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Differential Care By Dumb Luck

I don’t like getting involved in politics anymore because we don't need another nutcase with a bullhorn! Yet, there’s one topic that still ruffles my feathers.

I've had strong opinions about healthcare ever since we found ourselves in the ER with my uninsured MIL suffering from the yo-yo effects of congestive heart failure. The billing practice of the hospital stunned us - they charged her full price on every line item because she was uninsured. Unbelievable!

Last week I visited a friend in rural Virginia who is recovering from breast cancer.

She had surgery in a hospital in her hometown but her surgeon failed to properly remove adequate tissue around the tumor. After that, she sensibly chose an academic center four hours away for further treatment. The oncologists there recommended radiation therapy as follow-up to a second surgery to remove additional suspect tissue. My friend decided that four weeks of daily treatments four hours away would be impossible to manage and afford. With the blessings of the oncologist at the academic center, she sought radiation treatment at a second hospital near her.

My friend is a technologist and recently retired from a Fortune-100 company. Her husband is a retired cattle rancher. They live in an beautiful home set in the idyllic meadows of rural Virginia. They are not wanting. Neither are they flush with a lottery win. They make well-grounded choices and expect sanity in return. They have a high deductible health plan because, like me, they try to control healthcare costs

Well, it turned out that the hospital she went to for radiation treatments could not provide the standard protocol. They could only do an outdated protocol which would have delivered 60% more radiation. Plus their equipment was not set up! In the end, she was left with no choice but to travel to the academic center for daily treatments.

She has paid just as much in health insurance as I have. She has worked very hard. She has eaten better and lives in a cleaner environment than me. Is it just dumb luck that she lacks good healthcare facilities that I have immediate access to or this systemic negligence of rural areas?

The latter for sure. These stats tell our stories...

This ties me in a knot in so many ways! I am saddened that cancer insidiously continues to infiltrate my circle. It frustrates me that by sheer luck my friend and I have differential care because of where we live and it leaves me cynical that specialists can be incentivized to move to rural areas in the throes of such quality differences.

For now, I am so grateful to the universe for seeing my friend through her cancer journey. Her brilliant smile when I surprised her with a visit was worth the wait.

In this upcoming election I am keeping a close eye on healthcare choices offered by the candidates along with other topics close to my heart. As we are aging, health is the wealth we crave, so I will be listening carefully and questioning everything on this topic; for my sake and for all my friends who are fighting to get better in a healthcare system that needs CPR.

Photos and statistics from and

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