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Transforming into a Health Warrior

“I can’t help but wonder how many of the intricacies of my health insurance are placing my health in jeopardy.”

By Marya Shegog, PhD, MPH, CHES: Health Equity and Diversity Director, Lazarex Cancer Foundation

A profile portrait combined with a painting in a paintography technique for blog article on health advocacy

As a child and young adult, I was taught to be aware of my health, note changes, symptoms, and appearances (I had quite a few interesting rashes as a child), and request assistance from health professionals when needed. I was trained to be a steward of my own health: go to the doctor, get check-ups, wear socks in the winter, sunscreen, bug repellent in the summer, and so on. I didn’t work out or count the ounces of water I drank because life itself was a workout – running and playing outside, running between classes, and let’s not forget the late nights and early mornings spent dancing.  

As an adult, I have had to shift my perspective. We can do many things proactively to contribute to our own good health, cancer screenings being one of them. I have discovered that in these times of regime and routine, there are tests, treatments, and other basic things my body needs. However, they are all too often beyond what my health insurance allows. As I get older and my loved ones get older, I find myself spending more time advocating for things we know will help maintain, improve, and protect our health. I have learned to ask questions, take notes, collect documents, consult multiple experts, and even study so that I can make informed decisions.

Today, I spend a great deal of time working out, noting my water intake, requesting exceptions from health insurance providers, and consulting with my physicians to determine a plan of action that will meet the insurance allowances and my health needs. It is not about noting the changes, seeking consultation, and moving along. It is about asserting my cause of good health, promoting actions of myself and others to achieve my health goals, and promptly identifying and addressing our health concerns. It all feels too much like a game instead of a partnership. Although we know the cost of treatment often exceeds the cost of prevention, I find myself at odds with my insurance company to get my health needs met. I spend far too much time looking at a calendar and studying the fine print of my health insurance policy. I can’t help but wonder how many of the intricacies of my health insurance are placing my health in jeopardy. In the immortal words of DMX, “Ya’ll gon’ make me lose my mind, up in here.”

"Y'all gon' make me lose my mind (up in here)" quote

I have been forced to transform from a health participant into a tactical warrior to ensure that I have access to screenings, medications, treatments, and opportunities to maintain and promote my health in a way that I can afford. There have been times when I am waiting on hold with a lab, a doctor’s office, or the insurance company where I have lost all patience and possibly my mind. It is in those very moments I realize I have transformed from a person pursuing health into a health warrior.