The mission of Community Health Centers is to provide quality and compassionate primary healthcare services to Central Florida’s diverse communities.
The photo you see above is from a company I worked for, for nearly a decade. “Best workplaces in Central Florida for families”. I worked with them even while they lowered my pay during the recession. I worked with them even when they loaded more and more work on me as they eliminated position after position in a bid to save more money. I worked with them even as they changed from that mom and pop feel to the corporate monster they are now. I worked even as they handed me so much work that I suffered what I thought was a heart attack- but was really my first introduction into the world of anxiety and panic. I worked first one facility. Then two. Then three. Its my own fault I know, for staying while they managed people by using threats of firings. Glassdoor.com tells its own story of previous and current staff living with the constant fear of losing their job and the stress it causes. But we have to work, we need money, benefits, so we stay. I stayed because I still wanted to believe in the core of what a Community Health Center, Not For Profit is- caring for the underserved, the people who cannot afford insurance, the ones who have subpar insurance, the ones who have no where else to go. I loved working with patients, helping them find a place to get treatment for the first time or to help them after a visit to the ER brought life altering news. I worked my way up the ranks not by choice. I started there managing 6 staff. I loved it, despite the crazy pace of a super busy practice. By the time I was diagnosed with this rare breast cancer, I had ran the gamut of running multiple practices, implementing policy and procedure, opening new facilities and being an outspoken but excellent employee, witnessed by annual (obviously useless) reviews. Most of my staff loved me (I say most as there is always those who just do not like management). I had a staff member who drove more than an hours commute to work for me again because she appreciated me as a manager. I was a working manager- I worked that front desk if we were short. I worked on referrals. You name it I did it, to help my staff. Love of my staff often kept me at CHC even when I wanted to leave. I nearly did in 2014, leaving for the private sector. Then I decided once again, helping those patients meant more to me.
Forward to cancer diagnosis. Initially I heard nothing from corporate. I heard from fellow managers as the word got out. When I did finally hear from corporate it was as I left for surgery. I never expected chemo treatment to put me on my ass so bad that most days I couldn’t get out of bed, much less drive an hour to the office. FMLA was quickly used up between my double mastectomy and my first rounds of chemo. The Family Medical Leave Act that only protects your job for 12 weeks. TWELVE WEEKS. My first rounds of chemo alone were 12 WEEKLY TREATMENTS!!
In 2017, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people will die from the disease. I can promise you that 12 weeks is not enough for those of us diagnosed to get through it. So why is FMLA so short? I get that businesses have a business to run. FMLA is only required by larger employers- so it would kill them to hire temps? Move staff around? One would think as management I would’ve been safer than line staff. Nope. Our world revolves around money. Its why our insurance system is still so screwed up. Why politicians play games with health insurance, guns, women’s bodies and any other thing that can make money.
The irony of losing my job is that I worked in the healthcare industry, for a company whose states “Our goal is to help you and the people you love most stay healthy or return to good health. Since our first family health center opened in 1972, Community Health Centers has provided our patients with timely, affordable and quality care; because to us, they aren’t just people in a waiting room. They’re a part of our family”.
I am not alone, I know, in losing my job during treatment. Cancer isn’t stressful enough- now you have to worry about money (although you were before because you couldn’t work and you used up all your leave) and the big one- health insurance. Luckily I have finished chemo, but I need to recover from it and treatment isn’t done. I need surgery. I need to recover from that surgery. Then evidently find a new job. While I am paying for COBRA at $745 a month because I am too afraid to find an ACA when politicians are so busy trying to kill health insurance for people. Its almost as if they want people to die. Because right now if I had no insurance at all, I could do just that. I have to have insurance all the rest of my days because I have fought a beast that has a frightening recurrence rate. No insurance could equal certain death. When politicians play games with insurance, they are playing with peoples lives.
For the first time in 25 years, I don’t have a job. Because I was struck with breast cancer. Because the company has every right and I have no protection, no recourse. I get to flail angrily against a system that hasn’t found a balance between money and being human. I get to post an angry blog that does shit all but at least lets me get my anger and frustration out.
Fuck you cancer- what else do you want? You’ve altered me forever physically. You changed the way I view the world and have given fear a new meaning. You took from me more than you have given. I struggle daily to find the positive. But find the positive I will. You may continue to take but I will continue to smile in the face of shitty odds and sometimes overwhelming fear. You may take but in the end I will win even if its just the small things. Because its the small things that matter now more than ever. Morning messages from my mother. Silly things Alfred shares with me. Phone calls from people who love me. Sitting on the beach yesterday, too weak to do much but feel the sun, listen to the surf and watch dogs play.
As always #FuckCancer