TIME TO CARE FOR HER­SELF

Santa Fe New Mexican - Healthy Living - - NEWS - CARA S. LATIL

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.

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