Pinky Pie

It’s not just about me & Me

Posted on: October 2, 2009

I was in Colorado interviewing families for books on living with childhood cancer on the day that the I-35 bridge collapsed in Minneapolis. Yes, take a moment to reflect on the irony of that project.

The first I heard of the bridge collapse was when my daughter called me distraught. In college, she lived just blocks from the bridge and today my son lives just blocks from the bridge. We quickly turned on television.

“It’s Muslim terrorists,” one woman announced less than a minute into the news.

“You don’t know that,” I said.

“Oh yes, Minneapolis is a hotbed of Muslim terrorists.”

I hope I repeated my statement, “You don’t know that.” I don’t know if I did, as I was struggling to understand – like everyone else – this terrible tragedy.

I am not completely innocent in jumping to conclusions. On 9-11, when my husband called me to tell me what had happened, my immediate statement was, “I hope we don’t blame all Muslims for this.”

At that time he told me we didn’t know it was Muslims. He reminded me the Oklahoma City bombing was not done by Muslims, but homegrown terrorists in the USA.

I think we all want to find a way to push bad stuff away, so we can think it will not happen to us. Several women upon hearing that I had Stage 3 breast cancer asked me if I got regular mammograms. “Of course,” I said.

I understood what they were unconsciously asking. They were trying to determine if they would be safe from my breast cancer cooties because I somehow brought it upon myself.

It’s not that they would intentionally blame me, but it’s human nature to find a way to separate ourselves from scary stuff and breast cancer is very scary to women.  I know because I was terrified at every mammogram – except my one in June. Silly me.

Also, I used to look at women who obviously were being treated for some kind of cancer and wondered why them.  I wanted to separate myself from these good folks to whom bad things happened.

It’s human nature to wonder why me with a serious diagnosis like breast cancer, although I have not since I was diagnosed.  Instead, I’ve thought and said, “Why not me?” I’m just as human as the next woman.

This is an incredible summer to be diagnosed with a very serious illness. It’s the summer when people are yelling at each other, accusing each other of all sorts of things.  There are intentional misrepresentations about health care – just to win and regain power.

Unfortunately, people are gonna get hurt in the process.

The day I came home from the hospital there was a letter from my insurance company demanding to know why I was at high risk for the breast cancer I already had. Only then would they pay for the breast MRI that actually found my cancer when a mammogram and ultrasound had not.

I have always worked – and worked hard – and yet our family could be bankrupted by this medical diagnosis, even with pretty good insurance. We won’t be, but it is scary.

Your family could also be bankrupted. We are all one diagnosis away; I just happen to have found mine this summer.

The idea that we will set up death panels in this country is absolute nonsense at best and mean-spirited, cynical misrepresentation at worst. Besides, we already have death panels with some insurance companies. These companies have refused to pay for life-saving treatments or delayed so long that patients have died. It’s done in  the name of profits.

The other reason this is a crazy summer for a big diagnosis is the h1n1 flu, or what we casually call swine flu. Besides a reason for me to keep Kosher, it brings up the debate of the role of government.

An illegal immigrant arrives in the emergency room with flu symptoms. Do we have the humanity as a nation of immigrants to care for this person? I hope so.

But we should for another reason. This person will infect many others  – possibly you, your family or me and mine.

To me that I-35 bridge collapse is symbolic of the anti-government, anti-tax movement. In taking care of the taxpayer by reducing government and taxes, we are not taking care of the taxpayer.

To save taxes, we haven’t kept up our infrastructure in this country. We push our problems away for immediate tax cut gains only to discover our problems become more expensive later. And people get hurt.

Would you write off your wife, daughter, son or husband, friend or foe, because health care is too expensive?

Would you want to live in a city like Cairo, Illinois, where because of tax problems, seven police squad cars were repossessed and most of the police officers were laid off?

The government is in our lives … police … fire … schools … roads … bridges … Medicare … Social Security … parks … military … and much, much more. It is there because it needs to be.

Bad stuff happens to good people. When bad stuff happens to you, you need family, friends and, yes, government to have your back.

It is not just about me, or all about you. It is about all of us.

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