Shouldering this Burden

Chemo and feeling like a burden get a thumbs down.

Chemo and feeling like a burden get a thumbs down.

I had an epic meltdown the other day.

I had been going about my normal day, busy running errands. A lot was occupying my mind. I had just spent the month of December traveling. It had thrown off my schedule of daily meditation, so my brain was filled with all sorts of chatter. If I had been more mindful, I probably would've been keenly aware that I was setting myself up for an emotional breakdown.

I had parked my car to run a quick errand, and was taking a minute to check details in a message on one of my social media feeds when I saw a news headline reporting the latest news in the ACA repealing process. The news reported that congress had voted against an amendment to protect cancer patients from being deemed as having a "pre-existing" condition. This news (as well as the news I had just received of two of my peers experiencing cancer recurrences) short-circuited my emotional bandwidth. My breath shortened, and immediately tears sprung to my eyes. Not knowing where to turn, I phoned my husband and proceeded to lose my shit to him, mid workday. I ended up unloading my worst fears to him- fears of being dropped from my insurance, of having a cancer recurrence with no access to affordable healthcare, of going bankrupt from medical costs, of DYING- all in the midst of an enormous, snot-bubble-inducing, ugly cry.

Later on in the day, while safely at home, I had some time to reflect on the emotional tornado that had occurred. Amidst the normal cancer anxiety, fear and anger, I realized that there was a new emotion lurking beneath the surface that I hadn't recognized prior to that day's meltdown. 

I realized that I felt like a burden.

It's shitty to feel as though you are adding weight to other people's lives. I was raised by my depression-era father, a man who taught me the art of the hustle and self-reliance. Unfortunately, also like my father, I'm stubborn to a fault. I'd rather be bleeding from my eyeballs than to ask for help (I'm working on that). My diagnosis has been an ongoing series of hard pills to swallow, in that I've had to learn how to accept help. Hell, in most circumstances, I haven't been able to recognize *when* I need help. Friends and family have been ecstatic to do what they can, but the core of my internal struggle has been my fear of burdening them with my problems.

It's hard to NOT feel like a burden after a cancer diagnosis- from surgeries that leave one out of commission, to crushing medical bills, to delays in getting back to work, to physical limitations, treatment logistics, depression and PTS- no one can (NOR SHOULD) go through the daily and long term burdens of a cancer diagnosis and treatment alone.

I received a hard message from Congress' vote on the day of my meltdown- that I, a Cancer Grad, wouldn't be profitable enough for insurance companies. I would essentially be a financial burden to their system, so best to cut me loose. Message received. Now I'm left to figure out how I'm going to afford healthcare, or if I'll even have access to healthcare, if the ACA is repealed without a better replacement. It's possible that I'll have no other options than to shoulder the financial burden of this terrible cancer diagnosis on my own.

So, now what? I'll keep calling my reps, marching, having meaningful conversations, and keeping informed the best I can.  I'll keep reminding myself that I do, in fact, bring value and promise to this crazy, complex, beautiful world- just as everyone living on this planet does, insurance companies and jockeying politicians be damned. I'll keep striving to remain self-sufficient, and remind myself that we ALL need each other. If the (admittedly, not perfect) ACA is eventually repealed and NOT replaced, then I may be stripped of another way in which I'm able to provide for myself. This may be my future and I need to consider and plan for that.

Next time I feel like a burden, whether that's a systemic one, financial one, or emotional one, I need to remind myself that CANCER is a burden, but *I* am not. I'll also remember that I have an entire supportive community to whom I can reach out. How about you? Have you ever feel like a burden? Let us know in the comments!