Over the past several months, I have written a lot about my very personal experience with cancer hoping in part to help bring awareness and hoping on a personal level to distract me. One thing that I have not shared a lot about is my work situation, FMLA, short term disability, etc. This one is hard for me friends, so I'm going to curl up in a luxurious blanket, make myself some hot tea, and I'll share the part of my story that I originally decided not to.
I've been on Short Term Disability for five months which is quickly running out. My return to work date lists October 13 which is about two weeks before my surgery, post surgery recovery time, and three rounds of chemo after that.
The issue that creeps up from the hollows of my stomach to my chest, feeling as though something is ruthlessly wringing my windpipe, is that I am not eligible for Long Term Disability. My company just purchased this coverage this year; however, this cannot apply to me because I have a pre existing condition. This means that after October 13, I may not have an income. What's worse, the company policy, like most company policies, states that you have to work 32 hours/week to retain benefits. Which means health insurance.
Oof, had to take a quick break after typing that. It's hard to fathom just what my medical care needs will cost with no insurance at all. It feels like my safety net is gone. There is no way I can afford any of this on a social worker's salary. I got into social work hoping to change lives and eventually the world, casually waving away more lucrative careers. I haven't regretted that decision as much as I do now.
I am deeply touched by the compassion and kindness of my friends, family, treatment team, and people in general. I cry multiple times a day thinking how fortunate I am to be surrounded by such magnanimous people who are ready and waiting to intervene at a moment's notice. My coworkers told me not to worry about health care coverage, but no final decision has been made yet.
I cannot put into words the depth of my fear. Fear that I will die for lack of access to good care; fear that I will owe hundreds of thousands for the duration of my life; fear that I will never be able to close that chapter in my life. And then if it comes back, and I will continue to rack up bills.
This is where I always have to stop myself from going further down that thought pattern. I can't handle the tsunami of emotions that inevitably follows.
I'd like to say that I thank you and your families for everything you have done for me. I am deeply touched by your generosity and cry at least once a day remembering the your sweet, invariable support during this experience. Before deciding to change the agency's health care plans they checked with me first to ensure that those plans would include my OBGYN oncologist and all the other people on my treatment team. My coworkers have donated their personal leave time over and over again each month in hopes of helping me continue to get some kind of steady paycheck. My family has sacrificed so much to keep me afloat and sane. Because my community has already done so much for me, my family, my spirit, I strongly hesitate to ask for anything else. However, my situation necessitates me to practice asking for what I need. If you have any change that you can spare, I could desperately, graciously use a quarter, a dollar, five dollars, ten dollars if you can spare it. If you are unable to do so, prayers, thoughts, and good vibes are wonderful and welcome as well.
- Dean Heizer
- john lord
Colorado Springs, CO