A Survivor Emerges as a Victim of ObamaCare
Edie Littlefield Sundby has been the face of cancer survival and an inspiration to a lot of cancer patients. When her doctors told her she had cancer, she took an 800 mile walk away from the disease. Ms. Sundby beat the slim odds of surviving stage-4 gallbladder cancer through having access to great medical care at different hospitals, a wonderful attitude, and a bit of luck. AARP celebrated her courage and her acumen in hunting down the best possible treatment.
Ironically, Ms. Sundby is now the face of how ObamaCare not only takes away your insurance but also your doctors. Ms. Sundby, writing in the Wall Street Journal on November 03, 2013 tells of not only losing the insurance that paid to keep her alive, these past some seven years, but also of having to choose between Stanford University, which kept her alive, and the University of California, San Diego, which provided emergency treatment during difficult periods with her disease and where her personal physician is located.
Before ObamaCare, it was not possible to purchase insurance that worked across state lines. With ObamaCare, as Ms. Sundby discovered, it is not possible to purchase insurance that works across county lines in the same state.
Ms. Sundby has not been compelled to meet with a death panel, but it is eminently clear to anyone who has followed her story that Obamacare has stacked the odds in favor or her demise instead of her survival.
As a cancer survivor myself, I not only resonated to Ms. Sundby's plight, but I also know that if I lived in any of a number of Western countries with centralized health care, men of my age would not even be screened for prostate cancer, and if found, they would not be treated. It is one thing to practice medicine by statistical probability; it is quite another to practice medicine by looking at the individual patient and the individual diagnosis. Obamacare is about to teach Americans the difference. Ms. Sundby is the embodiment of that difference both actually and symbolically.
Ms. Sundby undertook Herculean feats, physical and mental, to fight her cancer. She pushed herself physically in ways that healthy people would have found challenging. She created a routine that gives herself mental and spiritual sustenance, from her attendance of church services to her yoga classes to her demanding hiking. She finds magic in her rituals, appreciating each day that she survives, finding something new in what others would see as commonplace.
When her cancer was discovered, in 2007, it had already metastasized. Her physician gave her three months to live. Statistically she was given a death sentence.
Edie was raised as a Southern Baptist. She is still religious. When word spread to her fellow churchgoers in San Diego, one 94-year-old congregant appeared at her door exhorting her to fight. She did. Finding inspiration in the words of other cancer patients and her faith, she adopted the attitude that probability was probability, not inevitability. She wanted a doctor who would deal with her as an individual and not as a statistic, a doctor who would have the courage and flexibility to treat her outside of protocol if need be.
At Stanford University's Cancer Institute she found George A. Fischer, a gastrointestinal oncologist. Fischer told her, he could not cure her but he could treat her. After a twelve-week regime of chemotherapy, some of it outside protocol, Edie Sundby was free of eighty percent of her cancer. But the twenty percent remaining was still highly lethal and there was no avoiding that it could kill her and quickly.
Surgeons at Stanford thought the cancer inoperable. She pushed for surgery anyway. Jeffery Norton, head of oncology surgery at Stanford, agreed to remove her gallbladder, portions of her liver, and some lymph nodes. Ten hours after surgery she forced herself to get out of bed and move around. She drew inspiration from Lance Armstrong's observation that if you could move, you're not sick. Edie Littleford Sundby was going to move!
Her insurance covered 80% of the costs. Her husband Dale was self-employed and they had opted for a high deductible. The deductible quickly ran into tens of thousands of dollars. Dale's newest project was in the Ukraine, and he could not be there and tend to Edie. He gave it up. The financial repercussions were traumatic, but they chose to make Edie's survival their priority.
In 2011, another series of tumors appeared. Owing to a combination of advanced chemotherapy and subsequent surgery, Edie beat this death sentence. Ten days after her surgery, she was out hiking nearly four miles, moving, as Lance Armstrong had inspired her.
Edie is not cured. And the reality is that people of faith sometimes die and people of no faith sometimes thrive. People of bad attitudes sometimes thrive where the optimists sometimes die. But whatever the combination of mental, spiritual, and physical attributes that one brings to a death sentence, we all are entitled for the chance -- in our own way using our own emotional, spiritual, and physical resources -- to beat it. We are entitled to not have the fight taken away from us.
Edie beat her death sentence twice. If it comes a third time, under ObamaCare, her odds are greatly diminished. She'll have to choose between the ability to go to the emergency room at UCSD and the treatment at Stanford. She no longer can have both.
Anyone who had cancer and chose to fight can identify with this remarkable woman. She fought so hard to live because she loved life, not because she was afraid of death. The government should not terminate her right to seek life or to undercut what she has achieved. She symbolizes the right of all of us to be treated as individuals and not as probabilities.