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Thyroid Cancer was the Just the Beginning of my Health Journey.

By: Kathi E., Pinellas County

I had thyroid cancer when I was 30 years old. I had it removed and started hormone treatment right away. I was on the medication for 17 years. It didn’t make me feel great, but it kept me going, and I felt sort of healthy. I was married at the time and saw doctors at the free clinic and privately because I had some insurance through my husband.

As I got older, I started having problems with the medication. I started having side effects I’d never had before. I have severe anemia, leaky gut, autoimmune issues, severe depression, and issues with my liver and kidneys. I also have two lumps in my breast that need to be treated. In the past I had heard that thyroid medications sometimes stop working for women when they start menopause. I guess that’s what happened to me. My body started changing. Then everything else changed.

I lost my insurance when I got a divorce. I worked as a nurse for years but had to stop working when I got sick. People keep telling me I’m in the Medicaid Gap. I can’t get any help from the State. I’m broke, sick, and almost homeless. Why don’t I qualify for help? When I was working, I had Obamacare for a while, but I had a high deductible. It was like not having insurance at all.

It took a while for me to find out that the thyroid issue was causing all of my other health problems. I went to a few doctors and they kept telling me I was crazy. They had me thinking I was nuts! One doctor, a functional medicine doctor, offered to see me, but I had to pay out of pocket for the testing. That led me to go save up $370 to get one round of blood work. I wasn’t working much, and it took me a long time to save it all—almost eight months. I’m glad I had the blood work done, though. I found out that I have 3 lumps on my throat. It’s hard to talk most days. My thyroid levels are really high, which is not good. The doctors actually think that my thyroid cancer is back.

A while back I went to the hospital because my back was hurting really bad. When I got there, I was almost septic. My kidney function was at 30%. They found that I had kidney stones and put in a stint. Can you believe that it’s still in there? My kidneys hurt when I walk, and I wear depends. I have no control over my bladder. When I was discharged from the hospital, they told me to follow up with a urologist. I reached out to one and thought they would work with me on a payment plan. But they wouldn’t. They wanted a few thousand dollars up front before they would consider doing surgery on me. I couldn’t believe it. I kept thinking ‘I worked and put money in the system my whole life and they’re going to let me die.’ I can’t afford the procedure to have the stint removed. I’m going to have to figure out a way or I’m going to die.

I’m in a catch 22 with my health and can’t figure this puzzle out on my own. I miss my job as a nurse. But that’s part of the irony, I’m a nurse and I can’t get medical care. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so depressed. I can’t make money to support myself. I worked while I was in nursing school and that was tough. I didn’t do all of that to turn around and not be able to use my skill. It was the whole reason I went back to school, so I wouldn’t have to live like that.

The mental anguish of being sick every day for three years is overwhelming. I have no quality of life. It feels worse than when I had the flu. What make it worse is the way people treat me. I’ve lost some of my teeth and it’s embarrassing, but there are no dental programs for adults. I need dentures, but I can’t afford them or the cost of extractions. But people look at me like I’m on drugs. I can feel them judging me. They don’t look at me like, maybe she’s ill. They look down on me. So, I feel like maybe I will just share my story with everybody. If it makes them expand Medicaid, then it’s worth it to put it all there.

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