A Club No One Wants to Join
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OpinionFrom Where I Sit

A Club No One Wants to Join

As he faces an unexpected health challenge, Dave offers resources for those in similar situations and a warning to vote-seeking politicians.

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

I’ll spare you the details, but in recent weeks I’ve become intimately acquainted with a few of life’s indignities.

Suffice it to say that I will contribute to any effort to redesign the hospital gown that leaves your backside open to a breeze. Other things I will not mention. At some point, though, you have no choice but to surrender a measure of dignity for the sake of your health.

Hearing the “C” word sends your thoughts to some pretty dark places. But if you’re fortunate, you’re offered a silver lining to that cloud.

That’s where I now find myself, on a path of indeterminate length (much like life itself, I’ve been reminded), one that offers no iron-clad promises but at least the opportunity to be optimistic.

Under the circumstances, that’s not bad.

I know people who are or have been in more dire circumstances, so I don’t offer myself as a poster child for anything, other than the potential perils of not seeing your doctor regularly.

For want of a sore left shoulder, who knows what might have been lost. After months of increasing discomfort, I finally made an appointment. Had it not been for that shoulder, who knows how long it would have been.

Physical therapy should help that shoulder, the doctor said. Great, that’s all I came for.

Not so fast, the doctor said. You haven’t been here for a while, so let’s do a more thorough exam.

The doctor identified two possible problems and recommended, strongly, that I seek more specialized opinions, both of which came back with unwelcome news.

The first procedure removed what I’ve termed a lifetime achievement award that likely dates back to not wearing enough sunscreen (then referred to as suntan lotion) during countless hours spent on tennis courts decades ago. As these things go, it was the less encumbering of the two surgeries and will leave a not-too-visible scar.

The other item required more extensive testing, which led to a good news-bad news call. The initial area of concern showed no problem, the specialist said, but – and that BUT started my head spinning – something that we didn’t expect turned up elsewhere.

The mystery item was removed in a more invasive procedure and sent for testing that came back with THAT word. It was quite the birthday present.

The silver lining is that it appears to have been caught early – again, thanks to that sore shoulder – but still requires treatment that will last for however long it needs to last, with the ever-present chance that the problem could return.

So that’s where I am.

Or I should say, that’s where we are. I may be the patient, but my wife and our children are on this journey, as well. Their love and support has made the early difficult steps a bit easier.

I have no profound words about experiencing a spiritual awakening or renewed commitment to faith. On the other hand, it has prompted an overdue assessment of all the stuff that accumulates over the years and a desire to lighten that load.

I’ve heard frightening cost figures for my various tests and procedures. Thankfully, health insurance should limit, but not eliminate, the expense of what has been done and what will be done.

Anyone who has spent hours on the phone with billing departments and insurance companies knows the frustrations of navigating the financial side of health care. It is easy to understand why many Americans fear being one accident or illness away from financial ruin.

I recommend taking a look at the website ClearHealthCosts.com and watching the TED Talk by its founder and CEO, journalist Jeanne Pinder, which is posted on its home page.

Politicians who want to make a kitchen table appeal to voters will make the cost of health care their priority. It behooves the journalists covering the 2020 campaigns to study this issue as they report on the programs the candidates propose and the promises they make.

My youngest sister says that I am now a member of a club that no one wants to join. This brings to mind the Groucho Marx quip: “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.” I didn’t ask to join, but nonetheless, here I am.

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