There is so much anguish, confusion and anger regarding our country’s current state of “health care”. Understandably so, as the cost of being seen by a doctor is mind-numbingly ridiculous due to numerous man- and corporation-made factors that have made it so one “needs” insurance to be seen by a doctor at all. Second, most companies in the U.S. do whatever they can to not have to provide health insurance for their workers. Third, even with insurance, the process of getting the care you need is so time-consuming and difficult that only the truly persistent and tenacious will pursue and receive the care they need. I feel unwell just remembering hassles and time wasted trying to receive care from this broken system.
This past April, I found a new lump in my left breast, next to the hamartomas that were discovered in 2015. This new “friend” felt different from the others and if I was honest with myself, I was worried. My thought process went something like, “Way to go Jojo, you quit your job with benefits because you were miserable and now you go and get cancer- go YOU!”
“Ok; my kids are grown. Ish. They’re critical thinkers, have jobs and vote. I’ve lived some beautiful, memorable moments so maybe my job here’s done. Thank goodness I’m registered to donate this meat carcass ‘cuz hell if I’m paying anyone anything on my way out!”
“But it’s the surgery, chemo and resultant side effects that truly scare me.”
“Well, ha-ha, Johanna, you ain’t got insurance no more, so you won’t be having any of that anyway, m’dear.”
Deciding to NOT let my highly-imaginative brain take me anymore colorful places, I dialed the number on my Blue Cross/ Blue Shield card and scheduled an appointment with a doctor while I still had thirty days left of this Crap Called Health Care. At my appointment, I told them what I’d found, my history and what I’d like to do (have it fine-needle aspirated, biopsied and then you know, let me, the owner of this body, weigh out and choose my options). Instead, this was what I got: a referral for yet another diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound even though I said quite clearly that I did not want to be exposed to any more radiation from further mammograms because the first few hamartomas showed up soon after having had a total of eight chest x-rays within a short time period. In 2015 my collarbone moved itself to a new location, causing some pain and the cancelation of three months of massage appointments (muscular imbalances resulting from the way we continually use our bodies can cause serious but highly-preventable “injuries”). All the x-rays were deemed “unremarkable” much to my and my diligent ANP’s confusion, as we could both clearly see the misshapen bony joint. I eventually acquired insurance through my employer. I knew some skilled massage work would help my rogue S/C joint but now that I had insurance for three taken out of my pay, we could barely afford food, let alone therapeutic massage. I painstakingly booked an appointment with a doctor under my shiny, brand new insurance. After presenting my case history and the exam, she prescribed Naproxin (Alleve? Seriously?). I decided, “Nope.” and resumed my fitness training with a focus on the muscles that I knew would pull the collarbone in the directions I needed it to go. My collarbone is fine and I’m stronger now than I was in 2015.
But back to my lumpy boob. When I protested the diagnostic mammo, the doc told me it would be the quickest way to get the care I needed and besides, even if it was just a cyst, he couldn’t remove it at this visit as he wasn’t a surgeon. I was so glad I was quitting this rat-race for “benefits” because this system benefits NO ONE. I ripped up the referral and contacted folks I knew who could help me with info about breast thermography, a procedure I learned. I made a topical paste of herbs that I knew dissolved masses and revisited my lymphatic self-massage of the area. One of my former colleagues, a chiropractor and dedicated instructor, recommended a woman who did breast thermography screening so I called, spoke to the woman and had it done. The imaging confirmed “areas of concern”, and she recommended specific dietary changes and supplements. It was fascinating to me that many of the supplements were already things my Mother used to give me as preventive medicine when I was younger. The lifestyle changes were things I already knew I needed to either do more of or stop doing. The fear upon discovery of more lumps had now morphed into a determined purposeful way of being. This was how I functioned best anyway. This is how everyone functions best- we are just taught to forget that. But I digress… The hardest thing about the food changes was the time and work required to procure, wash and prep meals of fresh, organic, non-GMO produce at least three times daily. It takes time. It takes a lot of time, but you know what else takes a ton of time?
Driving from specialist to specialist to specialist.
Having chemo administered then waiting until your side-effects wear off enough so you can live life.
Recovering from a heart attack.
Enduring jobs (or relationships) that are not your truth so you can have “benefits” that are of no use to you.
All of these things take time. And since we have a finite amount of that while here, I’ve chosen to spend mine washing, chopping, prepping veggies; watching my thoughts and examining those born of anxiety and fear; only spending time with people who are supportive and nurturing and making sure that I am eager to jump out of bed and start my day because it is filled with activities that I have chosen.
Within two weeks of the dietary changes, the newest lump shrank. After a month, even the old ones were gone. There were no masses of any kind in my breast any more. While away on a trip to Cuba, I wondered if the lumps would return without my daily Budwig protocol and supplements. Cuba made getting the required daily sun exposure easy. But the food choices in that country were meager, highly-sugared and mostly processed. Greens? Fresh, ripe vegetables? Nope. You’ll have canned peas in that omelet and like it because you’re hungry enough. Rum and cheap smokes were more readily available than food. And you know what? While I did imbibe and smoke during my stay, it was never with that feeling of needing to obliviate whatever I had forced myself to endure during the day, which I firmly believe is a U.S. “affluenza”-caused epidemic. Just look at the number of fancy cocktail places and posh wine stores in affluent areas. How is that any different than a corner liquor store in the ‘hood? Both socio-economic groups are drinking to forget: either what they don’t have access to or what they have ample amounts of but hoard to fill some void. We have so much choice yet so much waste.
It’s been almost three months. Still no lumps. I run a busy private massage practice, train aerial rope, juggles (and now stilts) and martial arts almost every day. I will follow up with another thermography screening in a few months. I will be paying for that out of pocket as breast thermography is not covered by insurance. Only deadly mammograms with their questionable accuracy rate are. I know all of this is “soft” evidence because it is presented in subjective, anecdotal format and I am careful to not list the supplements or details of my dietary changes because I am a massage therapist and not a clinical, certified nutritionist or doctor. To the health insurance corporation machine and our astoundingly embarrassing political figures hellbent on hurting human lives with healthcare policy, I say (as loudly as possible) “You keep your “benefits”. I’ll just be over here, you know, the non-compliant patient that I am, taking care of my own health.”
And quietly helping others do the same.