My beautiful daughter Hannah turns 26 this Saturday. Her birthdays are particularly special because she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at age 13. After successful treatment, her cancer returned when she was 14 and she had a less than 10 percent chance of survival. She wasn’t expected to be alive for her 15th birthday.
Burkitt’s Lymphoma is a very aggressive cancer that doubles in size every two hours. We were fortunate to receive amazing care at Children’s Mercy Hosptital. Hannah endured dozens of surgeries, 69 days of intense chemotherapy and spent over 300 days in the hospital. She received hundreds of units of blood and platelets, had 38 spinal taps, 18 bone marrow biopsies, a stem cell transplant and countless other treatments and procedures.
Clearly, this was physically very difficult for Hannah, but there’s so much more to fighting an illness like cancer. My daughter was a teenager who was hospitalized for months at a time. My husband and I struggled so I could be with her while he worked and cared for our other family members. It changed everything for our entire family. But we were lucky to have good insurance coverage through my husband’s employer. It allowed us to get Hannah the life-saving care she needed.
Most importantly, Hannah survived. She graduated from high school with her class in 2009 and graduated again from Baker University in 2013. And on Sept. 7, 2016 — 12 years after being diagnosed with cancer — she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.
Even with the wonderful outcome, Hannah will never be fully recovered. She has lifelong medical needs and is seen by six specialists at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She has a compromised immune system and receives monthly infusions of donor antibodies to maintain her health. Without insurance, these infusions would cost her $6,000 every single month for the rest of her life.
The ongoing debate about changes to health care law is very personal. Under current law, a young adult like Hannah is eligible to stay on her parents’ insurance through age 26, and all Americans with pre-existing conditions are able to access health coverage options that cover their needs. But now, on Hannah’s 26th birthday, she will age out of my coverage. And lawmakers are proposing eliminating these essential patient protections.
Without these protections, Hannah would be uninsurable. Without adequate health coverage, she won’t be able to receive the ongoing treatment necessary to keep her healthy.
We can’t go back to a time when cancer survivors are denied coverage just because they survived. Join me in calling on Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts to protect affordable and accessible health coverage for cancer patients and survivors like Hannah. Ask them to vote no on the any attempts to fully repeal the current Affordable Care Act without an equal or better replacement.
It’s time for lawmakers to come together and work on a bipartisan solution for improving health coverage for Kansans and all Americans.
You can bet that will be my wish as I watch my daughter blow out her candles this year.
Deedra Miller lives in Gardner, Kan.