Despite the curve balls hurled at me in life, I strive to stay positive. I hope this comes across in my writing. With each challenge I swing for the cheap seats, trying to practice mindfulness, thankfulness and gratefulness. I think of the old allegory about sitting down with nine other people; everyone lays their burdens on a table, then takes turns describing their woes. At the end of the meeting, you happily pick up your own problems, whistling and skipping away.
But sometimes, Saints on Suction Cups, it’s hard. Damned hard.
I spent 19 years of my life educating myself to become a lawyer. I spent the next 20 years being that lawyer. And dammit, I was good at it. Then one day, Crohn’s disease decided for me that my career was over. I could no longer be a litigator, conducting a killer cross-examination, then running out of the room mid-interrogation while a whole courtroom of people waited, barely making it to the restroom in time.
A huge piece of my identity fell by the wayside, but I wasn’t going to sit around and feel sorry for myself; I figured that in a motorhome, on a more limited income, I would have a bathroom with me always, and I could see the country.
Medical insurance is awfully important for someone like me, with a chronic, incurable disease that requires treatment every two months – therapy with a price tag of upwards of $15,000 per visit. And what if I don’t get that treatment? Without the infusion, I would be in the worst kind of flare, unable to leave my home, chained to a toilet, exponentially increasing the chances of bowel adhesions, resections (surgeries) and colon cancer with each event.
I am 49 years old. I am not yet Medicare or Social Security eligible. For the first 18 months after I quit working, I paid for medical insurance through COBRA, extending the plan available through my law firm. Then I chose a plan under the Affordable Care Act, known by some as “Obamacare.” At a cost of over $700 a month, I obtained a plan in the state of Washington which covers me throughout the country. That comes in handy when I’m not in Seattle and need an infusion. To date, I have been able to get my infusions with the help of visiting nurses and infusion centers around the country, although that process has also had its challenges!
What has gotten me so worked up, you might be wondering. In the latest mail was a letter from my ACA insurer, informing me they are pulling out of the health insurance market in Washington, effective January 1. At the time I purchased my plan, they were the only insurer offering nationwide coverage.
Sure, Washington may woo them to change their minds. Another insurer may step up to bridge the gap. Or, politicians I’ve never met, and certainly wouldn’t want to, may decide my fate, and the cost of insurance for someone at my age with a pre-existing condition may be so high that I will have no choice but to be uninsured. The most difficult and agonizing part of this for me, the Type A planner, organizer, arranger, and go-getter, is I have absolutely zero control over what happens next.
As the Beatles penned, “I think I’m gonna be sad. I think it’s today.” I’m going to be in the dumps about this for a little while, and then I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.