Don’t Fight The Good Fight

Do you remember the old song that had the lyrics: “I fought the law and the law won”….

Well, I sort of feel like this…not exactly that I have been fighting the law, but a similar looming entity in America that, to me at least, now just feels like a gigantic monster that no longer has the capabilities, abilities or desire to do what it originally was set up to do.

Can you guess?? It’s health care. For months now I have been trying to schedule a routine mammogram and have been getting nowhere. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I have been lead down the dark alleyways of jargon, insurance codes, doctor referrals (or refusals to do so), authorization and the inability of one organization to speak to another –therefore leaving me, the patient, in the middle….

….With no idea what anyone is talking about. I’m in the unfortunate situation of being on Obamacare (or not, depending on how you see this), so the waters become very murky;more shady than usual. No doctors take it where I live, so most everywhere I go is an out-of-pocket expense.  I have it mostly for my one medication. But my understanding was that a routine mammo was covered…. So, I was determined to GET it covered!

After fighting with my doctor, and central scheduling, then trying Planned Parenthood, then central scheduling again, then speaking with Blue Cross at least three times and getting three different stories (all of this over and over)…. and this all after having three appointments scheduled and canceled over a period of months—I decided enough.

Healthcare? I was losing my mind. This all was causing me so much stress; I couldn’t sleep. I’ve had a concern too and really needed this mammo yet was getting nowhere! Only two people I spoke to on this entire messed up journey were actually sympathetic. Most either could barely speak English or just read off a script, and contradicted each other. One I actually spoke to her manager to compliment her because I had to talk to her so many times; she at least seemed to care.

So finally, I made a decision because I could see the fight was leading me to a dead-end and draining me of energy. It would be yet another out-of-pocket expense… I would just have to pay for the thing myself. And miraculously I had an appointment the next day!

I guess the moral of the story is that they wear you down until you succumb. Maybe this is part of the plan now. Read the small print…. If they can drive you crazy and stress you out bad enough over enough years, maybe you will die sooner.

So anyway, I fought the healthcare system and I lost bad….


Poem: Four Chambers


painted on a four chambered heart

each room an echo

a synchronized sharing of the apex

The fluttering climax

upon squeezing beats seeing beauty

And the hiccupping hitch

when gathering moments of newly formed love

Or the sudden thud

of rock dropping grief when its gone


Oh the silent tap tap

when at peace

hand upon your breast


that what you feel

is the artist

who paints your life


As Long As You Have Your Health

Today I walked in a race in honor of my friend who died this year of breast cancer. She was an amazing and wonderful person, a little younger than me (in her 50’s). She had 11 children, had been an EMT for many, many years and had just signed up to become a RN when she got her diagnosis. But she pressed on anyway and graduated just before her death, never to practice. My friend would have been an incredible nurse as she had the gift to heal. Just her presence calmed a patient. Her gentle demeanor and quiet tone always defused any scene that had started to unravel. I’m sure if she was watching today’s festivities in her honor she would have been annoyed that we all had made such a fuss, because that was her humble nature. She was loved and is missed constantly.

I learned today that another EMT recently turned paramedic just learned she has stage 4 colon cancer! This woman too is in her 50’s and was in my first EMT class. My heart sank. This is has been such a bad year for that service and for all of us. I lost my Fire Captain to liver cancer, found out my cousin has breast cancer and two dear friends have breast cancer.

While I teach CPR classes all the time and catch every class with the question: What’s the number one killer of women in this country. The answer I get all the time is: breast and ovarian or uterine cancer. I have to correct them saying that no, rather it’s cardiovascular disease. But it’s hard to believe with what I’ve experienced recently.

On this amazingly lovely Autumn New England day, as I walked along the paths of the ski trails, I thought of all the people I know struck by this mysterious disease. I think about all the technologic advances we make all the time! Some are mind boggling. And yet, and yet….we can’t figure this cancer thing out. Not really.

Sure there have been some good changes. I had my yearly mammo this year and they used the ‘new’ machine on me (as well as the old). It’s suppose to detect to a greater degree any abnormalities. What I couldn’t believe was that insurance didn’t cover it! If I wanted the ‘better’ scan, I had to pay for it myself! Wow. Surely I did it, but that doesn’t seem right.

So I guess we will all just have to keep walking, running or whatever it is that we do to continue to raise money to figure out what this disease is and why it kills people. Sometimes there seems to be no rhyme or reason.

Which reminded me again: be grateful. Be grateful for each day. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t worry, be happy. Say you love people before you leave them for the day. Fill your bucket list. Follow your bliss. All the clichés plus the one I made up: peace, love and granola.

My wonderful Jewish Granny used to say (with the NY Jewish accent): As long as you have your health….   Ain’t that the truth!

My Friend

I want to take a moment to remember a friend and co-worker who died yesterday.  She succumbed to cancer. I’m pretty much blown away by the news. I knew she had breast cancer, and maybe I had remembered that it had metastasized elsewhere, but the last time I saw her (in September) it seemed that she was doing much better. That’s cancer for you.

She and I met many years ago when I first became an EMT. It was in my first class which was held at her department in a neighboring town. This was to become the first department that I would join and she would become one of my first mentors. She did not follow the typical EMT stereotype (as I now know it) as she was quiet, private and never, ever a gossip. But that was not to say she didn’t stand up for herself and speak her mind when she needed to do it.

This woman was one of the best teachers I could have had in our field. Her patient care was technically spot on as she was very bright, but totally humble. But more importantly she was there because she cared–something sadly lacking in our field. And she was this way right up until the end.

How she ever had the time to be an EMT I could never understand as she had 11 children. One of them was in my EMT class! She was a loving and nurturing mother also. I never saw her lose patience with any of her kids. Her demeanor was always the same: calm, peaceful and taking the high road. I guess you have to when you have that many kids or else life would be chaos.

She was one of my EMTs for a special event that I do every year and have for the past 11. The last two years she came even though she had been diagnosed with cancer. I could tell she wasn’t well, but she didn’t complain and never said a word about it. That was the last time I saw her. This past September.  I took a wonderful picture of her at the race…all smiles. It makes me cry to look at it and know she’s gone.

Sadly cancer has invaded many of my dear friends. I spoke to my Captain today in hospice. It won’t be long for him either. There are so many people. We all know someone. What is it? What is it here to prove? Are we meant to beat it or is it suppose to take people the way it does?

All I know is that every time I lose another person, or hear of someone else diagnosed another little part of me breaks off. I know the scientists are working madly to find a cure, and the women in pink are walking, walking, walking and we are riding bikes, and raising money… But if we don’t hurry up and figure this all out then I may just break off so much…there will be nothing left.