OPINION: Stephen Blackwood in The Wall Street Journal: Obamacare and My Mother’s Cancer Medicine

February 24, 2014

The president’s broken health care promises have wreaked havoc on the peace of mind of millions of Americans. One family shares their story in today’s Wall Street Journal. Stephen Blackwood writes in the Journal that, because of the health care law, his mother’s health care plan was canceled. His mother suffers from cancer and relied on her health insurance to help cover her expensive treatments. Like too many others, she lost that coverage in the wake of the health law’s continued implementation. As Blackwood writes, “…because our lawmakers and president thought they could do better, she had nothing. Her old plan, now considered illegal under the new health law, had been canceled.” The mother of ten children was left to navigate a broken website and enroll in a system that remains riddled with flaws, leaving her health coverage in question. This is one family’s story of the struggles caused by the president’s broken promises. Sadly, the Blackwoods are not alone.

February 23, 2014

Stephen Blackwood: Obamacare and My Mother’s Cancer Medicine

The news was dumfounding. She used to have a policy that covered the drug that kept her alive. Now she’s on her own.

When my mother was diagnosed with carcinoid cancer in 2005, when she was 49, it came as a lightning shock. Her mother, at 76, had yet to go gray, and her mother's mother, at 95, was still playing bingo in her nursing home. My mother had always been, despite her diminutive frame, a titanic and irrepressible force of vitality and love. She had given birth to me and my nine younger siblings, and juggled kids, home and my father's medical practice with humor and grace for three decades. She swam three times a week in the early mornings, ate healthily and never smoked.

And now, cancer? Anyone who's been there knows that a cancer diagnosis is terrifying. A lot goes through your mind and heart: the deep pang of possible loss (what would my father and all of us do without her?), and the anguish and anger at what feels like injustice (after decades of mothering and managing dad's practice, she was just then going back to school).

We, as a family, were scared and angry, but from the beginning we knew we would do all we could to fight this disease. We became involved with fundraising for research, through the Caring for Carcinoid Foundation in Boston; we blogged; we did triathlons (my mother's idea) and cherished our time together as never before.

Carcinoid, a form of neuroendocrine cancer, is a terminal disease but generally responds well to treatment by Sandostatin, a drug that slows tumor growth and reduces (but does not eliminate) the symptoms of fatigue, nausea and gastrointestinal dysfunction. My mother received a painful shot twice a month and often couldn't sit comfortably for days afterward.

As with most cancers, one thing led to another. There have been several more surgeries, metastases, bone deterioration, a terrible bout of thyroiditis (an inflammation of the thyroid gland), and much more. But my mother has kept fighting, determined to make the most of life, no matter what it brings. She has an indomitable will and is by far the toughest person I've ever met. But she wouldn't still be here without that semimonthly Sandostatin shot that slows the onslaught of her disease.

And then in November, along with millions of other Americans, she lost her health insurance. She'd had a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan for nearly 20 years. It was expensive, but given that it covered her very expensive treatment, it was a terrific plan. It gave her access to any specialist or surgeon, and to the Sandostatin and other medications that were keeping her alive.

And then, because our lawmakers and president thought they could do better, she had nothing. Her old plan, now considered illegal under the new health law, had been canceled. …

Read the complete piece online here.