Dollars and Disease

Our Berlin hotel ov.erlooked the Brandenburg Gate, a powerful symbol of that city of challenge and change.  We had come from visiting our daughter in Prague and were exhausted.  My walking was bad, and my gut ached, colon cancer’s gift that keeps giving.  I hurt and muttered to Meredith that I really just wanted to go home.  I gazed down at the gate, sensing its power and realizing how weak my self-indulgent attitude really was.

Why was I not just taking it in, grateful for what I have in life? People long for experiences like this.  In the end, being home and feeling miserable are not a ticket to better health or just feeling whole.  And here I was, in one of history’s great spots, moaning and groaning like a child.

How lucky am I?  I see the world, not the plain interior of some apartment where I sit because I can do no more.  Medical bills eat up money.  People must make hard choices.  I see the sick struggle up the steps of buses, the disabled hobbling down steep steps to the bowels of the subway, waiting for a train. I ride in taxis or car services.  How lucky am I?

We enjoy first class air travel and spend nights in great hotels.   We have a life that is out of reach for the many.  It is better to be moneyed and miserable.   I get it.  Chronic conditions and cash work well together.  Wealth does not buy health, as The Beatles pointed out years ago.  But assets and attitude can be joined because suffering in comfort beats the options.

This is no small matter.  I know I cannot feel guilty for living among the Haves when there are so many Have Nots out there and in need.  None of us should lose sight of the fact that illness drains individuals and families of nest eggs and necessary resources.

We live in a nation with a preposterous system of medical care.  No nation on earth spends more on healthcare and gets less.  Maybe if we spent less on pointless foreign wars and cleaned our own house, we would see fewer lonely and sick souls on our trains and buses.

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