Bankruptcy Blues

One woman, three cancers, and a cash crunch

Julie White

Julie White
Ohio, USA
June 16
writer, editor, dreamer-in-chief
After careers in teaching and librarianship, as well as a stint at editing, I jumped ship to become a freelance writer. I have worked primarily in educational publishing. In 2009, I took a part-time job at a library, trying and failing to make ends meet. Bankruptcy followed. I'm using a pseudonym, because I have to write about money or the lack of it, trying to make sense of my life as an educated, underemployed, aging woman sliding into poverty status.


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JANUARY 15, 2012 8:14PM

Friday the Thirteenth

Rate: 1 Flag

I don’t have much good to say about cancer, but I must admit, it’s given me some perspective on life's problems. All Friday the 13th events take second place to the Friday the 13th in 2006 when I suffered the indignity of a transvaginal ultrasound (tvu) and learned I had an ovarian mass suspected to be cancer. Everything not-cancer seems to be small stuff. Which was helpful this Friday the 13th, when two disappointments occurred, both of which will affect me financially.

            First, some background and a closely held secret: in seventh grade, I had an abcessed tooth that had to come out. Of course it would be a front tooth. I’ve had a bridge ever since. Two years ago, an alarmist dentist (it’s her job) told me the bridge was pulling away from the gum, which could lead to infection. “If that happens, it’s going to be painful and expensive to fix,” she cautioned. I knew I couldn’t afford to pursue any corrective measures, so I refused to allow an X-ray. My guiding light in such matters is Winnie the Pooh, who, when asked “What if we meet a heffalump?” responded, “What if we don’t?”

            When I arrived at work Friday morning, two boxes of doughnuts from a local shop sat on the break room table. I opened the lid of one—always a mistake. Sure enough, a cream-filled, chocolate frosted doughnut remained. I cut off a small sliver, popped it in my mouth, and felt the bridge give. Sort of ruined the joy of the doughnut. I went to the restroom and discovered to my relief that the bridge could be convinced to go back onto the teeth that held it in place.

            My face began to tingle. Because I’ve been through chemotherapy, I knew what was happening. I’d experienced the same thing when we started the regimen. I was afraid that I was having some sort of reaction and told my chemo nurse.

            “Oh, honey, that’s just nerves,” she told me kindly.

            So, yes, I was nervous that my front teeth could and probably would drop out at any moment. But I really was nervous about what it would cost to repair the damage.

            It was Friday, and my dentist was two towns away, so I haven’t called yet. I’m all for putting off a visit to a dentist; again, it’s better than a tvu, but I don’t like any part of a dentist’s art. Monday is a legal holiday. Meanwhile, I have no big meals with friends scheduled, which is good, because I know that any chewing is going to be done carefully and in private.

            The other Friday the 13th event this month was the rejection of a proposal to increase my hours and get benefits at my part-time job. I’m a realist, and I’ve been in academe most of my life; I had no hope that the administrators, who sit in another building and rarely enter the library, would go for it. But my boss, involved in our budget process for the first time, was full of hope. I told her that they’d approve her other request, a raise for a coworker who’s been there five years, because it wouldn’t cost them much. They wouldn’t approve me, because it was too costly. She thought she could swing both.

            At the end of the day, I was the one hugging my boss, who had tears in her eyes on my behalf, and telling her she hadn’t failed—the whole system was broken. She could agree with that, and so a meltdown was averted.

            The truth is, I really need those benefits. I’m going to call my insurance company and ask about downgrading my policy; I’ve done this once before. After downgrading, one can’t jump back up to the better coverage. I lost an automatic $25.00 co-pay for office visits; now I pay 20 percent. I have no idea what else I might have to give up. My new rate is about equal to what I make each month at my part-time job, however, and freelancing is too iffy to cover everything else.

I really can’t afford a new bridge. I’m hoping for some sort of dental super-glue solution. Either that or I’m never eating out again, which could be a real money-saver.

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