"Breast reconstruction is for the rich!" Those were the exact words that came from a woman who shared her scars with a friend of mine. She lives in a small apartment and has very little money.
It may not be JUST for the rich, but breast cancer reconstruction often is for those who can afford the enormous costs associated with it -- making it impossible for many.
As I look back at my experience with breast cancer reconstruction, I realize how incredibly lucky I was. Well... at least I could afford the cost.
What if I couldn't have afforded the surgeries? I looked like a monster. Radiation totally destroyed my chest wall. If you don't believe me, Google my photos. They're out there in cyberspace. Would I have had to live and look like that for the rest of my life?
I have a teenage son with autism who is often aggressive. Combine that with a body that even a special effects monster movie maker would envy and you have a recipe for a very unhappy ending. Even with all of my antidepressant, anxiety and sleeping meds, I don't think I would have had the strength to go on living. I'm sorry, but that's the truth. Yes, I'm extremely vain and divorced. To those who do live happily with their battle scars... I say again (and I will often say), you are my heroes.
The sad thing is that reconstruction techniques even for us monsters are available. Most insurance company's cover reconstruction, but:
• The deductible: Mine was $3,500/year $5,000 out of pocket/year and it took 4.5 years. That's a lot of money.
• Recovery: If you work outside the home, can you take the time off? If you can take the time off, can you afford it?
• Medication: I went through a lot of pain meds.
• Travel Expenses: Locating a doctor who specializes in reconstruction may be far from home. Who pays for that?
• A lumpectomy often can be disfiguring requiring reconstruction. Breast cancer reconstruction isn't just about mastectomies.
• Not all plastic surgeons take Medicare. And, if you have Medicare, do you have the proper supplemental plan? If not, you pay the other 20 percent.
• Good luck with Medicaid!
• What if you don't have insurance at all?
Even now, after all these years, I avoid going to the doctor because of my deductible. My nipples and tattoos could use a little touch up but I don't want to spend the money. Divorce can change ones standard of living.
These are things that most people don't wish to talk about. They not only need to be talked about, but they need to be changed. How many millions of people have no health insurance? Duh! We all know it's a problem. I have not read the "Affordable Health Care Act," but I have some serious doubts as to the monies that will be made available for breast cancer reconstruction.
Now, if you are a candidate for having a mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, it may be a different scenario. I certainly hope that the procedure is someday the norm. Unfortunately, that time has not yet come.
It's easy to say "Oh, I know her, she had breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy. She's doing great." That's usually the end of the conversation. How do we know she's doing great?
She's a survivor! But is she doing great? I hope so!
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