Senator Colleen Lachowicz of Waterville, a member of the Health and Human Services Committee (and who also co-chaired the legislature’s Commission To Study The Incidence and Mortality Of Cancer), wrote a very personal response to my column on Saturday on the effects of health care expansion on cancer screening and treatment. The column was itself in part a response to Sen. Rodney Whittemore speech on the floor of the Senate last week in which he claimed that providing greater health care access would create a “cancer of dependency” among those who would be covered.
Lachowicz’s response, republished here with permission:
Last year my good friend Melissa died from cancer. She was also my sister’s best friend. I would go to the legislature, go to work and then help care for her in her home as she died. You may remember her. My sister and I took her to see kangaroos and wallabies at the DEW Animal Kingdom in Mt. Vernon.
A relative of mine has cancer now. She’s fighting it. Last week I spoke about a woman I met in Winslow whose daughter had cancer. She had a job and insurance. But in the aftermath of fighting the disease she lost her job. She couldn’t afford to keep paying for the insurance. So she couldn’t get the follow-up care and screening that as I said last week “can make cancer a chronic treatable condition rather than a death sentence.”
During the fall I was the Senate co-chair on the Commission To Study The Incidence and Mortality Of Cancer. People from both parties, doctors, policy makers were on that committee. We started each meeting hearing from a person whose life was effected by cancer. We heard their stories. The biggest recommendation this special commission had was to accept the federal funds and expand MaineCare. So people right now who have cancer and don’t know it can get screened and treated before the disease spreads. So people won’t delay going to the doctor when the symptoms first occur. So people will continue to have access to care when they lose their jobs and can’t afford to pay for continuing health insurance. So people can get care as soon as possible in the battle to fight this disease.
So no, it isn’t a metaphor. It’s real life. “Malignant culture of dependency?” How about this: Cancer is a malignancy where your body betrays you and tricks your cells to keep growing until, if left untreated, can kill you. Sometimes even with treatment it still does.