Cancer-free after all…As far as I know, anyway…

This is one of my favorite pictures of me and my sister Alondra. You can also see the spot under my right eye that had me so panicked.

This is one of my favorite pictures of me and my sister Alondra. You can also see the spot under my left eye that had me so panicked.

Up until a week or two ago, I’d been thinking of health care purely in terms of how much it costs; my husband’s employer does provide a family plan, but it might as well not bother since it costs 50% of his income. We’ve been paying several hundred dollars a month for a plan with a $10,000 deductible, but even this plan only lasts six months and is predicated on none of us having pre-existing conditions. (I’d applied for Wisconsin’s aid program, Badgercare, twice last year–first on behalf of my whole family, then only on behalf of my son–and was denied for reasons that nobody was able to explain to me both times. I gave up and purchased an out-of-pocket State Farm plan with a $10,000 deductible in the naive hope that by the time it expired, I’d have a well-paying job with benefits. I was wrong. I work three part-time jobs, but all I’ve been able to find have been low-paying and part-time; none offer benefits.)

Anyway, it was more a financial annoyance than anything since nobody in my family, fortunately, had any health problems. Then a dear friend who hadn’t seen me in several months visited and expressed concern about a splotch on my face. I’d assumed it was just an overgrown freckle, but she observed that it resembled a spot she’d had to have removed from her own face because it was pre-cancerous. Since she’s a nurse, I was alarmed indeed.

My first instinct was to make an appointment with a doctor to have it checked, and then I realized that that was a bad idea. First of all, I’d have to pay for all the costs out-of-pocket since my deductible’s so high and second, I can’t have anything with even a hint of pre-existing condition lest I not be able to find a new plan once the six months on my current one are up. (I’d been looking forward to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act so I COULD find a new one, but given the Republicans’ venom against it and the health care website’s own considerable problems, I’m gettng discouraged and beginning to feel that families like mine are once again on our own.)

So I delayed doing anything, while all the time becoming increasingly anxious; the spot I’d previously ignored so easily now became my entire world every time I looked in a mirror. Then, ironically enough, my insurance agents referred me to a clinic called ReforMedicine, a direct pay clinic that doesn’t deal with insurance. Instead, they post prices for services, and you pay out-of-pocket for your doctor’s visit.

It was a revelation. Dr. Nola Westphal saw me, and after examining the spot, she said it most likely was solar lentigo (aka a liverspot). She said that she could do a biopsy if it would make me feel better, but it was unnecessary and likely to cause a scar. As disheartening as it is to have an age spot, particularly prominently displayed on my face, it sure beats the alternative.

Now THAT was a revelation: A clinic that didn’t immediately press a slew of tests on me out of the fear of being sued and the desire to make money! I didn’t know such a thing was possible. While normally $75 seems like a ton of money to me, and not a sum I part with easily, I considered this fee well spent since I’m no longer convinced I’m going to die a slow and painful death. At least not now. At least not from skin cancer. (I also have some pretty intense anxiety, which I dare not seek medical help to treat, so I’m likely to find another reason to panic.)

But the point of all this is the one I made before: My husband and I work hard, and we want to pay our own bills, but we simply can’t afford insurance on the free market the Republicans claim so blithely is working perfectly well. I remember hearing one argue that health care is a privilege, not a right. If I really did have cancer, though, I wonder if he’d be willing to explain to my son why keeping his mother alive is a “privilege” rather than a right.

But on a positive note, it’s encouraging to me that pioneers like Dr. Westphal and Dr. Usher at ReforMedicine are trying to find a better way to provide health care. Maybe there’s hope, after all.

(Just so you know, I’m not being paid by their clinic, and, while I DID get a $5 discount for paying by check rather than credit card, I’m writing out of true feeling rather than financial interest. As much as I liked Dr. Westphal, I REALLY hope to not be seeing much of her!)


  1. So glad the end result could take a load off your mind! With so many people suffering from cancer, we have to be wary of seemingly innocuous spots!

    1. It was indeed a relief to know the spot’s probably not cancerous, although since I couldn’t afford to have a biopsy, it’s not 100% sure. The whole ordeal scared me and angered me about the health care situation, though; it made me realize that if I DID have cancer that wasn’t simple to remove, I’d have the choice of letting it spread or probably losing our house since we have a short term medical plan with a $10,000 deductible. I’ve just spent the day applying for Wisconsin’s health insurance program since my Obamacare application is lost somewhere in cyberspace. Maybe the politicians’ goal is to make obtaining government subsidized insurance so frustrating and soul-draining that the potential cancer seems the better alternative… Anyway, I’m hoping to be over my bitterness and back to writing humorous Sage-oriented blog entries soon. I appreciate your bearing with me in the meantime, and I hope all’s well with you! > Date: Wed, 16 Oct 2013 11:54:22 +0000 > To: >

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