An unthinkable way to lose your mom and why it's important we talk about it now.

Instead of talking about me, my pre-existing conditions, my frustration and fear of what millions of Americans stand to lose because of the American Health Care Act, let’s talk about you.

More specifically, let’s talk about your mother.

You know those stomachaches she’s been getting on and off for the last six months or so? Maybe it hasn’t been six months. Maybe they started over the holidays: She was complaining about it at Thanksgiving while you were standing next to her mashing potatoes, but you weren’t really paying attention. At Christmas, she seemed a little more run down than usual, but, you know, she’s getting old. Aren’t we all, right?! She said something about menopause, and you noped the fuck out of that conversation. You don’t need to hear about how she and your father haven’t had sex in two months because she’s in pain or how sometime around Easter she started losing weight really fast because she’s so nauseated she can’t eat anything.


She did go to her doctor, but he told her it was probably stress.

She might start an antidepressant. She has the prescription, they gave her one, but she hasn’t filled it yet because deep down she doesn’t think she’s depressed. She just feels sick, except it’s kind of vague. She doesn’t really want to tell anyone lest she worry them unnecessarily. It's a mother's trait. It’s probably nothing.

Six months from now, she finds out too late that it’s ovarian cancer.

She should have known — that’s what her aunt had, but of course no one talked about it "back then." Apparently they don’t really talk about it enough now either.

She tells you the news when you breeze into town the night before Thanksgiving  —  too late to really help her with dinner preparations, but she lets you pour yourself a glass of the good wine. You start crying almost immediately, yet she seems eerily calm about it.

See, she had a bunch of other stuff in her medical record  —  high cholesterol, for one. She had ovarian cysts as a younger woman, not that she ever told you. She thought they'd gotten better after she had kids. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe she should have paid more attention.

In any case, she can’t seem to get her insurance company to pay attention.

She doesn’t want to have more tests or even see her doctor because for a while there, the co-pays were getting "a little out of hand," she'd thought.

Then it seemed like her insurance company was just denying everything her doctor wanted her to have. She tries to explain that to them, tries to say it wasn’t that she didn’t want to have the biopsy or the CT scan, she was just worried about the bill. Her doctor tells her she is being "noncompliant," but she would be wiling to comply if she thought she and your father could afford it.

She’s supposed to be on these medications, but they aren’t covered. Her doctor doesn’t seem to understand the disconnect between the pharmacy and the insurance provider. He suggests that she just call the pharmaceutical company directly and ask about getting it through charity care or something.

Your father says they’ll remortgage the house if they have to, but your mother says, "Oh, no, no, no. We’ll figure something out."

They haven’t yet. She knows they need to be thinking about it, but she’s feeling very tired.

She’s going to have to stop working soon  —  she’s been taking too many sick days.

Maybe she could get short-term disability, but this whole situation doesn’t exactly feel short-term. She would ask more questions, but she’s just so tired. She hurts. She’s not sleeping well, and she doesn’t have much of an appetite. When the timer on the oven goes off and she turns to tend to it, you see how thin she’s gotten, but you don’t say anything.

Later that night, when you’re in your childhood bedroom trying to fall asleep, you hear your dad’s weird, honking crying from the hall bathroom.

She dies by Christmas. At her funeral, you realize she was so much more than just your mother.

First, she was a daughter. It turns out your grandmother also dies just after the New Year, and everyone whispers that it was a broken heart that did it.

She was the love of your father’s life. Even though it always made you feel awkward to consider it, now that she’s gone and he’s the broken half that’s left, you understand completely what it means that he loved her longer than you did.

She was the "beloved" older sister, the "cool" cousin, the "fun" aunt.

You find out three different women considered her their best friend, and more people than you’d ever met or known about at least considered her a good friend or a shoulder to cry on.

You realize midway through the service that several generations of her students are there, and the ones that are now in college revert back into runny-nosed first-graders when they see you. She was the "favorite teacher," "the best teacher," "the only teacher who ever." Her colleagues tell you, with their tired, red-rimmed eyes, she had been nominated for Teacher of the Year for the fifth time, that they’re going to put a bench with her name on it in the courtyard, that her picture is hanging in the office.

You leave rather abruptly, excusing yourself as you twist away from the conversation. You look for your dad and find him out back of the funeral home, by where they park the hearses.

"She would rather have died than make us lose the house or dip into the money we set aside for you," he says, and his voice isn't unkind and there's no blame placed on her or you.

"Why the hell was she even thinking about money if she was so sick?" you sputter.

"If she was going to die, she didn’t want to bankrupt us. It was hard enough if she wasn’t able to work, but, you know — medical bills on top of that. It was a lot, kiddo. She was trying to protect us."

"She didn’t want to think that you’d ever be in that position, where you couldn’t afford to be sick. Where a funeral was cheaper than another round of treatment, or a hospital stay," he continues.

"She didn’t want be a burden on you or me or anyone. She didn’t want to be the reason we lost the house or used up the money we had set aside for you. She didn’t want to have to go on the Facebook and ask people to donate money to us."

"People would have. If they’d known," you begin to say.

"She didn’t want it to be like that," he says simply. "She worked hard all her life. She paid her dues. She just thought — I mean I guess we all thought that was enough, you know? To have rights. To have access to health care without losing your shirt."

"She was my mother," you squeak, and you’re crying now, "I loved her. I love her. I would have done anything. I didn’t know  —  she didn’t  —  I didn’t even know ..."

Your father, who has never been all that good at hugs, wraps an arm around your shoulder. He smells like American Spirits and shoe polish and that perpetual new carpet smell of a funeral parlor.

"She loved you more than anything. Like any parent, she just wanted to make sure you’d have a better life than she did," he says, and it’s so quiet, you hardly hear his words. But the weight of them you feel.

This story first appeared on Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

More
Truth

Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign. We don't do PSAs. We also need to update so to explain truth – the nonprofit behind the truth youth smoking prevention campaign – you could also say this in a funny way – best known for sharing the facts about smoking and vaping or pull from some old campaigns. Just layer in a description of truth and who the campaign is., is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

truth
True
LUSH

Handmade cosmetics company Lush is putting its money where its mouth is and taking a bold step for climate change action.

On September 20 in the U.S. and September 27 in Canada, Lush will shut the doors of its 250 shops, e-commerce sites, manufacturing facilities, and headquarters for a day, in solidarity with the Global Climate Strike taking place around the world. Lush is encouraging its 5000+ employees "to join this critical movement and take a stand until global leaders are forced to face the climate crisis and enact change."

Keep Reading Show less
Planet
via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being

The fine folks at Forbes are currently falling all over themselves trying to clean up the mess they created by publishing their 2019 list of 100 Most Innovative Leaders.

The problem: The list included 99 men and one woman. For those not so good with the math, that means according to Forbes, only 1% of the country's most innovative leaders are female.

Have you ever watched a movie that's so abysmally bad that you wonder how it ever even got made? Where you think, "Hundreds and hundreds of people had to have been directly involved in the production of this film. Did any of them ever think to say, 'Hey, maybe we should just scrap this idea altogether?"

That's how it feels to see a list like this. So how did Forbes come up with these results?

Keep Reading Show less
Innovation