“You would have been dead,” my radiologist told me after my surgeon had removed seven millimeters of Stage 1 breast cancer from my body.
It’s true. Without the Affordable Care Act, I would not be alive to write this.
For ten years, I took care of my father in his final years with advanced Parkinson’s Disease. Each day, I was responsible for his every physical movement and responding to his every need. I watched days go by from the inside of our house, exploring life through the books I read to my father by his bedside. On Tuesdays, my sister would come down from Los Angeles and I could get out for a few hours to do the shopping. Other than those few hours, I literally could not leave the house unless someone was there to sit with him.
Shortly after my father passed away in 2010, the ACA was signed into law. I knew this was the only way I could afford healthcare, so I hopped on the computer to sign up the second night of enrollment. I enrolled in a silver plan and I even qualified for additional help in paying for my health care expenses.
In my first doctor’s appointment under my new plan, I was given a routine physical and a mammogram. About a week later, I received a letter saying that doctorshad found dense tissue in my breast, and they would like to send me to a specialist for a more extensive mammogram. Before the ACA, I would have said no because I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. Now that I had insurance I went out to San Marcos to find out what was going on in my body.
The results weren’t good.The doctor had found a pattern of dots on my scan which can indicate breast cancer, so they sent that in for an initial biopsy. That came back negative. Still, my radiologist was not sure, so she sent me to get a more serious scan, a stereoscopic mammogram.
That scan showed Stage 0 precancerous cells that can turn into Stage 1 breast cancer. And as it turns out, mine did. When I got the lumpectomy to remove the Stage 0 cells, seven millimeters of Stage 1 breast cancer.
I remember telling my radiologist after my procedures that if it weren’t for the Affordable Care Act, I would have been uninsured. I could never have afforded tests beyond that first mammogram that showed dense breast tissue.
He told me, I would have been dead. That without insurance, I wouldn’t have had any medical care. The doctors wouldn’t have found it until stage 3 or early stage 4, and very few people come back from that.
I went on to have two more lumpectomies, and my third lumpectomy found more stage 0 cancer. I now wear the scars of a double mastectomy, and I am grateful. I am grateful because I am still alive, with less than a one percent chance of my cancer returning. All thanks to the ACA.
Leading up to last year’s vote on the American Health Care Act — which would have repealed the ACA — I called my congressman,Darrell Issa, on multiple occasions. I was able to reach his aides and I told them my story in the hopes that it would make a difference. But still, Issa voted to repeal the ACA. He voted to take away the very thing that he knew had saved my life, and so many others like me.
So, while Issa may again refuse to understand my story, I will leave him with this final message: Anyone who would vote to take away healthcare knowing that decision will kill people is not qualified for public service at any level.
Monica Wyatt resides in Oceanside, California.