One of a (still) growing number of my hospital bills. Credit: Diana Cejas

I have another one just like it. Or. Almost like it I guess. The second surgery, the stroke, the second angiogram, the ICU stay. I think all of that was maybe $300,000 more. I honestly have no idea how much money has been spent on keeping me alive. My first four and a half years after a “you’ve-got-a-better-chance-of-winning-the-lottery-than-getting-my-kind-of-cancer” (and the stroke that literally added insult to injury) has been an endless litany of imaging, lab work, therapies, and follow up appointments. Each one with its own price tag. I’ve had 5 PET scans, 3 MRIs of just my brain. They collected 27 vials of blood the first time I had a hypercoagulability work up. I have 4 specialists. I’ve had 3 whole body MRIs. 2 rounds of physical therapy. 1 CT scan that started this whole thing. What’s the market rate for all of that?

Four and a half years after cancer, four and a half years after a stroke, I am still alive. A testament to stubbornness, the grace of the Lord, and comprehensive medical care. And despite my myriad preexisting conditions, I am able to recognize my privilege. Not only because of how well I’ve recovered and how I have adjusted to life with my new disabilities but also because I was able to afford the care that allowed me to recover and adjust (and live) in the first place. Four degrees and 5 and a half years of training have afforded me the kind of insurance that’s comparable to a black AMEX card. I know that I’m lucky. Somewhere out there someone with my kind of cancer doesn’t have the kind of access that I have. Somewhere there’s another stroke patient whose employer-sponsored insurance isn’t enough to cut it. There’s someone like me who depends on affordable care. What’s going to happen to them if they don’t have it? What will they look like four and a half years later?