A year after being diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, Kelly Angard is waging a fight for not only her life, but for millions of others.

Over the past 12 months, the 52-year-old self-employed photographer and artist has undergone chemotherapy and surgery and is once again going through another round of chemo. With insurance, her treatment costs her around $16 per month; without insurance, her out of pocket costs rise to more than $5,200 per month — unaffordable on virtually anyone's budget. Without treatment, it's probable that her cancer would reach a terminal stage within months.

Kelly Angard and her daughter. Photo courtesy of Kelly Angard.


Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Angard would have found it nearly impossible to find health insurance.

Thanks to the 2010 law, also known as "Obamacare," Angard couldn't be denied coverage on the basis of having a preexisting condition. At the time of her diagnosis, Angard was still on her recently-separated husband's insurance, and while she was able to stay on his plan for a while, she'd eventually found herself in need of her own policy. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, she couldn't be turned away due to her cancer diagnosis.

November's election brought a renewed call from the law's opponents for its repeal. That's when it hit home for Angard that she may soon lose what coverage she has.

"It hit me like a freight train," she says, noting that she had been rediagnosed just weeks before the election.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Angard.

She teamed up with two other women to create Faces of the ACA, a website dedicated to boosting the stories of individuals whose lives have been saved because of the law.

The political rhetoric surrounding the law has overshadowed the reality of what its repeal would mean to the millions of people who benefit from it. Angard, along with Anjali Fernandes and Mary Afifi, launched Faces of the ACA to help take the discussion surrounding the law beyond the rhetoric.

"So many people do not understand — they hear the talking points, but they don't really understand what that exactly means — what that looks like for a person [like me]," she says.

"I've had the idea in my head that people just want to be heard. Obviously, even more so now, in this environment after this election, people want to be heard. So, in a nonpartisan way, the idea of having a place where people can have a voice came into my head. I was overwhelmed with doing it on my own, but through conversations ... with a few other people, I said, 'I really believe that we need to get our faces in front of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the others.' And the lady I was talking with said, 'Yes, we do.' She said, 'Faces of the ACA.'"

Faces of the ACA has a simple goal: to push back on the politicized approach to health care.

And that's exactly why Angard wanted to avoid using the term "Obamacare" across the site.

"I don't want it to be a political issue at all," she says. "And so I made no political issue on the site because everybody has health needs. Calling the law by its respectful name was very important to me."

Photo by Luke Sharrett/Getty Images.

It turns out that when you ask people about what the Affordable Care Act actually does, they like it.

According to a December survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 85% of the public support the provision that allows young adults to stay on their parents' insurance plans until age 26, 83% support eliminating out of pocket costs for preventative services, and 69% favor the provision that bans insurance companies from denying coverage on the basis of preexisting conditions.

That same poll found that just 26% of the public want the law completely repealed. 30% of Americans actually think the law needs to do more.

Repealing the law would have some potentially disastrous effects.

The Urban Institute, a public policy think tank, found that repealing the Affordable Care Act would cause nearly 30 million Americans to lose their insurance. Of those newly uninsured, up to 36,000 people may die as the result of no longer having access to health care.

Misconceptions about the law, however, continue to run rampant, and that's why stories from people whose survival depends on it are so very important.

Most of us have benefited from the law in one way or another. Still, many don't seem to understand what the legislation actually does. In October, then-candidate Donald Trump appeared to confuse the set of standards and regulations (what the law consists of) with some sort of insurance plan all on its own (which is not what the Affordable Care Act is).

Another common, if somewhat misunderstood, argument against the legislation is that it's driving the cost of insurance up. The reality is that this problem existed long before the law was passed, and interestingly enough, it was opposition from some of the more conservative members of Congress that eliminated the possibility of a "public option" — something that would have helped rein in those yearly increases. While the average premium increase for plans bought through the Healthcare.gov marketplace increased by 22%, few were actually affected by this, as the available subsidies increased as well.

As of this writing, Faces of the ACA has roughly 100 stories from a wide range of Americans.

From Luanne T., who was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at age 13, to Mark D., who shared his story of being denied coverage pre-ACA due to a clerical error, it's worth taking your time to visit the site and see just how many people depend on the ACA and what it would mean to lose it.

This really shouldn't be a partisan issue. The U.S. is one of few industrialized countries not to guarantee health care for its citizens, and while even many of the law's proponents would argue that a single-payer system would be an ultimately better solution, the Affordable Care Act is a big step in the right direction — and Faces of the ACA shows why.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act stand outside the Supreme Court in 2015. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

Keep Reading Show less
Pets

Ginger the dog reunited with family 5 years after being stolen

Ginger's family never gave up hope, and it payed off.

Ginger the dog was missing for five years before being reunited with her family.

A sweet pup is finally home with her family where she belongs after way too many years away.

Ginger the dog was stolen from her family back in 2017. Her owner, Barney Lattimore of Janesville, Wisconsin, never gave up the hope that his sweet girl was out there somewhere. Whenever he'd see a dog listed on a rescue website or humane society website that even remotely resembled his Ginger, he would inquire about the dog. Unfortunately, it was never her. You'd think that after a while he would stop, but if he had, he likely wouldn't have gotten the sweetest reunion.

Keep Reading Show less

Prior to baby formula, breastfeeding was the norm, but that doesn't mean it always worked.

As if the past handful of years weren't challenging enough, the U.S. is currently dealing with a baby formula crisis.

Due to a perfect storm of supply chain issues, product recalls, labor shortages and inflation, manufacturers are struggling to keep up with formula demand and retailers are rationing supplies. As a result, families that rely on formula are scrambling to ensure that their babies get the food they need.

Naturally, people are weighing in on the crisis, with some throwing out simplistic advice like, "Why don't you just do what people did before baby formula was invented and just breastfeed?"

That might seem logical, unless you understand how breastfeeding works and know a bit about infant mortality throughout human history.

Keep Reading Show less