I have cancer.
Now, it’s not the kind that kills you, or at least, it’s not the kind that will kill me. It’s a skin cancer that’s not uncommon for 70 year old white people. I happen to be 40, so that’s not great. But I also have health insurance and access to healthcare, caught it early, and have all expectations that it will be treated successfully.
What if I didn’t?
I spent my twenties working outside, often without anything like sunscreen. So did thousands or millions of others, but what if, instead of a well-off suburban kid counting birds for the government, I had spent those years as a farm worker or some other outdoor job that is less likely to come with health insurance? The carcinoma sitting on top of my head right now would be far more likely to grow and spread. Hell, I barely went to the doctor in this reality, where it is easy and relatively cheap to do so. I have little doubt that in that alternate history, I would have let it go far longer. I would have let it grow.
Would that alternate history me die of this? Probably not. But the possibilities are still unacceptable. Either it would grow and become a more significant threat, or they would be saddled with thousands of dollars in debt, maybe go bankrupt, for the crime of being poorer than me. We can disagree on a lot of things and still be friends, but if you’re okay with that situation, I just plain don’t want to know you.
That opening sentence – I have cancer – is embarrassing for me to write, because it conjures up images of people in far worse shape than me. My mom. My wife’s mom. When you think of cancer, you think of the nightmare diagnoses – breast, liver, pancreas, lung. Non-melanoma skin cancer is by far the best cancer diagnosis anyone can get in 2018, but as the son of a mother who lost her life to one of the deadlier varieties, who held her hand as she went quiet and cold in front of me, I’m allowing myself to be scared by the word anyway.
So, the bad news is, a clump of cells on top of my head is trying to very slowly murder me. The good news is, it’s not a very good killer, and it will fail. But that stroke of luck is down far more to the privilege I was born into than anything I have done to earn it. I’ve been given a gift of access and care that everyone deserves, and millions lack. Right now, there’s someone exactly my age – probably hundreds of them at least – who aren’t getting a simple, outpatient treatment because of our ghoulish for-profit healthcare system, and because men are conditioned to not worry about themselves until they’re legitimately old, if then.
Go to the doctor if you can. Think about how to make that a possibility for more people. The next time you have a chance to vote, use it, and vote for the best candidate and party for healthcare access. The next time you go out in the sun, especially if you’re anywhere near my shade of pale, think about wearing a hat and some sunblock. And the next time someone tells you that no one dies or lives a shorter, sadder life because they don’t have healthcare coverage, punch them in the fucking mouth, and tell them I sent you.