Health Care: It's Personal

Emotions are running high in America as the country is entrenched in the debate over health care.  Conventional wisdom dictates that rational thinking must always prevail over irrational judgment that almost always accompanies human emotion.  However, as a victim of child-hood cancer, I can tell you as I live and breathe today, it is our humanity that must triumph in our national discussion that may ultimately decide who lives -- and who dies.

Twenty-four years ago this month I found myself on an operating table in a suburban Chicago hospital undergoing what was supposed to be routine surgery. Doctors were removing a mass of calcified tissue that was present for a few years in my right arm, but finally, the growth had caused this 14-year old baseball fanatic to lose the zip on his fast-ball, or so it would seem.

When I awoke from surgery, I learned that I didn't have a harmless calcium deposit - I had cancer.

The decisions and actions taken after the diagnosis would determine if I would live or die.  My fate would ultimately be transcended by choices that were made by my parents and doctors.

The cancer discovered was described by doctors as "rare, mean and deadly." It was almost unheard of to be found in a teenage boy.  My pediatrician advised my family and me to seek treatment at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.  I transferred there the next day. A team of oncologists reviewed my case and they recommended I see "one of only two doctors in the country that have ever treated this type of cancer." This time my path to survival would take me to the University of Chicago.

In less than a week's time after my cancer diagnosis, countless medical professionals, including some of the finest medical minds in Chicago, had reviewed my case and advised my family how to save my life.  Every step of the way, my parents and I were always given options, ultimately allowing us to have control and make the final decisions.

Amputation or Radiation Treatments were the choices presented and explained to me by the doctor that countless of other medical professionals agreed was my best hope for survival.  My doctor and his team took into consideration numerous intangibles such as age, type of cancer, location in my body, but possibly most important; my quality of life.

When my family and I made the decision to proceed with Radiation therapy I was fully aware that if my cancer returned (reoccurrence) an amputation would most likely be required to save my life.

Two years later my cancer returned and my right arm was removed.

Over twenty years later I'm alive, married with two beautiful boys and lying awake at night knowing that if my medical care in 1985 was left to politicians and bureaucrats, I most likely would be pushing up daisies and my children would have never been a twinkle in their mothers eye.

If America was under government-controlled health care when I was first diagnosed twenty-four years ago, would I have received the medical care necessary to save my life? No.

No honest-thinking person would ever claim that government is efficient or personable.  Imagine the bureaucratic nightmare my parents would have had to endure if they had to go through a system that is derived from the same service mentality that created the Internal Revenue Service or Department of Motor Vehicles. Wasn't my family suffering enough? Didn't they have enough to worry about after learning their first-born son had cancer? Wouldn't a humane society like ours embrace what is the fastest and most efficient manner to save a human beings life and not try to add to the suffering already taking place?

Shouldn't patients, families and doctors have complete control of their medical care? Can any clear-thinking person believe that the current proposed health care legislation wouldn't bankrupt insurance companies and create rationing?  Despite what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is trying to sell the American people, especially claims that H.R. 3200 will create "more patient choice," President Obama's own words confirm mine and what should be America's greatest fears - government controlled single payer health care is the goal of the Democratic leaders in Washington.

As a cancer survivor and more important, father of two sons, I will be damned if I'm going to allow my health choice freedoms to be taken away from me.  The people, not politicians who have exempted themselves from the current health care proposal, must control the destiny of our country and that will require citizen activism in the likes not seen since Sam Adams orchestrated the Boston Tea Party in 1773.

So what are you going to do? How are you going to protect yourself and your family from the coming destruction of your freedom to make your own medical choices?  Now is not the time to lay low and hope others will save the day.  Not only is that what Washington hopes you do - their banking on it.

As the legislative recess (Summer District Work Period) begins, proponents of H.R. 3200 hoped the national spotlight would dim. But concerned citizens are showing up at town hall events to voice their concerns to make sure that light shines brighter than before, exposing the harsh realities hidden in the thousand-plus pages monstrosity.

However, I ask again, what are you doing to protect your medical care from the incompetence of big government? As an individual you can do the basics. Call your congressman, write a letter to your local newspaper editor, join your fellow Americans at town hall meetings and let your opinions be heard on local call-in radio programs. Consider lending your voice to organizations fighting to protect your health care choice freedoms. Groups such as Americans for Prosperity, American Liberty Alliance and an organization I proudly serve, the Sam Adams Alliance, have joined with other concerned citizens to form Recess Rally (

As Congress takes a month long holiday, concerned Americans are hard at work organizing all over the nation with one goal in mind - to protect medical care from government control.

On August 22, 2009, everyday citizens will gather in front of congressional offices all over the nation to let their voices be heard -- saying no to government run health care.

You thought the Tea Party movement was big - you ain't seen nothing yet.

Be certain that I will be putting my money were my mouth is. You may already be one of the 60,000 viewers who have seen my oldest son and me in the YouTube video Health Rations and You.  You guessed it - I'm the guy with one arm.

So once again I asked the question, "What are you going to do?" Allow bureaucrats to make laws strictly created to take away your freedom to make personal medical choices or stand up to big brother and defend you and your family's health?

Your answer could be a matter of life and death - literally.

Paul Miller serves as communications director for the Sam Adams Alliance. Opinions expressed are not endorsed by any organization and are strictly those of the author.
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