When I moved from New Orleans to Atlanta in 2018, the plan was to work my government contracting job as an Editorial Assistant a couple of years before pursuing something that would let me put my shiny new public relations master’s degree to use. Though the job wouldn’t necessarily help pay off the loans it took to get to finally earn that degree at the tender age of 40, it would be a great pitstop as I transitioned from education back into the publishing and media realm. I’d stay in Atlanta a couple of years before maybe moving back to New York, where I knew the opportunities would be more plentiful.
While I knew I would eventually like to move on to something with more opportunities to advance, the perks were good though. I could work from home, which would give me time to supplement my income through freelancing, and the insurance was good enough. With just a little time and patience, move on to something more fulfilling and better paying.
But as the saying goes, we make plans and God laughs. My world came crashing down
when I was diagnosed de novo in July 2020, two weeks before my 43 birthday and four months into the lockdown.
As a single woman with no children, I had only relied on insurance for things like annual health exams, optometry visits, and the occasional chiropractor visit for nagging back pain (which I would eventually find out was the breast cancer that had spread to my spine). Without warning, I was thrust into a world of $300 co-pays for each scan because I had yet to meet my deductible. I didn’t even know what my deductible was because I had never had a reason to meet it.
As the billing statements began rolling in, that insurance that had previously seemed just “good enough” suddenly became the thing I needed most. My monthly oncology visits include a Zometa infusion and Zoladex injection that can run upwards of $7,000 but my co-pay is only $30. The Letrozole and Ibrance that have kept my cancer at bay are provided at no cost with my insurance covering the hefty $13,000 price tag of the latter.
While my diagnosis has not completely altered my day-to-day life, it has completely turned my priorities on their head. Those dreams that felt just within reach a few years ago now take a backseat to ensure that I can afford to stay alive. And though I’d love to make more money and find a more fulfilling job, suppose that comes at the cost of less insurance coverage? How do I walk away from a job that has afforded me the only sense of security I’ve had during this crazy time—insurance?
A 2017 Money article found that many people put off divorces out of fear of healthcare costs, so I know that I’m not the only person who has had to consider the cost of healthcare and insurance against following her heart. The cloud of financial insecurity constantly hovers over me as I know that any medical emergency could potentially knock me off the tightrope of uncertainty that I’ve been walking since my diagnosis.
I can say that one good thing that has come out of being forced to shift my priorities is that it also led to a change in perspective. I realized that it was necessary for my mental health. I didn’t want to spend whatever time I have left being bitter and angry about my circumstances. Instead, I could be grateful that I have “good” insurance and am able to afford it. Now that my body has adjusted to my treatment, I am more comfortable taking on freelance projects and I no longer have to lament losing the opportunity to pursue my passions.
During my most recent scans, the hospital administrator apologized to me when she realized the reason I had no co-pay. “I’m so sorry you’ve met your deductible so quickly,” she said earnestly. Though I could have easily felt sorry for myself at that moment, all I could say was, “Don’t be. Things are working as they should.”
Ivory M. Jones is a New Orleans native who now calls Decatur, Georgia home. She was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer in July 2020 despite having had a normal mammogram in September 2019. After undergoing radiation to her sternum, spine, and hip, Ivory continues to thrive, with no new growth since beginning treatment. When she’s not busy at one of her numerous doctor appointments, Ivory loves music, traveling, and breaking up fights between her two cats.