Insurance and Elections

So, it seems every single time I turn around, I have another medical bill to pay, and I am thankful that I have a job that allows me insurance, and a flexible spending account (which was maxed a month or so ago).  My bills are a 10% co-pay of what the total bill is after insurance, but still, $30 here, $28 there, $1600 now, $15 then, well, they add up.  So much so, in fact, that when I recieved my latest EOB from Blue Cross, I had reached my $3,000 out of pocket maximum for the year.  And that was as of my first chemo in September.

That means that I won’t have to pay for the chemo or radiation treatments between now and the end of the year.

Phew.  Because one chemo treatment is $800.  I don’t even want to see what they charge for radiation.

I go back to work next week.  Until the end of the year, anyway.  I will have to pay $500 as a deductible next year before my co-pays kick in, but one chemo treatment will cover that.  I have already elected to put $2,000 in our flexible spending account for next year, so when the first bill comes, I can just pay it without having to wonder, ZOMG where am I going to get that cash??

This morning I went and had my bloodwork done that was actually due two days ago.  Labcorps were closed from Virginia to NY through yesterday, so my oncologist had a heads up my bloodwork would be late.  On the way home, I stopped by the Harford County Early Polling facility and exercised my consititutional right to vote.  I am unabashedly Democrat, and with our medical bills this year, I proudly voted democratic again.  I also voted “No” on the question of allowing expanded gambling in Maryland (we have enough traffic going into Baltimore, don’t need gambling traffic as well) and “Yes” to Question 6 which legalizes Same Sex Marriages in the state.

So there.  Now you know.  I’m a big old Dem.

My husband is a big old GOP.  I have to vote to cancel his out.  😉

I chose to vote early because I’m sure by the end of my working day next Tuesday, I’ll be exhausted and won’t want to stop on the way home after a 12 hour day that included radiation.  I tried to vote this past Saturday, when early voting opened, but lines were out to the road.  I always feel so accomplished after I’ve voted.

Now, since it is Wednesday, and I have to go to work like a big girl next week, I am getting the job done of getting things done before I go back.  This morning I paid bills and will hit the grocery store.  Tomorrow, I’ll do a little cleaning and finish that Friday.  Saturday I am going up to DE to have dinner with my Mom and then Sunday, I will rest and get ready for the work week.

We are resuming our regular lives now that Sandy has gone.  Well, as normal as it can be for a person undergoing cancer treatments.

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Sandwich Thereapy – Phase 1 Complete

Everything I have read has shown me that women with aggressive endometrial cancer who undergo “sandwich therapy” treatment have an 80% survival rate with no reoccurrence of cancer.  Sandwich therapy involves undergoing chemotherapy, followed by radiation, followed finally by another round of chemo cycles.

I completed Phase 1 yesterday – in which I completed the third cycle of my first round of chemo.  Each round of chemo consisted of three cycles.  And I’m done that part – 1/3 of the way through.  Yay!

I also met with my radiation oncologist yesterday, and we set about the planning phase for radiation therapy.  I will begin radiation on November 5th, and it will be 5 days a week for 15 minutes per day for 5 weeks.  Then I will have three sessions of vaginal cuff radiation (internal) which will last four hours – 3 days of that.  One on a Monday, one on a Thursday, and one the following Monday.  Then I will get three weeks or so off (right around Christmas) before my final three cycles of chemo begin in January.

I had my 2nd CT Scan done yesterday as part of the planning phase, and still no cancer cells are showing up.  Yay!

The day was not without its challenges.  I had an 8am appointment for blood work, followed by a 9am appointment with my GYN ONC, and then a 10am appointment for chemo.   I had scheduled a 3pm appointment for the radiation department to begin planning (and they told me that should only take an hour).  Well, I didn’t get called back to chemo until 10:30.  And then I sat there for 45 minutes just waiting for my premeds (which take 20 minutes).  They totally screwed that up.  They ordered my chemo for Thursday (the 25th) instead of the 22nd.  Then they forgot to pick the meds up from the pharmacy.  I informed them three times that I had a 3pm appointment with radiation.  My chemo didn’t get started until noon.  I start with the Taxel, which takes 3 hours for infusion and then follow it with Carboplatin which takes half an hour.  You do the math.

I sent my husband down to radiation to let them know I’d be late, but the girl covering lunch just told him “yeah yeah yeah – just come down when she’s done” but she didn’t get our name or anything.  An hour or so later, Beth (the NP) from Dr. Rao’s office came by and she said she’d call them and let them know I was running behind.  Well apparently radiation got three calls.  And pushed my appointment back until 5.  We got there at 3:45.  Sigh.  They called me back by 4, and I met with Dr. Sharma to go over the plan and sign the consent form.  Then they brough me the cocktail for the CT Scan (blech).  I drank that down by 4:30.  And then I sat there until 5:30 waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting some more.  They were backed up.  Finally, at 5:45, I was back in the room for the planning phase.

I was laid on the table, and given a very large q-tip intravaginally to apply contrast to the end of my vagina.  I was straightened and moved, and a mold was made of my legs.  Then they ran me through an initial scan to “see where things were” and finally the full CT Scan.  Then they drew on me with a sharpie, and placed markers (waterproof tape with bulls eyes on them) in three spaces.  All I could think of was “Set phaser to eradicate!!”  I was done by 6:20, and we were back at the car by 6:30.  Got home from Baltimore at 7:30.  So we were out of the house for 13 hours yesterday.  Sigh.

I have been cleared to go back to work November 5th and I’m excited about that prospect.  I’m getting tired of sitting at home.  Now mind you, this week is going to suck.  I don’t handle chemo well.  Tomorrow and Thursday will be bad.  I don’t feel great today, but I do have to go to the pharmacy to pick up a pain-killer to battle the arthritis pain.  Chemo really inflames my arthritis, and causes me to have migraines on top of the nausea.  Thankfully I have compazine and zofran to combat the nausea, and as long as I stay on my schedule with those, I can keep it at bay.  I was just so very glad to get a break from chemo for a while.  I have hard time getting them to find a vein they can use, so today my arms are sore.  In addition, they gave me my flu shot yesterday with what looked like a needle they’d use to give a horse a tranquilizer.  Clearly my nurse was filling in from another department.  My shoulder is killing me – looks like I went a couple of rounds with Mohammad Ali.

But now I get a little break.

And I’m still cancer free y’all.  A-freaking-men.

Honestly though, I do with this sandwich therapy included authentic Philly cheese steaks instead of chemo.  That would be awesome.

Best Medicine Ever

Today is my husband’s birthday.  He’s 56 today.  Happy Birthday Bob!!!  Love you bunches!

Yesterday, my step-daughter Jess, her husband TJ and their two little girls came up for a visit.  And it was the best medicine I could have asked for!

Braelyn is growing.  I can’t believe she is 4 years old already.  Where has the time gone?  Just yesterday, she was this tiny little 7 pound bundle that slept in the crook of my neck.  Today, she’s a wired, active, happy, ACTIVE 4-year-old, who was excited to see “Grammies’ Bald Head.”

She’s playing with her Leap Pad – she’s more tech savvy at 4 than I am at 40.

She was a little put off at first with my appearance, but eventually, she warmed up.  It took me wearing my big pink fuzzy monster slippers for it to happen, but when it did, it sure did.  She was very curious about my head, so I finally asked her if she wanted to touch it.  At first, she said no, but within about 30 seconds, her little hand reached up to rub my head.  Quoth Brae, “It’s prickly.”  That is because my hair is starting to grow back in (just in time for another round of chemo Monday).

Braelyn became quite the cuddle bug with me after that.  She climbed on me, and wanted to play with my Kindle, and gave me all kinds of snuggles.

Lani got lots of snuggles too.  Lani will be my little time gauge – she was born just a couple weeks before my surgery – weighing in at 7lbs 12 oz.  Now, at just over two months old, she’s weighing in at 13 pounds.  And cute – I mean, c’mon…look at this kid!

The cute is blinding, no?

And her Grampies is in love too!

Bob is never really sure what to do with a baby before they can walk or cheer on the football teams.

This visit yesterday with my family was wonderful.  It wore me out, but it was wonderful.  I adore those little girls.

In other news, I go for my last chemo in this cycle on Monday.  Then back to work in two weeks.  When I go back to work, I’ll start my radiation, and then finish up with three more cycles of chemo (and internal radiation).  The reading I was doing the other night states that studies show women with aggressive endometrial cancer (mine was) have up to an 80% chance of not getting the cancer again after going through sandwich therapy.  I’m on board, but dreading Monday.  Chemo and I are not friends.  I feel like crap afterwards for an entire week.  But if it means I can be a survivor, then bring on the crap.

Sometimes I Don’t Think I Am Thankful Enough

I don’t read many cancer blogs.  Just a handful.  When I first found out I had a chance of having cancer (when the cancer in my uterus was still diagnosed as hyperplasia as opposed to adenocarcinoma – so hopeful) my husband scolded me for reading too much on the internet and scaring myself.  I prefer to call it research.  And I do still research on the internet, and through books, and whatever I can get my hands on.  But I am less scared and have always subscribed to fearing the devil you know as opposed to the devil you don’t know.

Of the handful of cancer blogs I do read, even fewer are in my situation – remission.  And to those that are actively seeking remission, I send them hearty remission thoughts.  And to those who aren’t hopeful of remission (stage IV), I send them healing thoughts – not that their cancer be healed, but healing thoughts for acceptance and happiness to live whatever life is left (2 days, 2 months, 2 decades) to the fullest.

I am in remission.

But you know what – when you still have to undergo treatment, it is hard to accept that the cancer that once invaded your body is not there any longer.  Because the treatment is still first and foremost on your mind.  You don’t get the “remission benefits.”

What are “Remission Benefits?”

Well, going about your life and feeling good.

Lemme ‘splain.

You see, I am “going about my life.”  I am trying really freaking hard not to let cancer be me.  In other words, I am more than my cancer diagnosis, and I’m trying to, well, compartmentalize the cancer part.  I dont’ want everyone who has a conversation with me to feel like all I talk about is cancer.  I mean, yes, I do that here, but this is my cancer journal – this is where I’m “allowed” to talk about cancer.  And so, most of the time, I’m more about going about my life.

But that is hard to do.  Because I’m still going through treatments.  So, a lot of my “life” is cancer.  Treatment plans, doctor’s appointments, fighting with my short-term disability vendor, and dealing with the fact that I’m stuck at home quite a bit so that I don’t come down with some unholy cold or bug that could throw me in the hospital.  And the fact that I’m not able to work at the moment, well, that is tough on me.  I want to work.  I like working.  I like being busy and being able to think about other things.  So by going about my life, well, that only happens when I’m feeling good.

Now, the other part of remission is feeling good.

Well, since I’m on a 3 week cycle, “feeling good” comes in spurts.  I want to feel good all of the time.  And that’s not possible right now.  I have one more cycle of chemo this round, and then five weeks of radiation (at least I’ll be able to go back to work), and then I have to have 3 more cycles of chemo.  Blech.  Just about the time I’ll be feeling good “most” of the time, I’ll be back in chemo.

So, with all that, it is very hard to remember that I’m actually in remission.

I think it will set in more when I’m in remission and done treatments (knock on wood that I stay in remission by the time I’m done).  And of course, then, I’ll still have to go through the doctors appointments and tests, but at least the “treatment” part will be done.

And then I think I can enjoy remission.

But right now, it just doesn’t feel like I’m there.  So, am I taking remission for granted?  I don’t think so.  I don’t have actively growing tumors.  In fact, there are no cancer cells in my body.  That showed up on a CT Scan.  And that is great.  I am happy about it.  Thrilled.

But I’m counting the days until I can actually enjoy it.

And in fact, I brought up the other blogs because I feel guilty for actually being in remission.  I feel when I comment on those blogs of people who aren’t in remission, they are secretly thinking, “What do you know?  You aren’t dealing with this in the same capacity.”  Sigh.  It’s hard to reconcile the heart and mind sometimes, no?

So, that rambling being done – I AM thankful I’m in remission.  But I don’t feel like I’m in remission.  Not yet.  And to those of you who aren’t, my thoughts and prayers are with you for whatever you are striving for – remission, acceptance, happiness, whatever.