Four years and about a couple of months — 1508 days in all. That’s how long it’s been since I finished chemotherapy treatment for triple-negative breast cancer. At this point — fingers (and toes) crossed — everything looks good for me health-wise, and I am almost able to think that my experience is really, truly part of my past. That it might be OK to think that I am OK (though of course there are never any guarantees).
I watch the news reports about cancer from a different perspective now, as part of the larger picture of health and health care in the U.S. and around the globe. The recent bad (but not surprising) news from the World Health Organization is that the incidence of cancer will continue to increase, more rapidly especially in developing countries in part from infections and in part from the adopting of more affluent lifestyles. The good news from India, where one fifth of new breast cancer cases occur each year, is that treatment for people with HER-2 positive breast cancer will become more affordable. The now-regular reports about research for triple-negative breast cancer are heartening. And an article sent today by a friend describes the humane-ness of cancer treatment in France.
I was very fortunate in my own cancer journey to have good insurance coverage, and good medical care at a center that treated patients well. But much has shifted in American health care in just these 4 years. For example, in the constant efforts for hospitals to secure their income streams in the face of legislative changes, cancer treatment has become a marketing chip, with even renowned centers vying for patients by publishing their survival rates. These changes prompt me to think about what constitutes not just health care but good health care, and how likely it is for the average patient to get that good care despite the smoke and mirrors that dominate the discussions.
Patients and physicians are at the very center of the debate of about healthcare reform, but unfortunately, that reform has been hijacked by government politics and corporate interests. As is clear from the healthcare exchanges, like so many other areas of American life, health care is fast becoming a do-it-yourself proposition. So it’s increasingly up to us as patients, as patients’ families, and as healthcare providers to work to keep medical care in the hands of those at its core — the patients and the care providers.
With this in mind, I am starting a new blog, The Educated Patient, as a forum for discussion of the many influences at work in health care and its reform. I hope it helps patients understand what goes on behind the scenes of their care and helps both patients and providers secure the connection between them.
I will continue writing for The Popsicle Report as before. But please join me in enlarging the discussion at The Educated Patient.