Will Everything Be All Right?

reprinted from my blog at shareable.net

Corbyn’s children killing time on the doctor’s office floor during her three and a half hour medical exam.

Around this time last year, I was flying off on business trips every week or so–at company expense–between Colorado, Texas, and California, trying to push back the tide of this recession for the brands I represented. In spite of all the hotel rooms, morning meetings, and conference calls, for almost six months I made well under a thousand dollars in commission per month–less than they were spending to send me on these fruitless and frustrating business trips. I wasn’t surprised when my position was eliminated.

I tried self-employment, but faced a struggle trying to make ends meet. Health insurance for all of us was one of the last things we let go of when our financial crisis crested. Pre-existing conditions that I’d always considered of little consequence, like a tendency toward mild hypertension in pregnancy, caused our premiums to skyrocket into the four-figure range every month, and that was for a no-frills policy with high deductibles and copayments.

We paid to keep the plan as long as we could, even though we tended to gravitate toward a holistic approach. I’ve long advocated good preventive lifestyle choices; we are active and do not eat fast food, smoke, keep processed treats in the house, or drink to excess. My experience has always been that if you give your body the tools it needs to be well, then very little intervention is required for most mild illnesses.

Still, there were my annual pelvic exams, the kids’ checkups, my husband’s dental care. We had to have insurance, how could we not? To not have it would be the height of irresponsibility. Like most parents, I flashed on images of what could happen: a car accident with a long injury rehabilitation, a diagnosis of chronic disease. So for the bulk of the time while I was self-employed, we kept paying this bill.

I don’t really remember when we stopped being able to pay the premiums. My stress level was escalating with every month I couldn’t cover our basic needs. I just let go of all except what was immediately pressing: keeping shelter and utilities. Food was farther down the list than it should have been, even. Looking back, I wish I had been quicker to turn to government programs for my family . . . I just always thought I was a couple good weeks away from being able to turn it around myself.

There is never a time that you forget that your children are uninsured. You feel like running behind them in a half-crouch, arms extended, ready to catch the sudden stumble. I wasn’t prepared for how demoralizing it would feel, knowing that no one would be there to help if a member of my family was hurt or sick. I was living with this illusion–it seemed an utter impossibility that one of my children would be turned away when I carried their hot body into the hushed and reassuring calm of a doctor’s office, vulnerable as a parent often is.

I don’t remember my mother being especially affectionate when I was growing up. I looked for signs of her love everywhere, even in something so simple and small as the feeling of her fingernails flicking efficiently against the nape of my neck as she twisted my hair into a bun. Taking me to the doctor when I was sick was a type of love, and I clung to it and still remember it. Remember that feeling? A hand on your forehead and a thermometer in your mouth made it seem like everything would be all right.

When you don’t have medical insurance, you never really feel like everything is going to be all right. I managed to have two failed root canals while we had no dental insurance, and now I have two less molars. Seems we always made to much to qualify for Medicaid, yet there was no way we could pay even to cover only the kids privately. Sure, there were county offices for vaccinations, and walk-in clinics where we could sit for hours and wait for a nurse to prescribe an antibiotic for thirty bucks.

Several months ago, my husband finally passed through that preliminary stage of employment before benefits kick in, and suddenly–for a hefty yet manageable monthly fee–we have medical and dental coverage for all five of us. I have been able to take my younger two to their first ever dental visits, and have had my first physical exam in years.

Oddly, amazingly, they’ve found a tumor and a lesion in my mouth that don’t look good. I have an exam with a specialist and a biopsy scheduled, although the process of diagnosis is taking weeks. Meanwhile, I am having to take painkillers around-the clock for the strange pain that’s afflicted me down the back of my neck.

The information we receive in the next month has the potential to change our upended lives yet again. I’m relieved and grateful that now, at least, I can walk into the quiet offices of medical specialists who will touch me, examine me, and monitor my progress.

Having received what may be really bad news about my health, I am glad I don’t have to reassess what I’m doing with my days, or try to find a way to spend more time with my family. I consider the fact that if I do end up getting the worst possible prognosis, we will rely on our community more than we currently do. I’ll need others to help parent my children, and possibly to ferry me to appointments here and there. My husband cannot lose any income, so taking time off isn’t an option.

But at least I’m not in a random airport or a lonely, generic hotel room feeling this worry, as I would have been this time last year. I’m loving my children. We’re blasting music and riding our bikes. I’m putting the tomato seedlings in the ground, now that the winds have died down. I am not ready to leave this life, and there have been times in my past when I have been.

12 thoughts on “Will Everything Be All Right?”

  1. Your story is inspiring.

    I quit my job six months ago to be poor. Not to romanticize being poor, I do like money, but in my case, it was costing me. I was slapped with an alimony order when I got divorced and ordered to pay child support for children I have 60% of the time because apparently, I worked and made too much. I paid the orders for a year before I realized that I was digging myself a hole; working and “making more” but was still struggling to make ends meet and worst of all, not seeing my children. So I quit.

    I’ve since eliminated spousal support but still on the hook for child support until a court hears the case in May. In the meantime, I am having the time of my life with my children whenever they are not in school. I work while they’re in school, but I no longer have to worry about where they’ll be between the time they get off school and the time I’m done with my work. I can take care of them when they are sick.

    Not everything is nice and rosy, I go through panic attacks every now and then when I look at my checking account…but like you said…at least I am not going through these panic attacks in a lonely hotel room somewhere or my work cubicle.

    Glad to have found you.

    Best regards,
    Lisa

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  2. The health insurance thing is a killer. my son gets CHIP, but DH and I are uninsured. I don’t mind, since my credit is already destroyed from an accident while uninsured. I’m glad you have coverage, and hope your health improves ASAP.

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  3. Oh my gosh, Corbyn. I wrote about this just yesterday. We left our insurance coverage behind in May. For two and a half months I have felt that fear, too. Every time my daughter asks me to “watch this, Mom!”, I am startled and tell her not to do the cartwheel or jump past one stair. This too, shall pass.

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  4. I read things like this and I am so grateful that I live in Australia where everyone, no matter what, has access to medical treatment when needed. The idea of being turned away from a hospital is abhorrent.

    I hope you get good news.

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  5. Hey, Corbyn :)

    I stumbled on your blog as a link from the “Civil Eats” site. I was tickled to see you’re in the Sacramento region. I live in Cool, and work in the northern suburbs. After raising 4 kids and going through some trying economic times and recessions, I put myself through nursing school and am very fortunate to be financially (fairly) secure now.
    We did the dumpster-diving, too, btw. In Houston, when my ex-husband lost his job that we had moved across the country to take. We also foraged wild greens, fished, and shared power by drilling a hole in the wall between apartments with our neighbors – when one of us was cut off, the other was usually paid up. We also lived in a chicken coop, and a warehouse, for about a year when the kids were little. (See this if you’d like:http://cmysticali.blogspot.com/2007/07/my-humble-story.html)
    I am hopeful that your health is good. I am embarrassed that this nation cares more about billionaires than about the failing middle class, and our leaders would take from the poor to give to the rich. I am deeply wounded that the people I voted for, thinking they would finally give us a single-payer health care system could only come up with forcing us to buy insurance instead. Our only hope, IMHO, is that folks like you enlighten those who don’t seem to understand that most uninsured people WORK.

    My “significant other” and I raise free-range chickens. They aren’t “organic”, ’cause we feed them regular chicken feed supplement and leftovers. But they’re happy birds, and we even have 3 roosters. We usually get between 4 and 6 dozen eggs a week. The eggs are lovely: blue, green, pale pink and brown. We distribute most of them to an extended family of eccentric friends that belong to a medieval research and education society called the SCA. If you’d like some eggs, just let me know. I’m not sure where you’re living currently, but if you’re in the vicinity of Howe Avenue Park, across from the Home Depot near Howe and Cottage (I think….) , we’re usually there with eggs in tow on Wednesdays. My email is Scat(underline)the(underline)Ranger(at)yahoo.com and I’m serious: we have about 10 times as many eggs as we use every week.

    Hang in there, kid.

    Sarah

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  6. I just read the article about you and your family in this month’s More magazine. You may think I am CRAZY but after hearing your plight I would love to offer an idea- Direct Sales (gasp!) I have been self employed in Direct Sales for just about 25 years and have earned an executive income for the last 20, along with free cars, numerous incentives and prizes etc. I am wondering if you would like more info since it sounds like you have a great work ethic and sales experience. I am talking having a business, not a get rich quick scam. My company has been around for 49 years, is a leader in the industry and was recognized on Nightline this past November as a company who is hleping to “bring America back”!

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  7. Oh Corbyn,
    I just read a great article of yours on Huffington Post (the end of summer) and was inspired to click through to your blog.
    I have three children (6,2 and 1) and I have never had to worry about the issue of access to basic health care (I am Australian, and here everyone gets it) so I can only imagine how that must have felt, and my heart breaks for you. Also, I sincerely hope your health scare worked out ok (I think it must have, since you seemed high spirited in your HP article).
    I also wanted to say I love the honesty of your writing, and I’m very glad I found your blog…
    All the very best,
    Charlotte

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  8. When my hubby and I were both unemployed I put my kids on Medicaid. we didn’t need it most of the time, maybe only one or two visits during the 2 years, but I was glad for it. Those 2 visits and RX were completely paid for.

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corbyn hanson hightower wrote

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