Sooooooo......... I honestly wish every aspect of my life didn't seem to revolve around political news, but alas this is our reality. I am someone who up until recently didn't put all my political beliefs out there for everyone to read, but I can't be scared anymore. This post is the hardest I've written, it scares me to lose friends by sharing my truth, it makes me uncomfortable telling you my truth for I've been ashamed of it, but my fear is calmed knowing that maybe I will make a small change in the world. Small ripples can make waves, and right now I need to make a tsunami!
The easiest way for me to start is with some basic info: In January of 2011, Jeremy and I were both 27. We had two children. We owned one car outright, we were making payments on a second car. We owned a home. We had approximately $5000 in credit card debit and about $15000 cash in savings. I'm not sure how much but we had money in a 401k for retirement.We were living off one income, had health insurance and had never missed a payment on our student loans. That's it, all of our business on the table. Feel free to judge, feel free to say it wasn't good enough, do your worst! Nothing you can say or do will make me feel anything less than impressed with what we were able to accomplish. We were doing it, we were living the dream. We were making sacrifices to live a life we were very proud of. Before January of 2011 we were unstoppable.
By the end of January Jeremy had received the official diagnosis of Hodgkin's lymphoma stage four. One of those moments in all the craziness that ensued after, which to this day remains as clear as glass for me happened the day we got the diagnosis. Jeremy's doctor said one sentence "You have good insurance, don't lose it." I asked what she meant, her response shaped our lives for the next few years, "Whatever you need to do to keep your insurance, do it. Without insurance we will not treat you. Any delay in treatment could be life threatening, so whatever you have to do, don't lose your insurance!"
Sparing some of the lengthy medical issues that followed, I'm going to give you some of the highlights of the year after that appointment in regards to our financial life. After Jeremy had exhausted his medical leave from work, his company gave him his notice with a three month severance package which included keeping his health coverage for those three months. By the end of the three months he was still undergoing chemotherapy, and we went on COBRA coverage. We started living off our savings, applied for unemployment, and eventually Social Security. I've had people ask why I didn't go back to work at this point, a very valid question which is why I want to explain what our reality looked like at home. At this point both our kids are so young they aren't in school, and Jeremy is currently so sick that I would wake him to eat. If I left the house I would call to remind him to drink his calories. Returning to work with three people needing care was out of the picture. So we put our heads down and carried on with the help of some amazing friends and family! Within a year and a half our COBRA medical insurance had increased so much it was now costing us more to have insurance then our mortgage. It maxed out costing us over $1700 a month to just insure Jeremy, the boys and I had gotten private insurance at this point because it was cheaper. Slowly we stopped making payments on everything else, first the student loans were differed, the credit cards were maxed out and then payments stopped on, the car payment and lastly the mortgage were all stopped being paid on. We actually called the bank to suspend or adjust our mortgage but because we were in good standing they would not help us.
By January of 2013, Jeremy was finishing up his second bone marrow transplant and our house was in foreclosure. We were able to sell our house as a regular sale because we had equity in it and repaid all the late payments to the bank. That's the good news. The bad, we had lost our savings, we'd spent our 401k, our car had been repossessed, we declared bankruptcy and in doing so lost all our credit, we were completely broken. The only good thing at this point was that Jeremy was still by my side, had I lost all that and him I'm not sure how I would have gone on. It was pretty bleak, but some how I felt we must have done this to ourselves. Now looking back, I disagree.
Why am I telling you all my dirty business? All those things your parents tell you never to discuss with anyone else? One reason, you knowing my business and understanding the importance of things like the Affordable Care Act (which make it impossible for insurance companies to deny anyone coverage) matter! I wouldn't wish my financial burdens on you, but being diagnosed with any "pre existing condition" should not determine the outcome of your life's security. I honestly was naive to think it wouldn't affect every aspect of our lives. Our financial security didn't really play in to my reality at that time. For us the reality of the cancer is now manageable and under control but the reality of all we lost is still affecting us. We still worry about how much money we have access to daily because we know if it comes back how quickly we will be back to square one. soooooo......about that ripple, start speaking up!! This is me trying to get you to understand it on a very personal level. YOU can make a stand. YOU can call your local government officials. YOU can be a ripple. I know it's scary, I'm scared. But we can't let (he who shall not be named) win! We are better and stronger together.