Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Big Question

Talk about elephants in the room!

I'm not in denial, really. I just think sometimes there's a processing limit, and when you're completely snowed under by one thing - or a whole set of things at once - then some other things can slip through without their due attention, or at least what everybody else thinks is their due attention. And everybody else thinks this is MAJOR MAJOR MAJOR!

They haven't said it's cancer. They just said they can't confirm that it's not.

We're talking about my "football" here. You know, the uterine fibroid that's grown a bit since 2007, my last untrasound check on it. I read the report back when I finally got the summation of it from my OB-GYN. I concentrated on the details like centimeter size. I also read the parts about not being able to distinguish the midline, hard to tell exactly where the edges were, rapid growth, and all of those combined meaning they cannot say with certainty that it's not cancer.

They didn't say it is.

Meanwhile I'm dealing with everything else, taking care of (or managing care of) my dad, monitoring blood sugar levels, monitoring and planning every bite of food, working, arranging allergy shots, trying to find time to get back to poisoning the weeds in the garden without nailing the flowers, shopping for two, sending Paul to the vet with the dog for his latest ear infection and accommodating that treatment in the schedule, finding time to work on wedding plans....

That plus trying to figure out what to do when "choosing" to afford to do something looks suspiciously close to courting bankruptcy. Or if not that, then just putting myself in a position where when I retire there'll be no funding for it. I've been working for years on being able to look forward to something other than poverty when I retire. I paid off the house, back when there was enough money coming in to do that. Good thing too, since commission cutbacks make it impossible to afford a mortgage these days. Any loan against the equity in the house is the same as losing the house, since there's no budget to pay it back. I quit paying into IRAs because I'm trying hard to whittle down my credit card balance so it's not choking me once I retire. Gas prices aren't helping. Having to leave work early to relieve Daddy's caretaker, or start late due to medical appointments, well, they're not helping either.

And frankly, I'm one of those people who get more scared by poverty than the idea of cancer. Except at this point, the idea of cancer means poverty. So, how long can I delay doing anything about it? Or how can I perhaps find out whether there's any problem or any urgency? And how much will that cost? Embolization includes an overnight hospital stay. A hysterectomy requires longer. The first may help, but also postpones the second for a couple years at best, and that's if there's no cancer. The hysterectomy gets rid of the problem, and saves "wasting" time and resources on the first, but bites a much bigger hole out of the budget. Can I wait for Medicare to kick in?

I checked out the possibility of a biopsy, but the problem is the fibroid is huge, and only part of it may have begun changing. What if they stick the needle in six places and it's the seventh that's turned?

It's almost funny how everybody else freaks out by the word "cancer". I think folks fear it more than another 9/11. Me? Not so much. It's just not something that's been on my radar. Even a request for a repeat mammogram for better detail doesn't phase me. I don't worry about it. I know people who've had breast cancer, died from it. I know people who've died from liver cancer, and I'm aware that my years in the dry cleaners puts me at elevated risk. But, so? I'm just thinking finances.

Well, I'm also wondering what I'll do with my "hair" for the wedding if I'm bald from chemo or radiation. C'mon, something to think about.

There's grim irony in finally having health insurance but with such a limiting cap, and such narrow qualifications regarding my income level. Suppose I cash in some of my IRAs to help pay the bills. The money then counts as income, puts me over the amount to qualify for my insurance, and off the plan I go. So, pay my bills, and wind up losing the house or the insurance or both. Don't pay, declare bankruptcy... another undesirable end. Can we make it not be cancer or not grow fast enough or metastisise so that it can be ignored for two more years? I can afford it better then.

OK, dream on.

I made two phone calls this morning. The first was to my insurance plan, asking just how close to my annual cap I was. There was good news: the $10 grand limit is for inpatient treatment, and since everything I've done so far has been outpatient, I still have $10 grand left! Plus, I can still keep on with the other things I'm dealing with, like the allergy shots and the diabetes.

Whew! It's not a complete solution, but takes care of a chunk of the bill. It's enough that I feel better, irrational as that is. There'll still be tens of thousands of bill to pay afterwards.

The second call was to a gynecological oncologist in St. Paul, the nearest to where I live. Yes, he takes my insurance. He's only available in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays: which would I prefer? Well, allergy shots are Thursdays, so can we try Tuesdays? Sure. This next Tuesday is filled, and, hmmm, let's see... Oh dear, the first available appointment is the 26th. Am I sure I can wait that long? It's waited 4 years, what's an extra week or two?

They want a list of my meds brought in, and a copy of the ultrasound faxed to them ahead of time. Faxed? What kind of detail can you get over a fax machine? Really, faxed? I can tell I'm gonna have some questions. But the appointment is made, and the rest is waiting. And working to rearrange my life so if I need to take a few weeks off from it, I can do it.

Nothing like another challenge.

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