Cancer Care in a Hurricane
American history should teach us that nothing peaceful stays peaceful. The threat to the Affordable Care Act feels like another venture in betrayal of poor and minorities in our country. Is this act of repeal of Obamacare the new Jim Crow in health care, the reexperiencing of the Trail of Tears, and/or another chapter in the long story of slavery? Today, many millions of families are poised to step backwards in their healthcare: giving up their health insurance will be a challenge to their budgets, their bodies, and their beliefs in America. Healthcare is being taken away by the government without any replacement that has been discussed, understood, or agreed upon. Years of living with the fear of a major illness affecting one or more in the family now returns to the present conditions of existence. Hours spent in deciding whether to skip a meal or skip a prescription drug are now back with even more uncertainty. Thoughts of preventing illness through early detection, visits to primary physicians, or specialists is out of the question. The world of adult decisions about help is about to be turned upside down.
These changes effect me deeply. I have been part of a volunteer organization working to deeply reduce the amount of death from cancer in our poorest citizens. For the past two years, a great staff of physicians, ministers, educators, students, and community organizers have come together to offer cancer education and navigation to screening and treatment to poor people, the disabled, and minorities. We have met in wonderful churches offering free dinners and shared time to discuss the importance of early detection. Community centers have made room for us to introduce navigation as a new and vital concept to provide help to people confused by the healthcare system. Local foundations have stepped up to offer us monies to support our activities. Even a federal agency has seen the merit of what we are pioneering in terms of making sure every patient that wants help navigating the maze of healthcare gets that help.
We have heard stories from people about their fears about doctors who are rude, confusing, and without sufficient time.We have listened to people describe how family members have died because they did not get their cancers caught soon enough. Overall, the people we have met with in all of our conferences have been glad to see us, eager to sign up for exams, and interested in their general health being the source of discussion. Compassionate discussion with a doctor, a navigator, an ally can be a transformative experience for everyone.
We are continuing our meetings with churches and other social agencies to spread our one message: cancer, once detected early, can be stopped. Our group of Navigators are also going to stay in this process, bringing their passion for justice in health to our meetings. And, our beautiful health centers are continuing to see and help people wanting to be healthy, even as their workload is bound to expand. In short, we are going into this expected hurricane of opposition with the hope that we have the strength and resilience to withstand the mighty waves we are sure to face. I urge you to join us. Go to our website:cancerjusticenetwork.org for more information on our schedules, our phone numbers, and our efforts.
by Steve Sunderland
Read about the latest progress we are making as a Cancer Justice Network.