family photo thanksgiving 2011

Two years ago on this day I ventured out into public for the first time after receiving the news that I had late stage breast cancer  a month earlier.  I couldn’t bear to leave my house because I couldn’t bear to hear people tell me stories about people whom they knew who had had cancer.  I was already scared enough.  Talking to people only made me more scared.  Having cancer is like being pregnant.  Everybody has a story in their pocket, and they’re never pleasant or happily after stories.  I don’t know what it is with humans, but we seem to thrive on worst case scenarios, and then repeating them.

But on this day, two years ago, I went to our annual, traditional family Thanksgiving dinner, and I was spared those horrible cancer stories.  People didn’t tip toe around me as if I didn’t have cancer, they just didn’t bombard me with cancer, cancer, cancer stories.  I enjoyed a lovely meal with my family, felt good about getting out of my house, got the last picture taken of me, my husband, and my two kids, all dressed up with my characteristic long mane and boobs, and then as I was about to leave, our host said one of the best things you can say to a person who has cancer, for he has had it three times.  He said, “Some days are going to really suck, and other days?  You won’t even notice you have cancer.”

That meant so much to me.  For the first time since I had been diagnosed, I wasn’t riddled with fear.  I could actually believe that I would have good days scattered throughout the miserable long year that lay ahead of me.  I never forgot that, and now that I have lived it myself, I always make sure I pass that bit of wisdom on to others who I meet who have just found out they have cancer.

I was genuinely thankful on Thanksgiving.  I was thankful for such loving, experienced words at the end of a loving holiday filled with family who cared, and I was thankful that the miserable long year ahead of me was going to be taken care of , thanks to Obamacare.  Thanksgiving 2011 will forever be the most significant Thanksgiving for me.

I didn’t have insurance when I found out I had cancer.  Not because I’m a deadbeat, but because the recession had made it impossible for my husband and I to keep up with our $1,500 a month premiums that we bought on the individual market  because we were both self employed.  We continued to work through the recession, but people couldn’t afford to pay us.  So we had to use our home equity line of credit to make our insurance payments.  Then the bank cut us off, which meant we had to take the gamble of going without insurance until the recession blew over.  We gambled and we lost.

When the Affordable Care Act first passed, the political climate was about the same as it is now – the media was making false reports, heavily slanted towards the Republican’s version of things, the Republicans were very strategic in their messaging about Obamacare being a disaster, and the Democrats weren’t at all strategic about fending off those attacks, instead, they started attacking each other and ran from the President.  The White House had no message.  Americans were in a panic, confused, and angry.  Just like now.

After I found out that my life would literally be saved by PCIP insurance, the part of the law that had already gone into effect which covered the most vulnerable citizens – those of us who were already sick but were denied care because we had pre-existing conditions, I vowed to learn all I could about what was saving my life.  I also vowed to pay it forward by helping others understand this very complicated, historical piece of legislation.  I have made good on that promise.  I pay it forward every day by posting reputable links on my Facebook page, “The Smart Person’s Guide to Obamacare”, I try and make sense out of the media madness in my blog,, and I speak whenever asked.  Yesterday I was invited to call into a FOX News radio show in Arizona to tell my story.  As I sat on hold and listened to the caller ahead of me go on and on about how  he and millions of other Arizonans are not going to be able to afford health insurance because of Obamacare, and how he wasn’t going to go on to the website because he refuses to take anything from the government, I was reminded of how typical his thinking  is, and how prevalent this type of rhetoric is on talk radio shows throughout the country.  Many states don’t get anything but conservative talk radio.  The only message listeners hear is coming from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Alex Jones.  That’s scary.

Today, I’m thankful I’m still alive.  I’ve thankful that people keep asking me to tell my story, and that they’re listening.  And I’m especially thankful that we have a president that has put us before his own political career.  He took this on early into his first term, against all odds, knowing that it could cost him a second term.  He’s taking a beating once again, by the Republicans, the media, and members of his own party.  This is a rough time for him, but he is definitely on the right side of history.  History is going to see this way differently than we do now.

Soon, everybody will be positively impacted by the Affordable Care Act.  And like me, they will be thankful.  Right before I underwent anesthesia for my first surgical procedure in 2011, I laid on the surgical table and closed my eyes and said a silent prayer.  It was just, “Thanks” – thanks to whoever or whatever is out there looking out for me, and thanks to my president, for saving my life.


Link to the Joe Harting Show on FOX radio, Arizona, with Jeff Jeans, an Arizona resident and former tea partier whose life was also saved by Obamacare.