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Sunday, July 6, 2008

Served with Papers....(for having cancer)



I will never forget the day I was served with papers for having cancer. I know what you're thinking. What is she talking about? That's ridiculous. Impossible.

Well, it's not.

I was at work when I got the phone call from my father. There was a sheriff here looking for you. I gave him your work number and he will being calling you shortly.

I remember the feeling. The feeling of my stomach turning inside out. My breathing got faster and my skin got all clammy. A sheriff? Looking for me? I have never even gotten a parking ticket. Why me?

I remember the fear like it was yesterday. I felt like I was suffocating. I sat at my desk, and waited for the slashing phone call. I tried to do my job, but how could I do my job? A sheriff was after me. I was scared.

Then I got the call. The sheriff said, I need your address as I have papers to serve you. I said for what??? Why??? Why did I do? And then he said it. You owe a hospital money, for services.

And that's when I started to cry.

I begged the sheriff to let me call him back when I got home. And thankfully, he agreed.

I told him the story. The story of the tumor. The story of how I just been taken off my parent's medical less then two months before the surgery. Then I applied for Medicaid, but they denied me. That I had been unemployed. That I lived with my parents. That I had no savings. That I had no money. And still, I was denied.

He replied, I'm sorry, but what's your address?

I said, sir..you don't understand. I had a 13 lb. tumor. I went to the Medicaid office that resembled hell. I spoke to the woman. She asked me if really needed the tumor removed, or if I could live with it. I couldn't live with it. God damn it, it was cancer. I still remember the woman's face. She acted like she was doing me favor. That I was trying to get something for nothing. I felt stupid. I felt ugly. I felt like I was poor, and useless and small. She said, 4-6 weeks weeks till you know if your approved. Good luck....Next on line please.

I hated that day. I cried when I got home. I told my mother I could never go back. It was just too scary. She was just too mean. I cried. And I cried. And I cried.

And then I had that disgusting tumor removed...and with that, the ovarian cancer. And although, on the outside I played the part of calm young woman, on the inside, I as shaken...for life.

Then came the denial letter.

Unfortunately, they don't make it clear to you that it you can re-apply. They don't tell you what to do next. Or even if they did, I couldn't see it. All I saw was the words denial. And I for the first time, I felt sick.

My family did not have money. I had no job. And they denied me because I lived at home and had a job.

My family did not have money. I had no job.

I often wonder if they deny everyone the first time they apply, in hopes they won't reapply.

We admit, we were wrong. We should have gotten a lawyer. Looked into it further. Pursued it. Part of it was ignorance. But part of it was also fear. I was scared of those people. They were monsters.

I told the sheriff the story. The story of how I had been trying to make arrangements with the hospital. But, they wanted over $500 a month. And would not take less. I couldn't pay that. But they didn't want to hear it. They refused to take anything less.

I had no assets. I had no savings account. I talked to the debt collectors, daily. I told them over and over again my story. I told them it wasn't like I had gone shopping at Macy's. I told them over and over again. And the colder they were, they more I cried.

I just didn't know what else to do.

Your address ma'am? I need your address. Otherwise, I will come to your job, the sheriff said.

I cried the morning he came. I knew he was coming, so I hid in the bathroom and let someone else get the door. I told the sheriff I wouldn't come to the door and he agreed to have someone else sign. I heard them talking about me as if I was far away. But, I was sitting on the bathroom floor, curled up fetal position, crying. Crying, because I was afraid. Crying, because I was embarrassed. Crying, as I watched my disease win again.

For about 6 years, I had a judgement on my credit report. They would not take it off until my bills were paid. I could not be on the mortgage or the deed of my house. Another sad moment for me.

Every time I went to apply for anything, I had to tell my story. And, the truth is, no one cared. It was a judgement. A red stain on my credit report. And financially I was worthless.

And if I hadn't felt worthless...because I was ovary-less, this would have done it. If I hadn't felt ugly...because of the disgusting scar that now branded me, this would have done it. And if I hadn't felt useless, because I could no longer find direction, this would have done it.

So, I guess in a sense, it couldn't damage the parts of me, that had already been
destroyed.

Two years ago, the bills were paid after the sale of my house. And yes, the judgement is off my credit report, but the damage of having no medical insurance will never be lifted.

I'm sure Medicaid helps people. But it does not help everyone. You have to have your eyes wide open. You have to be ready to fight for what they promise you. You have to put your illness aside, and leave your dignity at home. You have to go back to the office that puts you on trial for asking for help....and beg for help. I guess it's the cost for being sick.

So, yes, I was served with papers, for having cancer. I'm sure I'm not the only one either.

But, I know, deep in my heart, that it was never right.

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