I recently joined Style magazine as a staff writer and I could not be happier. Grateful is more accurate. So are relieved and fortunate. Anyone trying to make it as a writer knows the struggle. Especially if you work freelance.
Unless you married a fulltime breadwinner, came into a hefty inheritance, or won the lottery, you try to get by on the basics. Since I’ve done none of these, I was back to the basics. One thing many employed people take for granted is medical insurance. I did without it, and now that I can buy medical insurance again, I look forward to shopping for services. Like that endoscopy I have been putting off but could really use.
I was one of the many in my demographic—healthy male 30’s to 40’s—who rolled the dice on health care. For years, I waited for the crosswalk and looking both ways anyway, even though I had the light. I avoided dangerous machinery, like weed cutters and nail guns. I did my best to live an injury- and infection-free existence. Yet despite my neurotic efforts, bad luck caught up with me.
One day, I felt intolerable abdomen pain. I was at a photo-shoot—mine. In a complete role reversal, I was the subject of the story. I put on a brave face for the cameras, and then begged for death. My friends opted to take me to the ER, where I birthed a 9 mm kidney stone. I survived, but the bill nearly killed me, setting me back almost $7,000.
My streak of bad luck with my health gambling continued. A month later, I bit down and heard a snap. It stung, but I dealt with it. The pain eventually ended, but was replaced by a nasty secretion. I knew I couldn’t put off going to the dentist any longer.
He called it pulpa necrosis. I called it zombie tooth. It was dead and infected, and a danger to the surrounding teeth so—zombie tooth. It required extraction and since it was a front tooth, an implant. That set me back another $4,000. But that was just the beginning.
The other front tooth went next. Then right rear molar. That made three zombie teeth within a year and a half. I hope it was the last. Cause of death for each zombie tooth was fracture followed by bacterial invasion.
When I was 16, my dentist told me I had receding gums, and it would cause problems in 30 years. He wasn’t kidding! And surprisingly accurate.
Take care of your gums, not only your teeth. Brush, floss and pray. This required my third implant. The first two depleted my savings. The third put me in debt. The procedure is still on-going. Each implant requires almost a year due to stages of healing: bone replacement (6 months), implant (4 months), followed by crowns. Insurance would have covered it, or at least softened the blown. I know from experience.
Before I switched to a career in media, I worked in the legal field. I devoted the bulk of my waking hours—my youth, actually—tucked away in a law library or my 6’ x 6’ cubicle prepping trial binders for unappreciative litigation lawyers at high-powered New York City law firms. My efforts were rewarded with an occasional “good job, Joe” (my name is John), a decent salary and benefits, including health care.
I remember when I first got it. I went nuts. I got prescription lenses, an old scar repaired, and even got a benign lipoma (fatty tumor) removed. I was only 20-something then. I’ve racked up lots of mileage since then, long overdue for an complete tune up. Maybe I’ll even get that funny yellow toenail looked at and that prostate exam my doctor keeps yammering about.