June is an important month for me, as it is both National Immigrant Heritage Month and LGBTQ Pride Month.
My name is Oscar Alarcon, and I am an undocumented queer man. I am 25 years old, and I have lived in Stockton for almost 11 years. I moved here from Taxco Guerrero, Mexico, when I was 15 years old. I came with my mother, brother and sister to have a better life and education. I am currently a student at San Joaquin Delta College, and I hope to transfer to California State University, Long Beach, to major in arts with an emphasis on fashion photography.
Three and half years ago, I discovered I have diabetes. For several months, I had symptoms — tired all day and sleeping a lot, my thirst never quenched, and constantly having to use the bathroom. I remember waking up in the middle of the night more than seven times just to go to the bathroom.
One day, I decided to check online because I did not have the money to go see the doctor. I described my symptoms, and right away everything I was reading indicated they were diabetes symptoms. I also read about all of the complications that develop as a result of unmanaged diabetes: heart disease, blood vessel disease, glaucoma, kidney failure, diabetic induced comas and the list goes on and on.
Treatment for any of these complications is extremely expensive. I thought to myself, doesn’t it make sense to allow everyone access to services and medicines that prevent these complications? I was scared; I didn’t want to tell my mother because I didn’t want her to worry.
Three weeks later, when I had the money, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment. I told the doctor about the symptoms, and right away he sent me for a blood test. I had to come back and pay again to hear my results, which confirmed diabetes. The doctor prescribed me medicine, but I could not afford it right away and because I am undocumented, I do not have any type of medical coverage.
I had to wait another two and a half weeks to get it. By then, my blood sugar was so high — almost 500. A normal blood sugar is 70 to 130. When I ran out of medicine, I struggled because the symptoms would come back and I would have to wait again to afford my medication, sometimes even months. As a diabetic, I’m supposed to have a blood test every six months. But because they cost $300 each time, I couldn’t afford it.
I now have access to treatment for my diabetes through Medi-Cal because I have been able to obtain protected status through deferred action. Even though I have access to care, my mother does not and my mother has recently discovered that she also has diabetes. I am watching my mother go through the same struggles I went through and now my same fears about the consequences of unmanaged diabetes have come back.
Being undocumented and not having medical access, it really is a struggle. We are slowly dying when we don’t have the right care to treat our illnesses. Undocumented people don’t have the privilege to maintain a regular checkup like everyone else.
All people deserve a healthy life. I want our state and communities to find a way to provide health coverage for Californians like me. Illness doesn’t discriminate, and no one should have to suffer or die from something that can be prevented or treated. Health care shouldn’t be a privilege — it’s a need for all humans whether we’re undocumented or not.
This op-ed originally ran in The Stockton Record on June 23, 2015.