The Early Days
I have always been fastidious about getting an annual mammogram. Both of my grandmothers had breast cancer – one for the first time around 1949, when technology is not what it is today. During her mastectomy, she had the lymph nodes under her arm removed, and her arm was enlarged for the rest of her life – to the point of needing all of her clothes especially tailored. She ultimately died of cancer around 1970, but her life was assuredly prolonged, thanks to amazing breast cancer care — particularly for that day and age. In fact, I didn’t even know she’d had a mastectomy until long after her death – and thanks to great care for those times, she was alive until I was about 18 years old, and played a key role in my life. My other grandmother had a malignant lump when she was in her very late 80’s, but died of either heart disease or the cancer. Upon her diagnosis, she was much too fragile for surgery – so we’ll never know for sure which disease killed her at the age of age 90.
I managed public housing for older people and people with disabilities for 30 years, until I was injured at work and became unemployed in December of 2004. I kept up my COBRA payments until the coverage expired. I was really scared! Never in my life had I been uninsured! As a quasi-governmental employee, I had always had excellent coverage. In the interim, I met a very, very special man and got married for the first time at age 53, on October 30, 2005. (When they hear that, many women say, “There’s still hope for me!” Well, it wasn’t even on my “to-do” list!) He was working, but had no benefits whatsoever.
Getting Closer to the Present
Thus, here are the two of us – each with a Master’s Degree (his in English, mine in Political Science) — but no health insurance. While I was still getting Worker’s Compensation, I applied for disability payments under a long-term disability policy through my former employer, and later for Social Security Disability Insurance. (Both are still pending – since 12/04!) Then, my sweet new husband lost his job in January of 2006. After much research, I found the only health care coverage that would accept me with a pre-existing condition (through AARP). However, our premiums are incredibly high and our deductibles are truly unattainable: that’s the only way we could even begin to pay our premiums. (We really have it just in case of something catastrophic – God forbid. I want to keep our condo and avoid bankruptcy at all costs – literally!)
I am remarkably fortunate in that my physician is an old friend from high school who doesn’t charge me. It was time for my mammogram, though, and there is nothing he can do about the charges for that! His nurse knows our financial situation. She had been thinking about resources for other patients with no insurance and made a couple of suggestions. I got on the Internet and checked those out, but either they were for people already diagnosed with breast cancer, or I was ineligible due to my inadequate, albeit existing, insurance. I am one of the under-insured we keep hearing about. But I kept researching. There was no way I was going to skip my mammogram as long as I could find a way to get it!
Where UBCF Comes In
I searched every link on every site I visited. I Googled for a while, entering various phrases. That was how I discovered UBCF and the wonderful Beth Heim! I clicked on UBCFs Website link for help, explained my dilemma and received an automated answer, as it was a weekend. Early the following Monday, Beth e-mailed me personally, and the rest is history.
The Happy Ending — or New Beginning
Armed with UBCF’s data, I made an appointment for my mammogram as soon as there was an opening. I went to the hospital for my mammogram and got to talking with the technician. She told me some unbelievable breast cancer insurance horror stories, such as that of one woman whose insurance paid for a routine mammogram, and something suspicious appeared. However, her insurance would not pay for a “diagnostic” mammogram! Another woman was diagnosed with breast cancer and needed treatment, but her insurance wouldn’t cover that – they covered only the routine mammogram. So, I’ve become a proselytizer for UBCF! I gave the technician – and, of course my physician’s nurse – UBCF’s contact information. For my birthday on July 4th, I had asked for donations to UBCF – if anyone asked what I wanted… And the best news is that my mammogram was clear!
Also, my husband is working in “our” new home-based concierge, errand and handyman business, www.atyourbeckandcall.net (I am good for nothing, other than moral support and a recognizable name in the aging and disability communities in Chicagoland, due to my injury.) Hopefully, soon we will start making enough money to cover better insurance – and eventually help UBCF with donations! I’d say, “I can’t begin to say how grateful I am to Beth and UBCF” – but I’ve said pretty much… I am truly very, very grateful to Beth for her kind personal support and UBCF for their generous financial support. Thank you!