Jay Lake: Writer

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[Cancer]

[cancer] Work, society and me

Spent my first day in the new offices of the Day Jobbe yesterday. We were in an all-day meeting, in a conference room where the HVAC had been set to rather a low temperature to compensate for the presence of about twenty people. My hands were tortured by the air temperature. Also, I couldn’t open the water bottles, because I no longer possess enough hand strength to twist the cap hard enough to break the seal. It was good to be back among my peers, for whom I have been nothing more than a voice on the phone since last October.

Walked again this morning. Slightly farther and faster and yesterday, with a bit less distress to my feet. It was 81 degrees at 4:30 am around here, so I was fairly comfortable other than the nonsense in my extremities.

This morning in link salad I included a piece from Freakonomics, The End-of-Life War. That piece in turn includes a backlink to one of their earlier pieces on cancer costs. Freakonomics has been critical in the past of the value of cancer treatments.

In my case, the approximate retail value of the treatments I’ve received to date is in the neighborhood of $350,000. The actual insurance payouts are closer to $150,000. If as expected I have the forthcoming liver surgery and another chemo course, those numbers will rise to roughly $600,000 and $200,000 respectively. I suppose this is the ultimate form of NIMBYism, but I really don’t want healthcare cost cutting to begin with cutting my cancer treatments.

The discussion seems to be mixed in with late life and end-of-life care (as with the above Freakonomics link), where costs are often assessed in terms of degree of life extension and quality of life. Given resource constraints, I understand why these calculations are made, and why they are necessary. But as someone who can reasonable expect to live at least another 30 years if my cancer can be controlled, I think even that calculus shouldn’t condemn me. Add in conservative political resistance to extending and improving healthcare coverage (in my case, the relevant factor is lifting the lifetime cap), and the calculus becomes even stranger and more inhumane.

As I said a while back, I’m not willing to die for my conservative friends’ principles of limited government. Nor am I willing to die for the sake of an economist’s calculations. Certainly the costs of my treatments have already exceeded my lifetime payments in to the health insurance system, let alone to my current carrier. What is my life worth to them? What is my life worth to you?

My life is of infinite value to me, as this life is the only one I will ever have.

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