Personal healthcare journey: a matter of survival

Carla Hill and husband Marlon Hill pose in front of Capitol during a visit to Washington in September.
Carla Hill and husband Marlon Hill pose in front of Capitol during a visit to Washington in September.

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We participate as a family and team in the Komen Race for the Cure at Bayfront Park on Saturday Oct 19

As Congress plays legislative roulette with the healthcare system of America, real people languish in fear of not having access to affordable, quality healthcare. We got married in 1998 without full recognition of the seriousness of a rare kidney disease that had consumed Carla’s body filtering organs. Before long, Carla was undergoing dialysis treatment.

Thankfully, with the coverage from Miami Dade Public Schools, Jackson Memorial Hospital provided the best nephrology and transplant surgery specialists after receiving that celebratory beep for transplant consideration.

Our first couple years of marriage were spent learning about the fragile moments that families spend in managed chaos when confronted with a major health episode. In truth, you never really know when this may occur. To deepen the distressful uncertainty, we were faced with the reality that the multiple years of chemotherapy eliminated the prospects of having kids together.

Healthcare is more than about choice, the role of government and/or the rights of private enterprise. The real debate lies in who do we wish to be as a nation at our core. Our government travels the four corners of the Earth to protect the national security and economic interests of our nation, and we cannot even ensure the health of our own citizens right here at home. It is clear that we need to conduct a physical on the soul of our nation.

We thought the kidney disease and a transplant was more than enough to bear.

In 2006, while preparing for a family wedding, Carla discovered a lump in her left breast. It was an odd moment. Though we knew that there was some history in the family, we were hoping that this fate had skipped more than one generation. We conducted a biopsy in weeks following and received the news of a malignant Stage 2 tumor. Our family went into triage mode. As a couple, we discussed the options and decided on a singular mastectomy. This was not only another major health episode on the body, but also an emotional blow to the dynamics of our physical bond as a couple.

The hair. Body image. Emotional swings. For us, there was not much debate: fight, not flight. We put on the body armor and tackled the new regimen for prognostic treatment.

All was well in the world until two years later. A follow-up visit discovered residual traces of cancer in the other breast. We did not blink. Without question, we marched into surgery and eliminated the threat. Recovery was swift and accompanied a greater peace of mind.

We could not imagine walking on this journey without health insurance of any kind. This is a matter of life and death for many in our country. Though the preservation of the value of individual choice and the role of government in our lives is likely to resonate for generations, for many Americans, we do not have the luxury to pontificate on scoring legislative and political points. Instead, we are simply fighting to see another sunrise to hug a loving family member or close friends.

To us, this entire fight over the institutionalization and execution of healthcare reform has desensitized our sense of compassion for each American hanging on to the cliff of survival. We cannot be the exceptional country we espouse to be if we are unable to enjoy it with every breath we take.

In this month of October, we are reminded that there are millions of underserved women, in rural and urban areas, who are without preventative care and who are also burdened with the lifestyle effects of breast cancer treatment. We are surviving this journey together with the unwavering support of a medical team, a network of family and friends, and the security of health insurance that will no longer be denied for any preexisting conditions and the certainty of no caps on lifetime care.

Some folks call it, Obamacare. To us, it’s just “care.”

In addition, with insurance from Miami Dade County and individually purchased policies, we both retain the option to evaluate and compare the menu of available rates and packages on the federally run healthcare exchange. Unfortunately, Florida lags behind on the compassion scale.

Let us be clear: There is no negotiation on any effort to threaten this life we breathe together. In life, none of us are guaranteed any certainty of not crossing this river of a major health crisis. And the truth is, most of America would not be able to afford the care needed to prepare for such a moment. We pray that you willl be not confronted with such a crisis.

At least, for now, as the debate rages on in the wake of a government shutdown and debt ceiling showdown, the law of the land provides some security of the love we share together.

Marlon and Carla Hill have been married for 15 years and reside in South Miami-Dade County. Carla, a two-time breast cancer survivor and kidney transplant recipient, is an education and outreach manager at the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center. Marlon is an attorney with delancyhill, P.A.

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