Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Donna Smith

Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation

August 31st, 2012 4:39 PM

Dead Woman Working: I’m No Robin Roberts

If you follow morning television at all or have it droning in the background as I often do while getting ready for my day, then you may have followed the cancer story of ABC’s “Good Morning America” co-host Robin Roberts.  Her struggle has been an awful one, as is often the case with cancer journeys, and even this morning we learned that her beloved mother in Mississippi had died just last night after Robin bid farewell to her GMA duties to prepare for her upcoming bone marrow transplant.  My heart goes out to her and to her family, and nothing I write here is meant to in any way diminish or demean her courageousness or the grace with which she has faced her illness and life issues.  I admire her greatly.

But, I am no Robin Roberts.  I am a woman, and a cancer survivor and patient, a daughter, and I have a career I value.  That’s where our similarities end.  My experience in trying to manage the cancer issue over these few years has been more similar to what other, more “average” women face.

This week, when I saw the report on Robin’s upcoming bone marrow transplant, I could help but think about my friend and fellow SiCKO subject (from Michael Moore’s 2007 documentary), Julie Pierce, and the battle she and her late husband Tracy fought and lost for him to have his bone marrow transplant.  Tracy had kidney cancer.  His brother was a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant just as Robin’s sister is a perfect match for hers.  But Tracy and Julie’s insurance wouldn’t cover the transplant, so Tracy died a painful and unnecessary death without the new bone marrow.  The goodbyes he said weren’t on national television with millions of people wishing him well and praying for his return.  In his 30s, Tracy left his wife and his young son, Tracy, Jr., and the world scarcely took note until the posthumous media attention and the movie later. 

We haven’t seen Robin need to fight her insurance company or drain her savings and retirement funds or lose her home while fighting the cancer.  We haven’t seen ABC replace her or diminish her visibility as they waited to see if she would live or die.  It’s awful and horribly stressful to watch the normalcy of your everyday life slide away as you try to internalize your panic so no one will count you out too soon while also hoping they will help you through the rough spots.  Being broke because medications cost too much or deductibles and co-pays mount up adds to daily stress, and I know Robin never faced that.  Yet that’s what many cancer patients face.  I know I have.  I know Tracy did.

All of the life stressors we face are just intensified when fighting a major illness like cancer, and when those stressors like career, housing, and other financial securities are added to the strain, it makes the story much less heart-wrenching like Robin’s and far more terrifying and deadly.  We hear over and over that stress kills.  Just this week, ABC reported a link between stress and strokes.  It is already well established that cancer and stress are linked.  Ratchet that up when you look next at a cancer patient you know.  Imagine feeling like you are a drain while also feeling like you must carry on looking unafraid and strong.  Accept that those cancer patients you know are not as much like Robin Roberts as you may think. 

What would make dealing with cancer or other serious illness more manageable would be not needing to worry about the health insurance fights.  Under an improved and expanded Medicare for all for life system, that stressor would be gone.  Decisions about treatment would be made based on the patient’s medical needs – as we have seen Robin Roberts’ doctors so decently explain as she faces the treatment determined best for her condition.  It’s a lot different to have your doctor as your partner in that way than always wondering when the next denial will come and how best to fight it.

So, I was so sad to see this morning that Robin’s mom died.  And then my mind wandered. What if my mom died unexpectedly?  She’s 84.  Would I be able to be with her in her final hours?  Could I afford to get to her and still cover all of my expenses for medical care, including covering things denied for insurance payment? Not likely.  I’d be lucky to have enough on hand to get there after the fact. 

Life, illness and death are not the same for us all, and I have never expected them to be.  But I do hope we will at least consider how very different the “average cancer experience” is from that of Robin Roberts and work toward the day when a more just healthcare system wipes away some of that unnecessary inhumanity.

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

If you have a moment today, I hope you can read the obituary for my father Francis (Frank) Moore, who died this past Saturday at the age of 92: Francis...

Apr 22nd
6:33 PM
Read More

My father, Francis (Frank) Moore, passed away this morning a few months shy if his 93rd birthday. He was a great dad I am blessed to have had him in my life. I...

Apr 20th
2:58 AM
Read More

Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this: Chris Christie's $300m pension proposal broke state anti-corruption...

Apr 18th
7:31 PM
Read More

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him... www.theonion.com President Bush has a new hobby -- painting! --...

Apr 17th
7:28 PM
Read More

Big new story from David Sirota and Pando on top Christie adviser and appearance of corruption at New Jersey's pension fund: REVEALED: Gov....

Apr 17th
12:41 PM
Read More

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States www.theonion.com WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract pando.com As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors pando.com If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa ...by Nick Turse www.michaelmoore.com Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 www.theguardian.com Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? www.huffingtonpost.com I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | RootsAction.org act.rootsaction.org The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles