When Steve, my grandmother Margo’s partner of fourteen years, is diagnosed with bladder cancer, they begin sleeping on kitty-corner couches in their living room. He can’t make it upstairs anymore. She says she sleeps better down there anyways. If you saw her propped up on her cheap memory foam pillow, reading by the light of a makeshift headlamp (bike light rubber-banded to a headband), you would believe her.
Having lived with ulcerative colitis for a decade, I thought I knew what it meant to be sick in the U.S. — but when I got cancer, I realized there’s a hierarchy of disease.
Interview with Amber Barcel
What would you say are a few of the most impactful moments of your upbringing that shaped your understanding of healthcare?
I was adopted from South Korea and grew up in rural Nebraska. Everyone went to the same family doctor. If you suddenly fell ill, you could always get an appointment that day.
I had a fear that every time I went to the doctor, the entire county would know when and why.