For Kids Like Me, Cancer Is Hard Enough

The Senate health care bill is designed to make cash-strapped families pay for situations beyond their control.
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When I was a kid, I fell asleep in school a lot. The teachers didn’t scold me, and they kept the other kids from pointing and laughing. Because I wasn’t just tired — I was exhausted. I was drained. I was going through chemo.

When I was 7, I was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, an aggressive cancer. The doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital gave me two months to live. I spent four years in and out of aggressive treatments, missing second and third grade, fighting for my life when I should’ve been playing hockey.

But slowly, I recovered. My community stood by my family, and my dad’s union insurance made it possible for us to afford costly treatment. By the time I was a teenager, some of my friends didn’t even know I had been sick.

I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if my family didn’t have insurance. My treatment would’ve bankrupted us.

Cancer is hard enough on a family. Imagine having to choose between saving your child and staying in your house? Or saving your child and selling the car you use to get to work?

“I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if my family didn’t have insurance. My treatment would’ve bankrupted us.”

The health care bill that’s racing through the Senate right now is designed to do just that — make cash-strapped families pay for situations beyond their control, and put the savings toward tax cuts for the ultra-rich.

This bill will put the 34 percent of kids in Massachusetts who are recipients of Medicaid — many of them Bostonians — at risk. And even if you have insurance provided by your employer, under the Senate bill, insurers would be able to put lifetime limits on care. It’s unconscionable. It’s cruel.

Kyla Smith-Howell and I at Children’s Hospital

Every day, I hear about amazing families struggling through the very worst of times. I hear about kids like Kyla, who managed to graduate from fifth grade while battling liver cancer. We should be supporting these extraordinary kids, their families, and their communities, not ripping away their lifelines.

That’s why today, I joined mayors from around the country to stand up for our kids and their families against this bill. Because no family should have to put their livelihood at stake when their kid gets sick.

It’s because of my family’s insurance, and the great doctors at Children’s, and the unwavering support of my community, that I’m around today. If politicians back then had chosen to use the funding for my care to pay for tax cuts for the very wealthiest, I wouldn’t be.

So today, as we fight this bill, I want you to think about kids like Kyla — tired and struggling to stay awake in class, fighting for their lives. I want you to think about a kid like me, who just wants to play hockey. Because cancer is hard enough.

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