by Kathryn Poe
People say that life is priceless, but those people obviously don’t have a chronic illness. My life, for example, costs about 44,000 dollars a month— give or take a couple thousand dollars, but whenever I bring it up like that to other people I get a disgusted look.
“Don’t talk about it like that,” they say, “You’re more than that.”
Am I, though?
Everybody wants to talk about life. Nobody actually takes into account what it takes to live one— especially for those who aren’t blessed with able bodies. For me, my life with chronic illness began when I was 15. I lost big chunks on my hair. I couldn’t walk or run or open doors. I had fevers of 103.5 in the evening every single night for 6 months but always went to school the next morning. I lost the face that I had always seen and the body that I was used to all because some beast inside of my skin was trying to eat me from the inside— literally.
I’m a real life, diagnosed self-cannibal due to one of my three autoimmune disorders and even though it’s been a year since my last near death experience, it’s also impossible for me to know when the next one will be. I live life every day like this is it and that’s because it really could be. I have no control over what my body decides to do and very little knowledge of when I’m going to be attacked again.
My entire life revolves around healthcare. From weekly blood draws and visits to the hospital to testing that ensures that I can continue living, I understand that my life is expensive. For just one hospital stay in December of 2015, the cost was roughly 85,000 dollars. No middle-class family in America can afford to pay for that on their own, but without that care, my life is gone and so are many others. I could be your mother, wife, father, son, husband, or best friend. My life depends on the ability of my family to pay for it and so does theirs. That’s not how it should be, but we live in an America where that could be the case if legislation like the Republican “Better Care” Act becomes law.
We as a society have to decide how we value each other. Do we measure our lives by the cost or do we measure our lives by our value as people? Do we give billions of dollars in tax cuts to the top 1% or do we allow for the lives of people to come first? The last time I checked, the government guarantees life, liberty, and happiness. This is a deciding moment in whether or not we’re actually going to follow that creed. This debate is about the real value of the weakest members of our society— or whether we value them at all. And someday, sooner than you think, that weaker member of society is going to be you. It could be next week, two months, twenty years from now, but someday your life is going to depend on healthcare too.
In those moments, do you want to be measured by $44,000 or do you want to be measured by you?