The Clerical Side of Cancer


Sometime last year I was researching what it was like to get sick as an adult. Not just the kind of sick that leaves you confined to a bed binging on some random show via Netflix. I am talking about something that affects your health in a big way. I read about a 20-something who got cancer but what she spoke about was the mental aspect. Which I get. You hear you have cancer and your mind instantly goes numb. You think death is in the driveway warming the car. It’s a diagnosis that comes with very little good news when you first get it because whether you caught it early enough or not, it’s still in you.

For me, that diagnosis was never directed towards me, but to my boyfriend who I basically consider a fiance at this point minus a ring and official proposal production. In the middle of the day on January 29, 2017 we sat in an ER room with sheets separating us from other patients in there for this and that. We thought his back pain couldn’t be anything too serious. Of course he’d Googled his symptoms and in the back of his head I think he knew what was coming – but you never want to believe the bad news, right? That’s when the doctor came in. You have to wonder at what point in medical school do they learn to deliver the bad news. He sat down and words and phrases like “masses” and “high white blood count” spilled out of his mouth, soon followed by “cancer.” Matt’s eyes welled instantly, as did mine as I simultaneously started to shake where I sat. I won’t bore you with the details of the 24 hours that passed because honestly, it was kind of a haze. I called my mom and left a message I am sure sent chills down her spine. He called his parents – which broke my heart to hear for various reasons.

Being shipped from one hospital to the next was not a comforting feeling, and it makes you really upset at those who run this country who can spend millions to invade countries they have to business being in while their own citizens are sitting there stressed about whether or not they can get the necessary coverage to live another day. Anyways, a full 24 hours in the ER and UCLA Medical Center could be likened to a horror movie. Uncomfortable and unsure, we just sat cramped together as he wanted it all to end in the early morning when a trauma patient had taken all the nurses and doctors away, leaving him with that agonizing back pain that sent us to the first ER a day or so before. After the diagnosis, that third day was our lowest point.

We see images of cancer in the media all the time, and as we walked the same circle of the Leukemia ward – I seen some of these images in person. Frail, bedridden, gaunt. After two weeks of treatment though, Matt looked the same as January 29th. Only with no back pain and more of an appetite. With that, doctors said he was ready to be an outpatient – which meant we’d finally get to go home and be completely comfortable. Instead though, the clerical workers made the ER seem like a Disney movie.

He had temporary insurance not too long ago. We even doubled checked when a piece of mail said otherwise. Nope, no one noticed the temporary had been denied until he was ready to be discharged. I get there are a lot of people and the hospital’s top priority is making sure they are alive, but what are the jobs of all the administration? To just get the bills ready? How about checking on things on a daily basis and looking for those red flags?

With no coverage whatsoever, Matt was stuck in here for treatment even though when it came to his health – he could’ve walked out that door and only come back a few times a week for chemo from here on out just so long as his numbers remained on the good side. Instead, because no one bothered to check things until last minute – he has been stuck and that is where we remain.

Luckily he had his parents, he has me but it made us think…what about the people who don’t have someone here all the time with a laptop, with a voice to help them out? Finding out he had some form of cancer took a backseat to the stress the insurance companies gave Matt that day – his words, not mine. Because let’s face it, cancer is scary but when things are going that well with his counts and chemo…it’s not as scary as the possibility of not being able to continue with the treatment you once thought you were.

As of this moment, UCLA will not kick him out. He has one more round of chemo for his induction phase next week, but after that – it’s really up in the air because he can’t come back here for outpatient care if he has no coverage. They mentioned county, which if you’ve ever been to any type of county office – is a complete shit show. This scares me more than I think it does him. Not sure why. You’d have to ask him. For me, I want him at the best place possible. I want to rip the coverage people in half for making us believe everything was right until it was late in the game. I want Matt to be okay.

Researching adults getting sick never really led me down the side of the story that deals with anything other than the health part. Over the past couple of weeks, at least for us, that seems to be the easy part. Medicine is not black and white. It works or it doesn’t. Doctors are pretty quick to fix a problem is an irregularity comes back. It’s the other shit they make difficult as fuck to get around.

Matt now understands why I was into Bernie Sanders during the last election because I don’t care if you make millions a year, or are barely pulling in enough to get something off the $1 menu at McDonalds. I just want you to be able to be able to see a doctor when necessary and get the help you need without stressing about the cost. Because being ill, having a broken bone, getting in an accident – that’s bad enough without adding on a pile of bills, forms and people telling you something clerical you do not want to hear. America will never be great. I don’t know what the hell people were thinking when they voted for that orange tyrant, but this country has a hell of a way to go before it can even consider itself a’ight.

America, a place where in some cases hearing you have cancer is the easy part.

Matt’s Mission

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