My Thyroid, My Congressman: Kairol Rosenthal
Sometimes the phrase “life or death” is not a cliché. I was diagnosed with a complex case of thyroid cancer when I was 27. Even more surprising than the words “you have cancer” were the words from the secretary when I tried to make a appointment for a second opinion: “You have no insurance…
I left my job three weeks prior to my diagnosis to transition to a new workplace. COBRA would have carried my insurance through, but my former employer apparently forgot to submit the paperwork. So there I was: not yet 30, I had a sudden pre-existing condition and no health coverage. The government, insurance companies, my former employer Ã¢â‚¬” none of them were willing to pick up the tab for my cancer care.
I needed an operation to remove my thyroid and 30 tumors that were laced throughout my neck and shoulder. There were no healing candle lit baths, no journaling, no “you can fight this cancer” phone calls with friends, and no doctors visits during my first month of cancer. Instead I spent 40 hours a week on the phone with the national COBRAServe headquarters. When the phones were closed I spent my time strategizing back up plans. (Would I be able to fly to another country for care?)
My parents had the heartache of facing the fact that their kid had cancer. , But we all felt like our hands were tied, there was so little we could do to get me the care I needed. , My mom and I both wondered, , So when did this country go so wrong that I might actually die because nobody would cover me, a hardworking 20-something cancer patient?
I lied my butt off to the government and finally obtained insurance that allowed me to receive surgery. (I don’t recommend this to anyone. It was a horrible feeling being wheeled into surgery knowing that my house of insurance cards could tumble at any minute.) Nine years later I am still living with thyroid cancer. I have had scans, more surgery and radioactive iodine treatments. I have likely spent more time on the phone arguing for coverage and fighting for insurance to pay my claims than I have spent in doctors’ offices.
Nothing has felt so important to me as the House of Representatives passing the healthcare reform bill on Sunday. I’m not interested in debating the merits or deficits of the bill. , The time for that is long over. , Instead, I am writing this post and asking those of you who believe that we do need healthcare reform to take ten minutes of your time today and on Saturday to make phone calls. Put down your iPhone apps, your facebooking, your twittering, your blogging, and pick up the phone and, call, call, call your congress person. Use this link to find the phone number of your representative and politely reiterate to them how important it is that they vote yes for healthcare reform. , This feisty thyca gal is counting on you!
(Bio) Kairol Rosenthal is the author of Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s. She believes strongly in the democratic process and has made many trips to Capitol Hill on behalf of women’s health and young adult cancer care.