When I was in the eighth grade, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. It came as a surprise to all of us. He was a healthy, 35 year old man who competed in races like the Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash. He was an avid bicyclist. He spent hundreds of hours every year volunteering at my school. All while working 50 hours a week, 48 weeks out of the year to provide a safe, stable home for his wife and four kids. But more importantly, he was my dad. He hadn’t missed out on anything due to sickness, for as long as I could remember. He was invincible.
Nonetheless, he was sick and I didn’t know exactly what that meant for my family. I may have only been thirteen, but I knew that the costs of treating cancer were high.
And I knew my dad would not be able to work while he went through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery recovery. He was diagnosed in May of 2012, then spent the rest of the summer going through intense radiation. Amazingly, he worked the entire time. Despite his sickness and pain. We all understood that the costs of the treatment and eventual procedures were going to be high, so he did his best to mitigate those costs, at a great physical toll.
Labor day weekend 2012, my dad was hit with another surprising medical malady. Only a few weeks before he was to undergo his first major cancer surgery, my dad’s appendix calcified. We like to refer to that weekend in the hospital as his “trial run” for the following surgeries. It gave him, and the rest of my family, an opportunity to experience in a much smaller scope, the financial difficulty associated with medical bills. Surprisingly, it wasn’t actually as hard as we originally anticipated. My dad’s company insurance allowed him to go on short-term disability. While he was unable to work, the insurance provided 66% of his salary to my family in order to help us with the costs associated with a of a family of six. Towards the end of October, he had his first “cancer surgery”. The tumor on his colon was removed, along with much of the colon. An ostomy was created and he was back on short-term disability. This time, the disability time would last a whole six months. In that time, I saw my dad go through quite an array of emotions. Some days he was angry. Others sad. All a result of the intense chemotherapy, meant to oust any remaining cancer. Without insurance, my dad wouldn’t have been able to visit the counselors he needed on those bad days. So while the insurance may have directly benefitted my family’s financial situation, my dad’s mental state, his humor and tenacity especially, were really preserved, indirectly, by the insurance provided for him. On December 31st of 2012, my father was effectively “put back together”. His ostomy was removed and his lower GI tract reassembled.
Without insurance, these procedures would have been financially detrimental to my family. There were moments of uncertainty in terms of how bills would get paid or groceries would be purchased, but because of the level of insurance we were given, we were able to somehow make ends meet. I would hate to think of where our family would be today if we had not been blessed with insurance and the amount of care my dad received as a result of that same insurance.
He is back to his happy, hard-working self–despite the strife. But my family was able to keep smiling through it all, with our insurance and closeness keeping bad thoughts and worries at bay. And my dad’s great humor, in the hospital bed and after the fact. Reflecting on it all, we were really able to grow closer as a family over that year and a half that “dad was sick”. Cancer is a scary word. For a lot of reasons. And it is a thing that is impossible to face alone, or even as one family unit. But with the right family and doctors and counselors and insurance, it really doesn’t need to be such an impossibility to get through. My dad survived. My family survived. All because of the amazing people who were able to help us through it all and our finances not growing into a colossal issue and point of tension. We were able to focus on my dad, not bills, throughout the whole ordeal. And because of that, I am incredibly grateful for insurance.
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