What We Make Our Sisters Do for Healthcare

Sisters, we are allowing great pain and
suffering. Sisters, we are doing more than allowing great pain and
suffering, we are participating in it. All around us, our moms, our
daughters, our cousins, our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends and,
yes, our sisters are fighting in quiet desperation against a system so
full of greed and corruption that we work to feed the beast stalking us
for its next meal.

As I write this, I can almost hear the
complaints from those who believe they are not at fault simply because
they support a change to the political system or the healthcare system
in this nation. We seem to have become a nation of people who confuse
concern about an issue with protecting one another - we confuse words
with actions. And we teach the lessons to our children over and over
again: Actions speak louder than words, as my mom used to say.

A woman I know - an insured woman - was
diagnosed with breast cancer about six months ago. She had a double,
radical mastectomy on a Tuesday and was back to work the next Monday.
Her cancer, they found, had already spread to lymph nodes throughout
her body. So, every Thursday for the next year, she will get her dose
of chemo, and she'll wait for the devastating sickness to subside soon
enough for her to return to work the following Monday. She commutes a
long distance every day so she can keep the insurance through her job
that allows her to have the chemo and any chance at beating her
cancer. Four days sick, three days to work. Every single week. She
never mentions the cancer. We cannot speak of it. It might upset her
husband and children. She must simply work to pay the piper.

It is brutal. It is awful. This woman's husband
owns his own small business and does not carry his own insurance; the
whole family must rely on the mom with cancer to gut it out - even
until she can do no more - to protect everyone. I hear the stories
over and over again. Stiff upper lip and lesson to the kids? Work.
Buy insurance. Get cancer. Keep working. Keep buying insurance. Get
chemo. Feel awful. Snap out of it. Pour yourself in the car. Drive
to work. Suck it up. Work. Work. Work.

There is no compassion and no respite for this
woman or thousands and thousands of our sisters in similar situations.
We work. Especially when people we love rely on us, we work and we
keep going even when it is close to impossible. It is a uniquely
American sort of abuse and misuse of women. It's a sort of secret
sorority into which we are inducted through the example of the tough
women around us and from which we can almost never extricate
ourselves. Show one sign of weakness at work or grumble at home, and
you will be labeled as a loser.

Yet, did any of the women in our government or
any of the women in positions of influence and power who had the chance
to fight for women such as these do so during the last round of
healthcare debates? No, they did not. And did any of the women loudly
supporting the for-profit, private insurance product bailout bill sold
as health reform really care to break up the brutal game injuring so
many of their sisters around the nation. No, they did not. In fact,
some of those who went to work every day for the powerful folks who
will benefit from this most recent bail-out bill did so while gutting
it through situations similar to the woman I know.

We live with a healthcare system that is largely
selfish, greed-driven, money-hungry and brutal to almost every person
with an illness - unless that person has care secured a way to survive
and afford care while someone else close to them works or unless they
have access to care through Medicare, Medicaid, the IHS or the VA. And
even in some of those settings, providers are very hard to find and
some care little about the wellness of the patient and a lot about the
healthy profits.

Check out the status of most insured Americans'
health and you'll find some shocking, but predictable realities. Teeth
get pulled not fixed. People take OTC meds to avoid the healthcare
system and its costs. Symptoms needing attention are ignored until the
symptoms become insistent. Parents find ways to get kids to care
whenever they care, but many still go without basic services.

And nothing we did in the current Congressional
cycle changes up the reality for most of us beyond forcing us to
purchase the defective product that leaves so many women driving to
work through the pain, through the nausea and through the fear of an
illness because we've offered no other options besides pumping up the
profits instead of throwing out the abusers.

People are tired of talking about it right now.
They want to move on to the war or the oil spill or the unemployment
rate or the green jobs issue or poverty or any other of the many
problems we have to face together. But it seems to me that the poor
example we just set when it comes to healthcare reform effort would
lead one to know our ability to protect and defend much of anything is
suspect. If we are not our sister's keepers, then who are we?

Moms. Wives. Sisters. Friends. Companions.
Neighbors. Do we care how awful the struggle? Enough to act on their
behalf? Or do we simply care enough to give of a few hours a day to
hear ourselves talk about our own brilliance in terms of policy and
politics? When will our sister's pain be enough to motivate us to
contact someone in her community to challenge a doctor, a provider or
two, a neighborhood and a community to care for her and embrace her
family so she does not have to struggle so? When will we advocate for
others enough to truly help them through and make the common struggle
so commonly owned that the solutions will have to be commonly embraced
and won together? Or are we so selfish that isn't even possible?

Help a sister today. Lift her load today. Make
another person accountable today. Make yourself accountable to lift
the burdens of someone who is hurting. Maybe a transformation of this
sort can also leaven the rising of greater humanity within our society
so that the next time we cry, "Everybody in, nobody out," the response
from within our communities will be a resounding, "Of course."

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