Two years ago, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. On top of its obvious impact on my health, that diagnosis has forever changed my life because, from now on, I will always be marked as having a pre-existing condition.

This scares me. It scares me because I worry every day that our elected officials will choose to eliminate health care protections for people like me.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t know how to even begin processing the new health journey that lay ahead.

Penny Potts

My husband and I decided to hold off on starting our family; we put moving on hold; we had to reallocate funds away from our long-term plans to fight our current battle.

Despite the good insurance that we had, fighting to maintain my health was still expensive and drastically changed our trajectory. 

I have been an elementary school teacher for 12 years. This is not a job anyone goes into for the money, but I love what I do. There have been and are currently multiple teachers fighting cancer in my school, two of whom are my fifth-grade teammates.

We are a wonderful support network for each other, but we also share many of the same concerns, most of which revolve around health insurance.

Would our insurance cover the next procedure we needed? How expensive were our prescription drugs going to be? Will we even have insurance next week if Congress or the courts repeal the Affordable Care Act?

Knowing that this will be a lifelong battle, what will I miss out on because our finances have to go toward medical bills and coverage?

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When someone is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, their only concern should be getting better, fighting to stay present and grateful, and focusing on what is truly important: the ones we love. We need elected officials who will fight for us while we are fighting for our lives. 

I am very disappointed in Sen. Cory Gardner. He repeatedly told us that he would stand up for protecting people with pre-existing conditions, but then he voted for all four previous health care repeal bills, which would have cut coverage, raised costs and gutted those protections for people with pre-existing conditions, like cancer, asthma and diabetes. 

Sen. Gardner also repeatedly told people in Colorado that he wants to lower the cost of prescription drugs, but instead, he has taken nearly $400,000 from the health insurance and drug industries and sided with them instead of Coloradans. He even supported a health care repeal lawsuit that would let insurance companies stop covering the cost of prescription drugs. 

I am currently in remission and have a clean bill of health. I have since started my family and have a wonderful one-year-old named Mikey.

I want to live in a state where having a pre-existing condition doesn’t affect the cost of health care or even eligibility for health care. I want to live in a state where, if my son gets hurt, I can take him to get care and confidently know he will receive the care he needs without sending us into debt. 

I want to live in a state where I am confident that my elected officials are looking out for my family and neighbors, not the special interests. I cannot say that I have that confidence in Sen. Cory Gardner.

He needs to do more to put his constituents in Colorado first, and that can begin with standing up against this lawsuit to repeal our health care and in favor of the voices he supposedly represents. 

Penny Potts is a mother and a fifth-grade school teacher from Centennial. 

Special to The Colorado Sun