A few hours later, she made sure to make it to a television with sound to hear the President Barack Obama give his speech — and say her name.
“There’s a framed letter that hangs in my office right now,” Obama said from the White House on Thursday afternoon. “It was sent to me during the health care debate by a woman named Natoma Canfield.”
Just minutes earlier, Canfield received a call from the White House. She was asked a few questions, but nothing was said about the speech.
“Just to hear the president say your name — I can’t tell you what that means,” Canfield said.
That letter the Medina Township resident sent in 2009 made her the face of the health care debate. She explained to Obama that because she fought breast cancer in the ’90s, her pre-existing condition meant she could no longer afford her health insurance premiums. She begged him to reform the health care system.
“I got to the point where after I cut back everything, I had to get rid of the health care,” Canfield said. “I felt awfully bad about it, so I just wanted somebody somewhere to know that I went down fighting.”
Canfield was diagnosed with leukemia just months later.
After several rounds of radiation, chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant, 52-year-old Canfield is now cancer-free, but recovering from the treatments.
Her letter went with the president to several meetings and he made a point to write her back himself.
But she had no idea her words were hanging in the Oval Office.
“I was just so proud to think the president of the United States has my letter on his wall,” she said. “I was blown away by that. I’ve got his letters on my wall.”
After her leukemia diagnosis, Canfield went on Medicaid, but said she was still rooting for the health care law to be upheld, even if it wouldn’t affect her directly.
“There’s a hundred million other people like me I’m sure that want to be able to afford health care and have a pre-existing condition that’s already been treated and can’t afford it,” she said.
Canfield and her family have been involved with the health care debate as much as possible.
Her sister Connie Anderson, a Florida resident, often stays in Medina Township with Canfield in the house their parents built in 1958.
While Canfield went through her treatments, Anderson and another sibling went to Washington, D.C., to stand next to Obama when he signed the Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010.
“People that you read about, see on the news, they’re coming up to me and saying ‘thank you for your sister, thank your sister, how is your sister,’ that kind of thing,” Anderson said.
As the only example Obama gave in Thursday’s speech, Canfield said she is proof that “one voice can make a difference.”
As for the politics, Canfield said she hopes people remember the law is a start.
“Everything has to have a start,” she said. “Give it a chance. That’s my message.
“Things can only get better.”
Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.