TIME TO CARE FOR HERSELF
Cara S. Latil tried to go to the doctor when she could. The timing was always dictated by health insurance, which she had intermittingly. Many of her administrative jobs in California, where she grew up with a brother and a single mom, didn’t provide insurance. The coverage, when she could get it, was spotty. Dental care was never covered, so she didn’t visit the dentist.
Beyond doctor visits, Latil, 49, couldn't truly care for herself because her world revolved around drinking and doing drugs. When she moved to Santa Fe 10 years ago, she drank even more once she ran out of her supply of methamphetamines.
She drank, preferably vodka, every day and in the middle of the night when anxiety stole any hope of sleep. She continued drinking when her swollen stomach became too painful to touch, and she was diagnosed wth hepatitis C and cirrhosis. She bounced between brief rehab stints and hospital stays before a three-month program at Hoy Recovery kept her sober for the past two years.
“When I got sober, I thought now I can get myself taken care of,” said Latil, whose green eyes brighten when she smiles. “Health is very important to me now.”
She faced major health hurdles after sobriety. First she sought treatment to cure her hepatitis, which was possible only because federal health-care reform no longer allows insurance companies to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.
“Obamacare was a huge part of me being able to take care of my hepatitis C,” she said.
After she finished her sixmonth hepatitis treatment, she had a lumpectomy and radiation therapy to get rid of breast cancer. The medicine she took to prevent cancer from returning was potentially dangerous for smokers, so she put cigarettes in the past too. Dental care is next on her list.
“I feel better now. I think about what I put in my body. I never did before. I try to cook more, and exercise is the next thing,” said Latil. “It’s wonderful to be taking care of myself now.”
Today she considers health and wellness as taking care of her mind and body. “It’s about being honest, kind, a productive part of society, giving back, growing emotionally and spiritually,” she said. “I am so grateful to be here, so grateful to be alive that I want to give back.”
One way she gives back is by serving on the board of the Santa Fe Recovery Center, which offers 30-day substance abuse treatment and is working on opening a treatment facility for women with children. In between work at St. Elizabeth’s Casa Familia, which provides temporary housing for women and children, she takes classes at Santa Fe Community College so eventually she can work in human services, perhaps helping people recover from addictions.
Some days she has time to meet a friend for coffee, a simple activity that never happened before. “Having friends and women I can talk to is a big part of my wellness,” she said with a smile.