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I’m Back!

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As some of you may have noticed, I haven’t been particularly active for some time – my last post was back in February and it took an affront to Captain America to get me to write something. My inactivity had nothing to do with a lack of interest in blogging either generally or on this site, but rather that over the last eight months I’ve been dealing with an ongoing health crisis which limited how much mental energy I had available.

That crisis is now over.

So I’m back, and I have some Views to share:

  • I definitely want to talk about the Senate Dems’ “Better Deal” agenda vis-a-vis the Congressional Democratic agenda in 2006, and why sometimes it’s hip to be square.
  • I absolutely want to talk about why the internal Democratic party debate since 2016 has been so averse to actually talking about policy and why the term “neoliberal” is really meaningful when it comes to talking about the long-term impacts of Third Wayism from the 80s onwards.
  • I definitively want to do a retrospective on the disasterous career of the Republican health bill, which took on an intensively personal meaning for me given the health crisis I was going through.
  • And don’t think I’m going to let anyone forget about the need to re-elect Bill De Blasio to demonstrate that running and governing from the left will be rewarded rather than punished by the electorate.

But first, I feel like I should explain what’s been going on with me and why I haven’t been around.

One Thing After Another

Back in late December of 2016 – that godforsaken year when it seemed like every day brought with it some fresh tragedy to endure – I found out that I had a malignant tumor in my left leg. I had been having problems with pain and mobility in my foot and my leg for a year and a half by this point, and after going through a year with the misdiagnosis of it being a cyst, I now knew that it was instead a synovial sarcoma. Synovial sarcomas are incredibly rare, with about three hundred cases a year in the United States, literally a one-in-a-million chance. I really felt SEK’s absence then, because who else would have grasped the bizarre cosmic irony of the situation? I told relatively few people about my condition, wanting to keep my cards close to the vest until I knew how things would turn out.

Thankfully, synovial sarcoma is a form of cancer that responds quite well to chemotherapy, so from February through April I went into chemo. Out of that peculiar academic’s delusion that researching something gives you control over it, not that different from the magical thinking belief that True Names give you power over spirits or people, I read through Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies before beginning treatment. So I at least had the comforting knowledge that what I was going through was far easier than the punishing regimes of the 1970s and 1980s. Easier or not, it was still a period in which systems in my body would stop working at random, in which having the energy necessary to think and read and write (in other words, to be me) required a constant fight against this horrible undertow of exhaustion.

But at least the chemo worked, shrinking my tumor by well over half and into operable territory. And so after a bunch of scans to remap the tumor from a number of angles, I went into surgery on June 8th. But after nine hours under the knife, the tumor was still in there. Despite all of the chemo, the shrinking tumor had defiantly wrapped itself around the main artery in my leg and so cutting it out would result in a “flail leg,” a motionless piece of meat forever in danger of killing me through some sort of complication from insufficient bloodflow.

And so last Friday we went with the only option I had left: an amputation above the knee, to remove the tumor completely and allow me to walk again on a prosthetic. The surgery went well, I spent about a week in the hospital recovering, and now I’m home.

Grinding the Bastards Down

I’m writing this post in part to explain how I’ve experienced these last eight months, especially as it relates to the Republican health care debacle.

When I heard Republican Congressmen talking about how only people who’ve led “good lives” deserved coverage for pre-existing conditions, I would scream at the monitor that the idea that health is tied to moral virtue is a medieval fantasy, that illnesses like mine could strike anyone at any time for no reason at all. My cancer hadn’t been the result of smoking or poor diet or environmental factors or genetic predispositions; it was just two genes in one cell mis-transcribing themselves next to one another randomly. So for the next sixth months I walked around in a daze knowing that if the Republican plan became law, I would be a health care pariah, forever marked as a cancer survivor.

When the ACHA eliminated the Essential Health Plan I became one of the people whom the Republican caucus was out to kill, because I was on the Essential Health Plan and it was the only plan that allowed me to receieve chemotherapy plus two surgeries without getting hit with deductibles and co-insurance charges I could never have afforded. There are many criticisms I have of the American health care system and of the design of the Affordable Care Act, but I can say without exagerration that this one part of Obamacare saved my life.

After the first surgery, when I saw disabled activists from ADAPT fighting Medicaid cuts by occupying Senate offices, I knew that I would need Medicaid services (which in the People’s Republic of New York City cover visiting nurses, home health aides, and in-home physical therapy) to live a dignified and independent life, that one day I might need to be one of those people getting themselves arrested to protect others for whom Medicaid is their only lifeline.

And when I read this morning that the Republican health care effort went down in flames, I celebrated by taking my regular pain and nerve damage meds. And as I said on Twitter, it’s both good to know how this semester’s lecture on health care policy will end – further emphasis on how its hard to take away benefits once people have them, a nod to the American Political Development school’s concept of path dependency, a comparison of Obamacare’s changing approval ratings to the persistence of Medicaid since the War on Poverty – and that I will have health insurance for the foreseeable future.

To Reiterate: I’m Back

So here’s where things stand: for the next four weeks, I’m getting around via wheelchair and walker and doing physical therapy to prepare me for a prosthetic. I will be doing more blogging than normal to help pass the time until I can get moulded, fitted, and finally equipped with a brand-new leg with a pneumatic knee joint (possibly microprocessor-guided)  and a smart-flex metal foot. (Currently taking suggestions as to what color to spray-paint the leg, btw.)

At which point I will return to my normal schedule of ass-kicking….and this time, it’s going to be cyborg ass-kicking.

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