In a freakish turn of events, I dined out recently with two friends and I was the healthy one. (Well, okay, the visibly healthy one, if you must).
My two friends are preternaturally athletic, the type who run marathons and triathlons, who scale mountains on other continents, and generally amaze me with their natural ability and iron work ethic. Yet that night, they were wearing identical walking boots, having each suffered metatarsal injuries of some sort. One was even on crutches.
And there I was, not a sprained ankle, torn ligament, or broken bone to be had. Finally, I got to hold doors open and offer to carry bags for someone else.
As our little trio limped down the city street, one my friends commented on the hassle it was being somewhat incapacitated.
“It’s really expensive,” she added, commenting on the number of cabs she’d had to take lately when the walk to public transportation would have been too much for her injured foot.
I nodded vigorously.
She’s right. Now, I realize just how far down on the priorities list this topic is. I know how expensive chronic disease is in terms of productivity and lost wages. I’ve seen Sicko; I know people with health insurance lose their homes and livelihoods, and even their lives. I know many other people do not have insurance, so a broken bone or X-ray or MRI can be a catastrophic cost.
I’m certainly not arguing any of that. But that topic is much larger, more unwieldy and complicated and frustrating, than what I am attempting to focus on here. So with that caveat in mind, shall we?
When you add up all the little expenses that come with being sick, those incidental little things that aren’t neatly categorized like co-pays and deductibles are, it really is costly.
Like my friend, I’ve definitely paid for many, many cabs when I’ve been too broken/adrenally-depleted/infection-ridden or otherwise worn out to take public transportation. I’ve paid tons of exorbitant parking garage fees because I couldn’t walk to a place or knew by the end of the event or appointment I wouldn’t be up to commuting.
Don’t even get me started on the number of non-refundable plane, train, theatre, and concert tickets we’ve lost money on when my health status changed quite rapidly and we had to cancel our plans. (Yes, sometimes people are understanding and work something out with us, but that is not the norm.) And of course there are the projects and jobs I’ve turned down because I’ve gotten too sick or landed in the hospital, but that’s another issue.
Despite our insistence on store brands and the fact we only buy enough for the meals we eat in one week, grocery shopping is more expensive because, frankly, most of the inexpensive food I cannot eat. Now, I do love me fresh produce, and all-natural, gluten-free grains, soymilk, and the $2 GF energy bars I grab to keep in my briefcase as a quick non-perishable snack, but they are by no means inexpensive. I’m sure all of you with various GI issues and dietary restrictions can relate.
Even dining out costs more than it might for the average person at the average restaurant because very often, the only “safe” menu choices beyond a small garden salad are the grilled fish entrée or the steak. No cheap middle of the road burger or sandwich or affordable domestic beer.
Anyway, I could keep listing all the ways illness sucks money out of my pocket, but I realize to even notice these incidentals is a luxury. It means the truly costly parts of life with chronic disease are under control.
It could be a lot worse.
(But I know you’re nodding your head and mentally cataloging your own incidentals list, too. It's okay.)