonder we are hated. The rest of the industrialized world has universal health care, and while it isn’t perfect, I’ve not talked to one person from Canada or the United Kingdom on Facebook who is eager to trade their system for ours. Think of it: your health insurance is based on whether or not your employer wants to offer it. It is possible to work full time in the United States and not have a shred of health care coverage. So when I finally got a job that DID offer insurance, I took care of that tumor as fast as I could. That’s what happens when you go for years without insurance and then finally get it: by that time, stuff adds up and it looks like you are going on an orgy of pampering. Never mind that you might have gone five years or longer without getting anything looked at.

So it makes me sick, my co-workers who would deny someone coverage, who bitch and moan that things are going to be worse than ever, that it’s communism. I long for the day I can tell a health care naysayer, “I told you so” when they end up with cancer or need some sort of operation. But maybe I don’t long for that day. I’m not a bitch. I am NOT a typical American, and I take pride in that fact.

I think single payer would be the better way to go, but it would be interesting if people were insured on how much they were willing to get their asses in gear. For instance, if you are overweight, you wouldn’t be covered for any illnesses related to that condition. So, you wouldn’t be covered for diabetes, or heart conditions, or any orthopedic-related things. If you smoke, you wouldn’t be covered for cancer, and so forth. If you were super-healthy, you’d get a break on your premiums, because you’d be low risk. Of course, there are some people who are born with certain conditions; they basically lost the genetic lottery. They wouldn’t be punished, but for conditions people CAN control (smoking, drinking, and being overweight) it might be interesting to see what happened if people were given the incentive to have coverage if they just took care of themselves.

But that probably wouldn’t work either. Americans don’t like to be told how to live their lives, yet if they were socked with cancer or heart problems, they’d probably cry like a little girl. “Why did this happen to me? I don’t want to die!” We all do have to die, but it would be nice if that were much later, not sooner. The health care naysayers don’t give a shit about you, nor do they give a shit about themselves. Sick is for other people Cancer is for other people. Until it hits someone you love. Then what do you do? Then WHAT DO YOU DO?


Jan Bird said…
I just loved this. Passionate and fearless. I'm one of your friends in the UK who isn't remotely keen to trade our health system for yours. I can't imagine - truly - waiting five years to get a problem treated because you can't afford to pay for it. That is really just nonsensical to me. At the root of it, it means poor people die younger and of things that rich people don't die of. If a supposedly modern country in the 21st century can live with that, and the example it sets to other countries, I'd like to know how.

We have waiting lists - yes we do. Treatment isn't always instant. It isn't always available equally in different parts of the country. That's a shame and it isn't good enough but the basic premise - that healthcare is free at the point of delivery - remains. I don't have to be scared to go to a doctor because I can't afford the bill. I'm not scared to ask the question because I can't afford the answer. I'm self-employed right now and couldn't afford private health care if that was the only option.

America is way further down the list on the CIA Factbook measures for life expectancy and infant mortality than countries with - I HATE this term - "socialised" medicine. We, and France, and Sweden, and Italy, and all those European "socialists" are much better at keeping tiny children alive and at making adults live longer. It's hardly surprising, really. It's not rocket science to say you make healthcare equally available because illness is no respecter of social class or wealth level. We're not brilliant in the UK - we're not the best - but we're better and in measures like that, better really matters. Try quoting those facts to people who rant about communism and ask them how they'd improve America's performance. I wonder how long it will take them to give you an answer!

I really enjoyed this post even though it's got me on my soapbox ranting at 7 in the morning. I rarely get so mad as when I see equality described as communism. Thank you for provoking me!
Gloria said…
Jan, so glad you like this. It's so frustrating for me to live here at times, because I do feel sorry for people and know what it's like to be poor, to scrape by, etc. I am so glad nothing major to me happened in 2008, when I was scraping by.

We all know that no system is perfect, but I am sick almost to death to see people hold hog roasts, chicken dinners and other benefit events in order to help someone who is ill or needs a transplant. I mean, seriously? But that's what it's like in America. Even if you DO have coverage, usually it doesn't cover everything, and there are some maddening times when you need one procedure, but also need another procedure, and you need one before the other, and of course, the first one is not covered.

Oh, I could go on. Sorry I got you riled up at such an early hour. Sometimes I feel like I really should move to Canada, or somewhere else. I feel like I don't belong here. There's very little compassion. There's no sense of "we are all in it together." It's all about the money and cost, and people actually do say things like, "well, if you don't have coverage, just don't get sick." I've heard this, I swear to you. Then there's "well we all have to die sometime." Yes, I KNOW that, but I think it's wrong that people die before old age because they ended up with a disease that was treatable. I've known a couple people like that, and I know in one case, the person didn't have insurance. I don't know if the other person did.

There ARE some people who feel the way I do, but it doesn't seem like there are a lot of them. I know that I've been exercising and trying to eat better (and not as much) because I'm tired of being fat. I know it's not healthy, but I'm not fond of the way I look. But people don't want to be told to eat better and get into shape. Funny, I thought that was a fairly American thing--I remember the President's Council on Physical Fitness from when I was a kid. Now, it seems that eating healthy and being in shape is an intellectual, elitist thing, and that's a shame.

Hope your blood pressure has calmed down a bit! I really appreciate when people post and I'm glad you like what I wrote!
John Good said…
Not going to leave you a long rant, merely that. . .I enjoyed it as well!

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