I liken this bureaucratic nightmare journey — this sometimes insufferable quest that I have been on to finally achieve the cancer treatment prescribed for me two months ago — to an unplanned trek through the Himalayas.
When first you are faced with the dreaded diagnosis of cancer, it is like being plunged into an icy mountain stream. Every fiber of your being — everything you thought you knew to be true, every plan you ever have made, every person you know and especially those you love — all of this, and much more, is impacted by this thing that now has you in its grip. The changes are beyond your control.
But, I was (and still am) determined to not let cancer be in control. I have it, it doesn’t have me. And in a renewed partnership with God, something that I understand is not unusual among patients facing a life-threatening illness, I feel assured that we will remain in control.
My friends, some who I barely knew and others of longstanding, and my family all rallied around me. From the north, the south, the east, and the west I received daily affirmations of caring and love. Prayers were said and Higher Powers were summoned.
Through God’s provenance, both at Martin Memorial Medical Center and at Moffitt Cancer Center, I was blessed with the best of the best doctors and medical staff. It was as though I had had months to research the doctors’ credentials and hand pick them. The two oncologists who accepted me into their care, Dr. Paul Swanson at Martin and Dr. Jesus Bosquet Gonzalez at Moffitt, not only are skilled practitioners, but are kind, gentle, and caring men. They were my sherpas within the medical hierarchy, offering safety and encouraging my steps.
Gifts small and large arrived, and phone calls and visitors were almost too numerous to track, including three special “therapy dogs” and a talented cellist who is part of the Moffitt Center “Arts in Medicine” program. Each and every one, in his or own special way, contributed to the positivity that I was able to summon. They pulled me up and out of the icy stream, offering blankets of love to keep me warm.
Through the kindnesses of many strangers, I received, at no cost, financial counsel, estate planning counsel, offers of housing for my family should they want to visit while I was hospitalized, and offers of transportation to and from treatment. These offerings continue to rain upon me, humbling me.
I have been able to pay forward my fortune in some small ways along my journey. Only today, while I awaited the final blood draw that leads the way to tomorrow, I met a woman newly diagnosed with breast cancer whose uninsured circumstances parallel mine. Yvonne was scared and distraught, facing both surgery and chemotherapy that she can’t possibly afford. I shared with her my phone number and promised to share with her anything she needs to know as she begins her own upward climb. I will continue paying it forward in every way that I can for as long as I live.
The difficult part, as those of you who know me will attest, has not been the disease or any fear of it. It has been the totally ludicrous need to jump through hoop after hoop of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, to try to get answers when none were forthcoming, to trek ever higher along precipitous paths through mountains of red tape — and to still keep my goal of finally reaching this mountain’s summit.
All politics aside, this healthcare “system” of ours is nothing less than a nightmare. When you are uninsured, you live that nightmare both night and day. Worse yet, those with a lack of education, with no complement of friends and family, and with none of the skills needed to deal with the bureaucracy are left with not one shred of hope or dignity.
I thank God — on this very special night before my first chemotherapy treatment tomorrow — that I am able to see the summit. The dark and ominous clouds of this bureaucratic nightmare have cleared, and tomorrow I shall plant the flag !!!!
My fervent prayer is that we some day are able to elect officials whose mindsets are reality-based and not swayed by whomever is paying the most into their campaign chests. The system is broken and must be fixed.
It is, indeed, my Friends, in the Shelter of Each Other that the People Live. You have been and are my Shelter. My Spiritual Journey toward healing continues, and I trek onward with you as my strength.
I love you all 🙂