The Most Difficult Writing I’ve Ever Done

Last week, I noticed a plea on Facebook from a friend of mine. He asked his friends if we could write letters on behalf of his wife. His wife, whom I’ll call Jane, is one of my closest friends from college. We live about 2,000 miles apart, and once we both left Maryland and moved to our current home states, we never managed to see each other. We kept in touch sporadically, but I’ve always still felt that bond that was such a big part of my life years ago. Time and distance haven’t changed that.

Jane has been battling Cancer. Due to all the exotic treatments she’s had over the years, her liver is now shot and she needs a new one. Unfortunately, her insurance company decided that it wouldn’t cover the surgery. This is a nightmare right out of Michael Moore’s movie, “Sicko.”

Jane’s husband asked if those of us who love her could write a letter in the hopes of persuading the insurance company to change its decision. But how in the world do you write a letter like that?

First I had to go through the Beating Myself Up phase for not making more of an effort to keep in closer contact with Jane. Then I went through the So Blown Away I Can’t Even Think Straight phase. It took so long to go through phase 2 that rage didn’t set in for many hours. Once it finally did, however, I wrote the following letter:

Dear Blood-sucking Soulless Insurance Company,

May you rot in hell. May your children rot in hell. May anyone you ever cared about rot in hell. As if battling Cancer isn’t horrible enough, the fact that you would deny Jane Smith a liver transplant because some pencil-pusher deemed this procedure “experimental” is unconscionable. Any corporation (and I understand that corporations are people, these days) that would deny coverage to someone who has paid into their system in good faith for all these years is a blight on our society. How can you put a dollar value on a person’s life? So not only are you denying Jane’s right to continue her fight against this hideous disease, you are also denying her husband his wife, and her daughter her mother. You would then be responsible for the destruction of a family. How would you like to be known as the insurance company that destroys families without a second thought? I am certain that we could make this well known across the country.

What goes around comes around, assholes. If you deny her coverage, no positive energy in the universe is strong enough to save you from eternal damnation and condemnation from the world. Don’t mess with Karma. Do the right thing.

Barely controlling my rage at your lack of regard for human life,

Ok, I knew I couldn’t send that one. What in the world could I possibly say to entice a large corporation to change its decision? Would I have any effect at all?


So I thought about Jane and the agony she must be in, and that shook me out of my inertia. In a much calmer moment, I came up with the following:

To Whom It May Concern:

I understand that you have denied coverage to Jane Smith for a liver transplant, citing “further studies or clinical trials are necessary to determine the efficacy of this treatment.” While you may feel that this is a fiscally responsible course of action, I humbly ask you to consider some other factors in your decision.

Given that her condition has caused her liver to enlarge and malfunction, your explanation of how her plan deems that this surgery is “experimental and medically unnecessary” makes no sense. At this point in her illness, a new liver would dramatically improve her condition. The tumors from her Cancer are not the sole reason for her current state of health, and are actually affecting her far less than the liver issues. Without this surgery, she will not have the internal resources to effectively fight this disease and regain her health. Without this surgery, she is being set up to fail.

Jane has proven to be a fighter in her quest to beat Cancer. There is no adequate way to measure the efficacy of one’s strength of character and spirit in battling a horrific disease, yet somehow Jane has managed to rise to the occasion with incredible grace and tenacity. I may not be an actuary or a theologian, and can therefore not attempt to put a quantitative value on a human life, but I can say with the utmost sincerity that if anyone could prove to be a worthy investment, it’s Jane. Her value as a wife, mother, and friend is incalculable. Please reconsider your decision.


How do you plea for the life of a friend? I have absolutely no clue. This may have been the most important writing I’ll ever do, and yet there are no guidelines. Writing has always tended to come easily to me, but I have never found a task so difficult. I’m grateful that many other friends are also writing letters on Jane’s behalf, so perhaps even if the words don’t make the difference, the quantity of letters will. All I can do is keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.


  1. Robin says:

    Apparently the power of the electronic pen worked; after THREE appeals, Jane’s insurance company caved. Now she just has to HAVE the surgery and get well….

  2. David A says:

    Glad the letter writing (apparently) worked. I still prefer the first draft, though! 🙂

    Sending positive vibes to “Jane”; I hope she and her hubby are holding up ok. I know what it’s like to endure a spouse with health issues. Thankfully our issues aren’t life threatening, just career threatening.


  3. Greg says:

    I too prefer the first letter, but I’m certain that doesn’t surprise you. I think I would have delivered the first draft personally. I’m glad to hear that the surgery has been approved. I know who I need on my side against any corporate crap. =)

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