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Crows on a Cloud

Dislocated shoulder. Torn labrum. Absent meniscus. From roller derby, rugby and power lifting, I’ve driven my body like a rental car—enjoying every minute. However, my injuries might have awarded me a first place podium seat next to an NFL running back. He’ll be sponsored by Wheaties and Nike, while I’ll be sponsored by Bengay and Advil. I’ve spent many years embracing physical therapy regimens, but the most frustrating aspect of my loose shoulder is a health-care system designed for the poor or fine-tuned for the rich.

The middle class is the largest population with the worst healthcare benefits, especially if you are a small-business owner or single-mom hairstylist. Deductibles are forever increasing. Over the years, the Healthcare Insurance Marketplace offers more choices but at the expense of higher premiums with less coverage. Even though I am super grateful for the Affordable Care Act, which at least attempts to create better services for the working class, I still sometimes obsess over a catastrophic health diagnosis.

Breast cancer runs in my family. My great-grandmother rocked her double-mastectomy scars like a war vet, and my mother died at the early age of 47. Now that I am 43, it’s difficult to not revisit my mother’s long chemo visits and pray that I will never have to sport a cathaport (carport for IV needles). Regardless of the current innovations for breast cancer treatments, more than likely, I wouldn’t qualify for them anyway. In fact, the response I usually receive after divulging my income is a light chuckle and a “you are way over the income bracket.” By this woman’s response, you would have thought I drove a Tesla. The qualifying income amount was $28,000. Of course, they don’t take into consideration that I live in a town whose motto is “poverty with a view.”

People once covered a story about Angelina Jolie’s brave choice to have her breasts and ovaries removed, hoping to escape her BRCA (high-risk cancer gene) curse. First off, she’s a damn millionaire. Secondly, she has nannies and chefs at her beck and call and access to the best, most innovative treatments. Not to mention, a nice rack reconstruction from the best Hollywood plastic surgeon. Of course, any surgery comes with its own set of fears and risks, however, I attach more bravery to a single mom and her team of Go-Fund-Me raisers who frantically collect monies to pay for groceries. All the while, she undergoes radiation and prays to keep her family afloat.

Adequate financial assistance for the middle class is almost impossible to receive. Two populations for the best services either live in their car or review their stock status daily. Even with two generations of high-risk breast cancer, previous insurance plans seemed to cover my chemo option but not preventative care, including mammograms. It might sound like a conspiracy theory to some people, but I can’t help but believe the pharma and medical organizations somehow benefit financially from these types of health insurance contracts.

When my shoulder dislocated three times in six months, I struggled with pain during round-brushing clients. I played my small violin every day—quietly grunting and downing Ibuprofen. My insurance might have covered a large part of surgery, but I would have four to five months of shoulder rehab, which means four to five months without income. Often clients will try to encourage me to “stay positive.” They recommend a “great shoulder guy.” What they don’t take into consideration is that I don’t have a partner to pad my emergency expenses.

A client once said, “You should consider moving to the Netherlands. My friend moved there, stayed with family. She had surgery, physical therapy free and returned home.” I don’t know how accurate this story was, but I was grateful for the easy answer to my predicament. Of course! I could befriend an exchange student, kidnap my children, get surgery and crash at their windmill home. Totally doable! I think our healthcare system was designed for profit. Period. But don’t fret! You can always invest in a good pair of clogs and experience a country that honors the wellness of all income brackets. Welcome to the Netherlands.

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Shawna Ritter (aka Honey Guns), local hairapist, blogger and derby girl, has lived in Flagstaff for over 25 years. She graduated from NAU in 2000. Ritter can be sighted running her two boxers downtown or taking out speed walkers on her roller skates. Want more? Visit her blog at www.thesaucysuperfox.com for additional stories and shenanigans.

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