A story making the rounds this week: Drew Cox, a 6 year old boy in Texas, "decided to sell lemonade to help his father with medical bills." His dad, Randy Cox, has a rare form of metastatic cancer, diagnosed a few months ago. The family says Drew's lemonade stand earned more than $10,000. They have an online fundraising site here, where they're trying to raise more.
I am currently undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, diagnosed about four months ago. When I saw various versions of this story popping up on news sites, several thoughts came to mind.
First, hooray for this child. I hope his dad gets the treatment he needs, that the treatment is successful, and that the family doesn't go into debt or have to forego treatment for lack of funds.
But second: this is a disgrace. I hate it when stories like this are flogged in media as "feel-good" stories. This story should make America feel ashamed, not feel good. Seriously? A working father gets cancer, and the family has to rely on charity, and a lemonade stand manned by their 6 year old son, to obtain life-sustaining medical treatment?
Well, I have cancer. I have insurance. I still pay what is for me a huge out-of-pocket sum, even after my insurance, for each chemo infusion every two weeks. As a wise fellow cancer patient told me, if the disease doesn't kill you, the medical bills just might.
And what's worse, that $10K they raised on the lemonade stand won't get you very far. Depending on the provider, the drug, and your insurance coverage, that might even be the out-of-pocket cost for one single infusion (and chemo generally involves a lot more than just one infusion). Cancer treatment in America is expensive.
Last night on Twitter, I hosted a sort of impromptu retweet-fest, selecting and RTing stories from my followers — stories of people who went bankrupt because of cancer treatment costs, stories of people who didn't receive treatment they needed for lack of funds, stories of people who did outrageous or humiliating things to come up with cash for cancer treatment, stories of people who died in poverty because of the high cost of cancer treatment in America.
These lemonade stand stories make me feel nothing but outrage. We who have cancer must launch online fundraising drives and lemonade stands and beg for charity so that we can live—while drug companies and insurance providers reap unprecedented profits?
Fuck that. Just fuck it.
The moral of all those chemotherapy lemonade stand stories is this: If you have cancer in America, and you are not sitting on a big pile of cash, then God help you. Because our health care system sure as hell won't.
Also, I've rounded up the conversation I had with Twitter followers here at Storify: "On Cancer and Cost in America."
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Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.