It took cancer for me to care about healthcare

For too long, I ignored our broken system. After my own health crisis, I'm fired up and ready to fight

Published March 23, 2010 5:30PM (EDT)

Watching Rachel Maddow recite the many good things the healthcare bill does on her show Monday night, I was elated. Hearing that Republicans have vowed to repeal the bill, I was insulted. My insurance pays for lifesaving care. My insurance has saved my life. It is easy and natural to shield oneself from the bloody, painful, grievous facts behind the numbers when one is not, oneself, one of the numbers.

Having cruised along healthy for so long, I was able to put out of mind the gruesome, deathly consequences of a broken healthcare system.

I can no longer treat it as an abstraction. I take it personally. So I am happy when progress is made and angry when such progress is threatened.

Do Republicans know how murderous they sound? When your life depends on decisions made by people whose faces you will never see, based on rules you had no part in making, in a language so technical you cannot parse it, you finally, truly encounter your own vulnerability to the actions of states and institutions.

To a person in such a vulnerable state, any attempt to limit care or reverse the expansion of care or take away power that has been granted to people or take back moneys granted to seniors or allow more people to be dropped by their insurance companies or in any way to deny anyone the healthcare they need ... well, frankly, I'm just speechless.

I just wish I could write like Glenn Greenwald.

I now want to work more openly for political change. I have stayed out of the political fray for many years, finding it more skillfully and brilliantly played by our political team led so admirably by Joan Walsh.

But if you find my approach to ethical, moral and spiritual problems of some relevance to your life, if you have come to know me as a decent, thoughtful person, certainly imperfect, given to excess, occasionally verbose and self-absorbed but of fundamentally decent and positive character, then perhaps when I take a political stand from time to time you will see the reason in it and see fit to join me. Or perhaps you will choose to try and show me the error of my thinking.

Either way: I must take a public stand on issues where it can do some good.

Having emerged from a harrowing experience, running the last leg of my long route toward recovery, I hope that this is not an ephemeral change of heart, but one that sticks.

I do not know exactly when I can return to writing a regular column, but I hope it can be soon, and I hope that I can find a way to write while undergoing my next course of treatment.

Be well. Celebrate.

By Cary Tennis

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Cancer Healthcare Reform