Saturday, March 08, 2014

“Cancer Conundrum, Part Two”

c. 2014 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Politics – Not for the faint of heart.

In November of last year, I wrote a column about my family history of colon cancer.
Specifically, this personal document described a conflict with the UFCW over receiving coverage for a cancer screening which was requested by my doctor.
My father and a cousin had both battled mightily to survive the affliction. I was 52 years old, and had all the risk factors indicated. But my insurance provider balked. After having lobbied to get the Affordable Care Act passed, they reversed course and began to act very much like the companies their elected officials said we could not trust.
The test was denied. And denied again.
My doctor expressed genuine outrage. But coverage did not appear.
As a writer, I reacted with an obvious strategy – to write my representatives in Washington, D.C. with a personal protest.
I expected a variety of reactions. Wordy apologies, perhaps. Promises to investigate. Even an offer of prayers. But what transpired was something entirely different.
From Rob Portman and David Joyce, nothing arrived in response.
My plea was simply ignored.
But from Sherrod Brown, the communication I received was old-fashioned campaign material.
I had long ago entered a contest to cover presidential candidate Barack Obama. Though that opportunity never developed, his party got my e-mail address from the attempt.
So as I pondered the silence echoing about my own cancer fears, these messages appeared on a daily basis:

“Rodney – My friend Ted Strickland experienced it in 2010. I experienced it in 2012. And Ed will experience it in 2014. A flood of attack ads and smear campaigns will take over our TVs, computers and mailboxes. Anytime you sit down to one of your favorite TV shows, you’ll see some ad from some group you’ve never heard of, attacking Ed Fitzgerald.”

I was more concerned about surviving to see my family grow, than the upcoming race for governor. More concerned about potential chemotherapy and radiation treatments. More concerned about the plight of my cousin Rob, battling stage-four cancer in Gallia County, by the Ohio River.
Yet the messages continued to arrive:

“Dear Rodney – The power of a grassroots network doesn’t come from big anonymous donors, writing million-dollar checks, buying attack ads in media markets. That’s the Koch Brothers game.”

I wanted to tell Senator Brown that his pleas for support were wasted. I was a registered Libertarian. And one with a high risk factor for colon cancer. Indeed, I wished it were possible to share my self-concern with him, directly. I reckoned that a face-to-face conversation would resonate with him, as a citizen of Ohio and a family man. As a human being interested in helping others.
But our only contact was through these crude fundraising messages:

“We’re about 2 days from our deadline to reach $25,000  - can you give $5 or more right now to help us reach it?”

I thought of my father’s struggle in 1997. Complications developed after surgery to remove cancerous parts of his intestinal tract. He nearly bled to death. We huddled with members of a local church and prayed through the night for his survival.
The experience completely changed my idea of what it meant to be alive.
Every day afterward I considered to be a gift from God.
No time existed for the cheap rhetoric of political combat. Democrat? Republican? Those words held no meaning. I was focused on having a clean bill of health. On those who would carry the family name into future generations.
My cancer column carried this concern.
But from those in office, there was only silence and self-promotion:

“Super PACs and special interest groups spend millions of dollars to influence elections. We often don’t know where they get the money. We don’t know what their true motivation is. Yet they spend enough cash to put their agenda front and center, while middle-class families in Ohio – the ones that don’t have a million dollars to spend on campaigns – get drowned out.”

I knew that Sherrod Brown was factually correct. I also knew that his party was a participant in the authoritarian rule of money in American politics, not a combatant for change.
Yet that did not matter.
I was afraid of malignant polyps in my body, more than the Koch Brothers, or their opposite counterpart, George Soros.
Afraid of losing my job because I needed time off for treatment that wasn’t covered by our union insurance. Afraid of losing my hair while being blasted by medical radiation. Afraid of going to sleep in a hospital bed and never waking, again.
Afraid of being forgotten by my family.
I had written both senators and my congressman. None replied. Not even with a generic letter of acknowledgement for the citizen contact.
Still, Sherrod Brown kept in touch with entreaties for donated funds:

“Give $5 or more today...”

My doctor was hopeful about the letters I had sent. But her head bowed when I confessed that there had been no response of any kind, in return.
Our representatives seemed to show lots of concern for the upcoming election cycle.  And a generous amount of worry over the balance of power on Capitol Hill.
But not a word of response for one quiet, non-partisan voice from Geauga County, Ohio.

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