Tag Archives: cancer

Life is a Pre-Existing Condition

Afford me a moment to ramble about health insurance and pre-existing conditions.

My mother died from terminal lung cancer almost eight years ago.  She fought her disease with a fierceness and dignity that I find almost unimaginable.  The greatest insult during her entire ordeal was with her health insurance.

After more than two years of purchasing a health care policy on the individual market in pre-Obamacare days she was denied coverage when she was diagnosed with lung cancer.  The functionary on the phone told my father that her cancer was a pre-existing condition.  It was as if they were telling him that she waited to get diagnosed with cancer after more than two years of paying premiums.  As if she waited to deal with her cancer because…reasons?

My mother probably started her path toward lung cancer taking her first drag of a cigarette as a sixteen year old in East Moline Illinois in the 1960s.  Based on health insurance company logic she had a pre-existing condition going back almost forty years.

In truth, we all have a pre-existing condition.  We are alive and we will die.  This might be a little bit of hyperbole, but after dealing with health insurance companies I do not feel that anything is beyond the pale.  When you are at your lowest these people will step on your throat.  When you have lost family members these people will drop a letter detailing their refusal to honor the policy you dutifully paid upon for two years.  These are the people that Republicans in the House of Representatives have sided with instead of actual human beings.

If you think that things will be fine you need to wake the fuck up.  Health insurance companies will drop your ass from your policy for any of the following reasons:

 

  • Breast cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Pregnancy or expectant parent
  • A Cesarean delivery
  • Being a survivor of domestic violence
  • Medical treatment for sexual assault
  • Mental disorders (severe, e.g., bipolar, eating disorder)
  • AIDS/HIV
  • Lupus
  • Alcohol abuse/drug abuse with recent treatment
  • Alzheimer’s/dementia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Arthritis (rheumatoid), fibromyalgia, other inflammatory joint disease
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Any cancer within some period of time (e.g., 10 years, often other than basal skin cancer)
  • Obesity, severe
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Organ transplant
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Paraplegia
  • Coronary artery/heart disease, bypass surgery
  • Paralysis
  • Crohn’s disease/ ulcerative colitis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)/emphysema
  • Pending surgery or hospitalization
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Pneumocystic pneumonia
  • Epilepsy
  • Hemophilia
  • Sleep apnea
  • Hepatitis (hep C)
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease, renal failure
  • Transsexualism

That’s right, if you survived an abusive domestic situation you have a pre-existing condition for which a health insurance company could deny you coverage.  Born with cerebal palsy?  Hell, that is almost the definition of pre-existing condition in the eyes of a health insurance company.  Paul Ryan came for your health care and he succeeded.

So, basically Republicans want to punish us for having the gall to live and to expect more than a Hobbesian existence.   The ethos in Republican circles is “Fuck you if you are not rich and powerful.”

Paul Ryan came for your health care.  Paul Ryan is coming for your retirement.

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Friday Linkage 3/27/2015

Congressional Republicans are the best. In both the versions of the federal budget released by the House and Senate the signature achievement of the Obama administration—Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act—is repealed. However, taxes enacted by that law are used to help close budget holes even though the entire law is supposedly repealed. Gotta’ love the voodoo economics of Boehner and McConnell’s caucuses.

On to the links…

Industry Experts Believe In 70% Renewable Electricity By 2050—The climate might be out of time by then, but a growing consensus is pointing to a future where we no longer need to burn fossil fuels to meet our energy needs. Let’s accelerate this transition.

Costa Rica Has Gotten All Of Its Electricity From Renewables For 75 Days Straight—Heck, Costa Rica was 100% renewable for more than 2 months. Imagine that kind of power mix on a global scale. A lot of this success is based on hydropower being available—just ask drought stricken California how much hydropower can disappear—but it is amazing nonetheless.

North Carolina Solar Boosting North Carolina Economy—Renewable energy is good for local jobs. Period.

SunPower’s 379 MW Solar Power Plant (“Largest In The World”) Mostly Done, 6 Months Ahead Of Schedule—It feels like solar is really a snowball rolling downhill picking up size and speed. You can either be for the change or get run over by the change. Choose wisely.

California Is The First State To Get More Than 5 Percent Of Its Power From Large Solar Projects—Combine utility scale solar with distributed or rooftop solar and you have a winning combination for the renewable energy future.

For Every New Coal Plant Being Built, Two Are Being Cancelled—The story would be a lot more dire for coal if China could kick its addiction to the black rock. In Europe the ratio of halted, shelved, or cancelled to completed coal projects is a healthy 7:1.

Utility Company To Buy Coal Plant Just To Shut It Down—Coal is dying and when private companies are taking these kind of actions you know that no matter how much Mitch McConnell babbles about a “war on coal” the time of King Coal has passed.. Good riddance.

Energy Giant Enel Plans Coal Phaseout—Let the floodgates open and begin the epic decline of coal.

The Biggest Source Of U.S. Carbon Emissions Is Coal Extracted From Public Lands—Maybe now is the time to really declare a “war on coal” and stop the extraction of coal on public lands in the U.S. If you want to dig up coal and fry the climate…fine, do it on private land. See how well that plan works out.

Climate Change: China Official Warns of ‘Huge Impact’—China is in trouble in a changing climate. A country with a long history of famines this is a huge admission.

Back from the Brink: Success Stories of the U.S. Endangered Species Act—The Endangered Species Act is a punching bag for right wing blowhards to criticize decisions made in the defense of spotted owls or snail darters. Rarely, if ever, do these same blowhards take a moment to consider the success of the legislation.

Sea Turtles Test Urban Waters In Southern California ‘Jacuzzi’—Just an interesting little story that reminds me of Electric Beach on Oahu.

New Report Shows That The Most Popular Weed-Killer In The U.S. Probably Causes Cancer—It just makes me seethe when I see people buying jugs of RoundUp to kill weeds in their yards. Nothing like putting a nasty chemical in your yard just to kill a plant you have deemed undesirable. Never mind the whole might cause cancer thing.

Road Salt is Polluting our Rivers—Every winter I wonder about the salt and crud laden runoff from snow covered roads polluting waterways. It looks like my hunch was correct. Maybe everyone should just give crews time to clear the roads before jumping out to drive on the white stuff.

Depaving Cities, Undamming Rivers—Here’s How We’re Undoing the Damage—If we are going to have a livable planet we are going to have to not just preserve what we can but also rehabilitate what we have damaged.

Maryland Has A Plan To Turn Chicken Poop Into Energy-We should eat less factory farmed chicken and other meat, but what is raised produces a lot of poop. We should use that by-product to do something useful like generate electricity. 200,000 tons per year is a drop in the bucket, but it’s a start.

Ten Tips to Save You 25,000 Gallons of Water—World Water Day was this week and here is an infographic to get you thinking about conserving water, our most precious resource:

Ten-Tips-to-reduce-water-Infographic-2

Friday Linkage 2/27/2015

February is almost in the books, but with about five inches of snow on the ground and more forecast over the next few days we should have good skiing into March. Just enough outdoor adventure to bridge until spring break.

On to the links…

Majority Of Republican Primary Voters Want To Violate The First Amendment—For people who tap little pocket copies of the Constitution every time they talk about President Obama, these clowns are pretty ignorant of the basic tenants of the document that they claim to hold so dear. Let me help them:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I do not think that the original intent of that amendment is very hard to interpret.  Even if your brain has been addled by countless hours of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Noted Climate Contrarian in Hot Water—Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, a noted climate change denier, has been completely “outed” as a shill for the fossil fuel industry as details of the big bucks funneled his way have come to light. Granted, truth and objectivity have never been traits the extreme right wing has looked for in its pundits.

Himalayan Ice Shows Chemicals Ban is Working—Stopping the distribution of these chemicals is a good thing. Science, the bugaboo of the right wing, works.

Wind Produced 10 Percent of Texas Electricity in 2014—Wow, 10% of Texas’—yes, Texas—electricity came from wind. Now, it’s a far cry from Iowa’s over 27% wind power percentage but we will cut them a little slack.

Wind Power Hits Record High In China’s Coal Hub—Usually when I comment about China it’s about dirty air or failed expectations, but this is good news. Shanxi is a polluted mess, but maybe things can be turned around with enough effort to deploy renewables.

India’s Air Pollution Is Cutting 3 Years Off The Lives Of Its Residents—Here is what is going to drive change in countries like India and China with regard to pollution. People will no longer accept ridiculous pollution as a prerequisite of development.

Diesel Braces For An Avalanche Of Solar Water Pumps—Solar is just awesome.

An Innovative Congestion Charge That Could Help Fix Our Crumbling Infrastructure—U.S. infrastructure is screwed right now. It’s in bad shape and national politicians have no plans to address the situation. At the state level things look a little better—heck, Iowa just passed a gas tax increase to address the shortfall in road repair revenue—but solutions are needed to bring in more revenue.

Despite Low Gas Prices, Car Buyers Still Want Higher-MPG Vehicles—People understand that today’s low gas prices will likely be gone by summer, but a vehicle is a choice you have to live with for years. No one should buy an SUV expecting sub-$2 gas for anything longer than a week or two.

Proterra’s New Electric Bus can go 180 Miles Between Charges—I do not know what the average daily mileage is for a city bus, but this is an interesting development.

Cow Manure to Ethanol Plant Switches On in California’s San Joaquin Valley—Why not? I would totally fill the tank with some ethanol from cow shit.

Is the Junk-Food Era Drawing to a Close?—The government is finally coming around to the evils of added sugar and people are voting with their wallets.

Pol: Spy On Food Stamp Users to Make Sure They’re Acting Poor Enough—Glenn Grothman is just the worst. The absolute worst this side of Steve King. Steve King is really the worst.

Could Hops Help Fight Cancer?—Maybe that dry-hopped IPA is more than just a palate wrecker on a Friday night. Maybe it’s medicine. Dig it.

Chickens Help Small Brewery Dispose of Used Grain—I have imbibed at Lion Bridge more than once, so I have helped to feed these chickens.

You Must Read—The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

9781400052189There is not much more that I can say about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks that has not already been said by the popular press many times over.  When the book was originally released it garnered a lot of national attention and made it onto many “must read” lists. It does bear repeating, however, that Rebecca Skloot’s book is an essential read.

Why?  The book raises fundamental questions about race, class, and privacy through the lens of something that is almost universally regarded as a good thing—medical research.

The story of the cell line, HeLa, and the woman who was the source of the cell line, Henrietta Lacks who was often misidentified as Helen Lane among other names, is amazing just in terms of the medicine.  For many years researchers has been unable to culture a cell line derived from humans in the lab for any extended period of time.  Forget about shipping those cells beyond the walls of the lab in which they were created.  This stumbling block created all kinds of hurdles for research until Henrietta Lacks walked into Johns Hopkins to be treated for cancer.

Henrietta Lacks died from the cancer that brought her to Johns Hopkins, but a part of her lived on after being taken by a doctor at the hospital.  The cell line, known as HeLa from then on, served as the foundation upon which a dizzying array of medical research has been conducted.  As her descendants were fond of telling anyone who asked, parts of Henrietta Lacks had been sent up into space, blasted by atom bombs, and helped create miracle cures.

The story is about much more than just the medicine.  It’s about race, class, and privacy in a way that is very relevant to the United States in 2013.  As our society becomes increasingly unequal in terms on income distribution and the opportunity to escape the poverty trap becomes more difficult as support is removed it is essential to remember that this is not a permanent state of existence.  The pendulum may be swinging toward a world that resembles the one in which Henrietta Lacks lived and died, but it does not have to remain that way.

Henrietta Lacks lived and died in a world where her privacy and ownership of her own cells was not a given.  It was a world where her medical care was determined by the color of her skin and her station in society.  If that sound familiar it ought to since in the modern world we, as human beings, are often subservient to corporations, our medical care is provided only at the pleasure of odiferous insurance companies, and the striking differences between what is available to different classes is Dickensian.

No matter how much we things have changed, much of the situation remains the same.

Worst Day of My Life

I want to apologize for “going dark” the past week, but the day that I have dreaded every morning for nearly three years came to be.  On Tuesday August 27th my father was found dead.  He took his own life.

The cause of death will be listed as a suicide.  However, I consider this to be another casualty of the cancer that took my mother’s life three years earlier.  It did not erode my father physically.  It killed him mentally.

That Tuesday morning will be the worst day of my life because it came like a bolt from the heavens.  I may have dreaded the phone call for the past three years but I felt that my father was getting to a place where suicide was less of a concern.  I was wrong.

It was the worst day of my life because it was so sudden.  My mother slipped away over a period of months.  I was prepared for her death even if I never wanted to see that day dawn.  My father was just gone.

People will tell me that there was nothing that I could have done.  I believe that only in part because deep down I feel that there was something that I could have done.  There must have been something I could have done different or better.

No one has the words to describe such a situation and the wounds do not heal.

Friday Linkage 7/26/2013

The heat of the last couple of weeks broke over the last couple of days and we have been treated to those perfect Iowa summer days: warm days and cool nights.  It is so nice to be able to open the windows and enjoy the cool fresh air.

On to the links…

Landmark ‘Ag Gag’ Lawsuit Fights Threat to Freedom of Speech—Watch this court case closely because the future of our ability to expose bad practices may be in danger.  Conversely, this may end up like the “McLibel” case where winning the case was not as important as the information that was exposed by the winning side.

Climate Change is Making Poison Ivy Grow Out of Control—If you thought rising seas and weird weather were bad, wait until you get a load of this.  Poison ivy, every hikers friend in the woods, is going gangbusters in the newly changed climate.  Great.

How Do We Use Electricity—If you asked people how they used electricity the answer would probably be “Flipping on a switch.”  That is the amount of thought that most of us put into our energy use on a daily basis.

Americans Continue to Use More Renewable Energy—This report from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has some really interesting charts about the sources of our electricity.

Cool Ways to Save this Season—Does anyone ever really think about how successful of a program Energy Star has been?  I never hear about it.  Here’s a nice little infographic from the folks at Energy Star:

Cool_Ways_to_Save_Infographic

Intermittency Of Renewables? … Not So Much—One of the major problems with renewable energy has been its intermittency.  That is to say, it does not produce power on a steady stream like a coal or nuclear plant.  As the amount of renewable power has increased, however, the intermittency has decreased.  Interesting.

How Twelve States Are Succeeding In Solar Energy Installation—Solar is kicking ass in several states as new and innovative programs are launched to get people access and take advantage of the dramatically lower costs.  In Iowa we are focused on wind energy over solar, but with the state producing over one quarter of its electricity from wind power I am not one to complain.  Much.  I still want solar panels on my roof.

The Community Solar Holy Grail—This idea just might be ticket to get me my solar power.  Interesting.

Zero Carbon Britain Possible by 2030—I see these studies a lot and the key component that is not ever factored in is political will.  The technology exists.  The tools for analysis exists.  The rationale exists.  But no politician is ever going to stand behind such an idea for more than five minutes.

Saudi Arabia to invest $109 billion to get 1/3 of its energy from renewables by 2032—Saudi Arabia has lots of empty land, sun, and money.  Seems like a perfect marriage of factors for a solar revolution.

U.S., Europe Launch Center for Smart Grids and Plug-in Vehicles—Speaking of intermittency.  As plug-in vehicles become more widespread the batteries in these vehicles represent a huge opportunity because taken as a whole they can help regulate the power grid.

Why A Nerve Eating Chemical, Cancer Causing is Still on the Market—This is what I hate about our regulatory regime.  Products that are harmful are allowed to be sold until the harm that they cause is considered so great the product is pulled.  Rather, the products should be proven safe before being allowed onto the market.

Staying Healthy May Mean Learning to Lover Our Microbiomes—There is so much that we do not understand about bacteria because we have spent the better part of the last century conducting all-out war on all bacteria.  The concept that some of these bacteria may be beneficial is gaining a lot of ground.

Nothing to See Here: Demoting the Uncertainty Principle—This article is one of those fun philosophical arguments that I miss so much now that I am no longer in college.  No one in the military-industrial complex has a discussion about Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.  Schrodinger’s cat on the other hand…

Re-Imagining Rubber: PLUSfoam’s Flip Flop Recycling Revolution—This product from PLUSfoam is pretty sweet.  Unlike a lot of recycling, where the product is actually downcycled, the foam in these flip flops can easily be turned into new flip flops.  The trick with the Foreman grill is sweet.

Friday Linkage 1/25/2013

I have been really slow to post anything the past couple of weeks.  No excuses, just nothing to say really.  Do you ever have one of those stretches of time where you look back on the past couple of weeks and wonder what the heck you accomplished?  If it was anything at all?  Yep, that has been the past couple of weeks for me.

On to the links…

Japan to Build World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm near Fukushima—Maybe there is a transition underway that comes out of the disaster at the nuclear plant in Fukushima.  I do not know, but this is a step.

LEDs Emerge as Popular Green Lighting—It looks like we have finally reached the inflection point where LEDs are going to be the dominant form of lighting technology.  This is a good thing.

Solar Panel Prices Continue to Slide—The story is not about the price of solar panels anymore.  It’s about the balance of system costs.  The U.S. needs to work on reducing the balance of system costs to speed adoption of distributed solar generation.

Today’s Seafood Special: Pig Manure, Antibiotics, and Diarrhea Bugs—Shrimp never sounded so good?  Our food safety system is a joke because the foxes are running the hen house.  The only way to guarantee a measure of safety is to know as much as possible about the supply chain of your food and strive to keep it as short as possible.  Yeah, it’s hard but this is the food we put in our bodies.

Popular Antibiotic Tainting Minnesota Lakes—Triclosan is just bad crap.  It’s not really effective as an antibiotic and now it is polluting our waterways because people are so afraid of germs that they expect the stuff to be in every product.  It should be banned.  Now.

Why is Coffee So Expensive?—I tend to fall onto the other side of this question and wonder why coffee is so cheap?  If you ever visit a coffee farm—I have visited several on the Big Island and Kauai—the first thing that will be striking is how labor intensive the effort can be.  Sure, a lot of coffee is harvested mechanically but high quality is coffee is picked manually.  Than you see how much of the weight is lost as the coffee bean is separated from the pulpy exterior.  Never mind transit, roasting, etc.  Now you get my point.

Not Just Another Brookylnite with Chickens—It’s easy to pillory the people with backyard chickens or fancy vegetable gardens as elitists, but growing or raising your own food with whatever resources are available to you has always been a fact of life for people lower down the economic ladder from your average hipster urban farmer.

New Pubs Send Profits to Charity—Why not, right?  Like any of these “schemes” however, I wish people would just donate $20 to their charity of choice directly rather than depend on an intermediary who takes a cut.

Saving Tasmanian Devils from Extinction—I have been following the story of the Tasmanian devils for years as the species looks at extinction from a virulent and contagious face cancer.  It’s a wild story.

New Belgium Brewery’s Kim Jordan Chats with the Denver Post—New Belgium Brewery is important in the beer world because it has helped spread the gospel of good beer.  For me, growing up in the Midwest, New Belgium and Summit in St. Paul. Minnesota were the breweries that produced beer that opened my eyes.  It’s always interesting to hear what people at the head of that movement have to say.