What do they do?

When I am not thinking what do I do? in this situation I am in; do I work, do I eat, how do I sleep, how do I get tired enough to sleep when I don't have enough energy to get out and do anything... when I am not thinking that, I think what do other people do?

After my first treatment, I was too worried about how other people who have gone through this felt and what they did- did they work, did they get sick, could they eat, could they sleep. I tried to compare what I was doing to what I thought I was supposed to be doing, which was a bad idea. I tried to make a predictive work schedule, based on what I heard would be my good and bad days; another bad idea. I appreciate all the offers I have received; all the chances to reach out to friends of friends who have had the same diagnosis, but I have not taken advantage of them, and here's why: because the diagnosis is the same, but nothing else is, and the more I hear about how someone else responds to treatment the more I wonder whether I am somehow wrong in how I respond. The truth is, I feel how I feel, and there's not much I can do about that.

But this has also led me to think about what others do in kind of a practical, grateful way. True, I feel genuinely unlucky that I have cancer- no two ways about that. But I have health insurance- good health insurance. I had some critical illness insurance, and they paid up (I am still in shock over that). I have a warm home and a great wife and family and neighbors who bring me food and gift cards for Smoothie King and give me rides to places I need to go. I have a job that lets me do what I can, and understands that there are some things I am not up to right now. And I can't help but wonder, what do people that don't have these things do?

Take insurance- my bills, up TO the diagnosis, total about $30,000. Luckily, because of the health plan I am on, I am on the hook for a mere fraction of that- a paltry fraction, when it comes down to it, and I have a well-defined out-of-pocket maximum. Unfortunately, since the treatment will span 2013 and 2014, I will be on the hook for my maximum twice, but considering what they total bills are sure to be, this is a very manageable sum. But if it were much more, I would find myself in the position of having to borrow money for my own treatment.

So what do people that don't have that do? I wonder, and that's when I feel fortunate. What if I were on the hook for 1/3, or 1/2? I truly don't know what I would do. Honestly, if I had a health plan that charged much more than a $20 co-payment for an office visit, there is a good chance that I would have continued to ignore my first symptoms and I still would not be diagnosed. Then, instead of a shrinking (hopefully) mass in my chest, I would have one that is growing unchecked, right now. I would be walking around, the cancer growing and spreading, until it manifested itself in a more urgent and frightening way. It is scary, when I think about it like that.

People talk about "lifestyle" diseases; infirmities that are by and large a product of the choices one makes in his life, and are therefore thought of as avoidable. Since they are avoidable, the sufferers of these diseases are generally regarded as deserving of them- they made the choices, and now they are dealing with the consequences. AIDS is thought of as a lifestyle disease. Lung cancer, for smokers, is a lifestyle disease. And for a long time, I have been so wrapped up in the belief that we can control everything through diet and exercise that I have thought of so many more diseases- obesity, cancer, to name but a few- as lifestyle diseases. And of course I felt like I would never be afflicted by one of these.

Well, goes to show what I know. Sure, I probably won't ever get lung or liver cancer, but the wheel still spins, and we all are in the game- whether we want to be or not.

The timing of this has been interesting, since I follow the news very closely and there has been so much rancor over Obamacare and its implementation. There are decent arguments on both sides I suppose (though the "discussions" are rarely decent), but what really gets me is when they talk about healthcare like it's just another consumer product that you can choose to buy or choose not to buy- like it's a car, or a tv, or an iPhone. Some people want it, and that's fine they say, but some people don't- and that's fine too, and we should just let them go without it.

That is fine, too- until they get sick. Because when they get sick, do these people say "well, this is the choice I've made, so I guess I will just sit here and die." No. They go get treated. They rack up bills like the one I am racking up. And when there is no insurance company to pay those bills, they get sent to the patient. And when they can't pay them, they are "free riders," and we all pay them, and it's medical welfare. And though the idea may get applause at political debates, we don't just let people die because they did not have or could not afford health insurance- and that is a good thing. We are not talking about tvs or iPhones here- no matter what we do, we don't get to choose when we enter this market. So let the debate rage on, but let's stop using that false analogy.

So I might feel a little sorry for myself from time to time, until I start thinking what do other people do? What do they do when they don't have insurance or a decent job? What do they do when they don't have family who will drop everything just to come out and make life easier for a while? What do they do when they don't have a loving and sweet- but not babying- wife? What do they do when they don't have friends and neighbors who call and come over and cook and drive and do all the things that they can't do? Well, I don't know what they do- and that's how I know how lucky I am.