1. High school. I’ve been getting my period for four years but it’s never been normal, and I’m worried. This despite the fact that irregular periods in high school are actually more normal than regular periods in high school. I must be the outlier. There must be a reason. That reason must be cancer. Bloodwork. Ultrasound. Inconclusive. Everything looks normal, if it lasts a few more years, get another checkup. Oh I will. Cost: No idea. I didn’t think about things like “money” back then, only HEALTH. (Paid by parents.)
2. College. Abdominal pain. Am I stressed? Uh, it’s college? Time of my life? Totally not stressed, except about fact that this dull ache is probably cancer. Student health refers me to gastro specialist, who orders a colonoscopy. Results inconclusive. Pain eventually goes away. Cost: ??? plus my mom took off work and drove to my university town and booked a hotel room for my colonoscopy because she is a wonderful mother and then afterwards she bought me so much stuff from Whole Foods, it all must have been additional hundreds on top of that why are my parents so great I don’t know. (Paid by parents.)
3. College. I’ve been running everyday for five months because if I skip a day I don’t trust myself to start again and my legs have been hurting for awhile but I’ve just been running through the pain. But now the dull ache in my shins has turned into a feeling not dissimilar, I imagine, to a knife, stabbing my bones, repeatedly. Student health refers me to to a sports medicine doctor who diagnoses stress fractures but wants to do an x-ray anyway, which confirms stress fractures. Go to physical therapy for months. Cost: Physical therapy is expensive. Specialists are expensive. And yet, ??? (Paid by parents.)
4. California. First job. Hard job. Stress job. Adult acne cannot abide. Go to dermotologist and ask for magic creams but first must have a bunch of bloodwork in case of cancer. (No. cancer.) Am finally written prescription for an antibiotic and some topical creams that bleached all my pillowcases. Insurance doesn’t cover any of this, what are you kidding. When I ran out, did not renew. Cost: Several hundred, paid by me, probably still (Visa).
5. Oregon. Abdominal pain (“Is it acute?” “I’d say acute-ish.”) Doctor orders ultrasound to make sure it isn’t a slowly leaking appendix. It is not. Maybe a pulled muscle from doing crunches after having not done crunches for a very long time. Cost: $4,000 (and still did not meet deductible!) Paid in installments over two years.
6. Virginia. Tooth ache. Terrible, awful tooth ache. I’m about to pull a Tom Hanks in Castaway to get rid of this toothache. Except it’s not one tooth. It’s all the teeth. After it doesn’t go away for 2 weeks, go to dentist to get it checked out. “Have you been under a lot of stress lately?” “Maybe.” “You’ve been grinding your teeth. The pain is from clenching your jaw. Maybe drink some camomile tea, listen to some relaxing music.” Cost: $300. He cut me a deal.