Happy Halloween!! And Breast Cancer Awareness Month….

 

This is sadly true today.  LOL…

Work has been slow this week, and I’ve taken about every single training class I can take.  And I am B.O.R.E.D.

So, I decided to Blog…about Pinktober.

Today is the last day of Pinktober….or Breast Cancer Awareness month.

You know, I can totally understand why there is such a hullabalu about bewbs in October, and any kind of cancer awareness is my kind of cancer awareness, but sometimes, I wonder what it would be like if we made as big of a fuss over other types of cancer…especially the types of cancer that are more related to Lynch Syndrome – endometrial, ovarian and colon cancer.

I mean, can you image Ass Cancer Awareness Month?  Would everything be brown instead of pink? 

I joke.  I joke.  I know cancer is a serious thing.

But sometimes, I think those of us who have been there and done that, well, hell, if we can’t laugh at it, then who can?

Seriously – there is a month dedicated to certain cancer awareness…September is Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month – obviously, something that is near and dear to my heart.  And to be honest, while I wish there were more awareness and education on gynae cancers, I’m glad they don’t pump it up to the level that they do October and Breast Cancer Awareness month.  I mean, the “Save the Tatas” signs are cute and all, but could you image the same for gynae cancers?  Would someone have a cutsie bumper sticker that said, “Save the Hoochie!”  “Feel Your Ovaries!” 

Um, yeah.

In all seriousness, the marketing that has come into play with Breast Cancer Awareness month is over the top.  It is disgusting to see so many companies marketing “pink” everything when you know darned well that the proceeds from the products doesn’t actually go to cancer research.  I mean, even the NFL gets in on it…because what do most red blooded American Men love more than football?  BOOBs.

Awareness = Education.

I want to become an advocate for women suffering from gynae cancers.  I don’t think there are enough people out there to speak about them.  We need to celebrate our successes, mourn our losses, and get more education into why estrogen plays such havoc on our girly parts.  And treatment has such a profound affect on us as women. 

Millions of women each month are diagnosed with some form of gynecological cancers.  You are taught each year to pay attention to your boobs, but not so much on the other parts.  And perhaps it is because our symptoms are masked by so many other things.  Heavy periods…well, that could be a symptom of so many things.  Hip and back pain?  Oh, that’s arthritis.  Fatigue?  You are wife, and a mother, and have a career – of course you are tired!!

We need a month of all out education so that women can advocate for themselves.  Sometimes, we can go for months complaining of our symptoms and being told that they are due to other causes.  Honestly folks…would you really think of calling your gynecologist if your hip hurt?  I didn’t.  I saw my primary care, my orthopaedist, and a rhematalogist before I ever got sent to my gynecologist.

So, let’s get the word out there.  Pay attention to your symptoms!  Be your own advocate!  Educate yourself!

Fight like a girl!

I did!

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Is There A Big Old Bruise on my Forehead?

Because I’ve been beating my head against a brick wall with Blue Cross Blue Sheild.

My bill last December from Radiation Treatments and Brachytherapy was $24,500.  And no, I didn’t mess up the decimal point there.  $24,500. 

I am one of the lucky folks who have employer paid insurance, and I pay extra for the Blue Cross/Blue Sheild insurance because just about every doctor in the US takes BC/BS.  And my benefits are relatively good – I have a $500 per person out of pocket deductible ($1000 for both of us together) and after that, a 90/10 responsibility – insurance pays 90% and I pay 10% – for all covered expenses.  And miraculously, they cover just about everything….just about.  I also have a $3,000 out of pocket ($6,000 for both of us) personal responsibility before insurance kicks in and pays 100% of all covered expenses (too much math too early – I know…I’m sorry).

So, last December, when we I was pushing through daily radiation treatments, and then 3 of the most horrible brachytherapy treatments, I really didn’t think about out of pocket costs.  Cancer treatments quickly eat up that $3,000 out of pocket.  I hit in in August – just after my diagnosis.

Blue Cross decided in March that they didn’t want to pay for my brachytherapy.  Too experimental.  Except its not anymore.  So I got a bill from UMUH for $4,500 – the cost of my three brachytherapy treatments.  What they told me was they needed more information to determine if the treatments were, in fact, necessary.

Because, you know, Cancer is not necessary enough to go through radiation treatments in your hooha.  It was something I decided to do for shits and giggles…you know?  Oh hey, nothing to do this Christmas break…let me go endure having a radioactive rod shoved into my nether regions…you know, because I’m not already sick enough.

So, after months of arguing, and fighting, and fussing, and finally getting my radiation oncologist office to send enough studies to Blue Cross to acknowledge that yes!  Yes this was a necessary treatment!  Hurray!   The treatment was in fact, necessary and yes!  Yes they will pay it!  This was in September.  I didn’t think another thing about it, and went on my merry way.  Until I got another collection call from UMUH.  They only paid for two of the three treatments.  *insert primal scream here*

So I still owe UMUH $957.  I called back at the beginning of October and spoke to “Rob.”  Rob was clearly not at the top of the brain chain.  But, after putting me on hold for 15 minutes (this is 10 months after my radiation treatments ceased) he comes back on the line and says, “Oops.  It appears we *forgot* to pay that charge.”   Rob assured me he’d send it to processing and it would be paid.  Because there was no reason not to pay it – the three treatments were the same.  They paid for two…so why not #3?  Because, well, Oops.  They forgot to.

Uh, what?

Now, this last call with “Rob” was a month ago.  I assumed it would be taken care of, and went back to my business.

Until today.  When I got ANOTHER EFFING Collection call from UMUH.

Insert head banging here.

I called Blue Cross back and spoke to Sam.  Sam sounded as if she had taken a handful of downers before she picked up the call.  She said, “That charge is showing as experimental – we need more information.”

Whatthefuckingfuck?

Sam may feel as if perhaps she should have stayed home today, because she got a royal ass chewing.

I explained to her the situation.  I told her that all three brachytherapy treatments were the same.  ALL. FUCKING. THREE.  So, Sam…can you explain to me why Blue Cross paid for two, and not the third?

It’s under review.

You have to be kidding me.

Seriously.

I’m still looking for the top of my head because it blew off.

When, my dear Sam, did it go down for review? 

October 1st.

Today is the 29th.  Any chance in hell that they are going to make a decision on this soon?

Well they have 30 days.

Seriously. 

I can’t, for the life of me, understand this situation.  But if it isn’t paid by the end of this week, you can rest assured, I’m calling back.  For the 8 bazillionth time.  And Sam and Rob, please don’t answer the phone.  You won’t be happy if you do.

I have called three times over the past two months

Time To Say Good Bye Once And For All To the Fat Chick

So, this is totally hysterectomy related…I think.  It may also be “self-comforting” related, or lack of will power related…or food addiction related *ahem*.

One thing I have noticed since having the hysterectomy last year is the onset of some poundage creeping back.  In 2009, I had gastric bypass surgery and lost over 130 pounds.  I got down to about 190 or so…on good days in the 180s.  For the record, I’m a shorty – 5’3″.  I used to be 5’4″ but had some bone loss during chemo.  Dammit.

So, last year, when I underwent treatment, they told me NOT to lose weight.  I was right around 199 at the time (a little bounce back weight – but hey – 10 pounds in 3 years is a hell of a lot better than the 10 pounds a month I was gaining before RNY).  And actually, keeping weight on was hard.  It’s really hard when you don’t want to eat.  And you purposely look for comfort foods, and foods that you can palate.  I ate a lot of bread.  I ate peanut butter.  I ate (sigh) dark chocolate.  When I could eat.  Which was only about 2 weeks out of the month.  Much worse during radiation – food was nasty and I was barfy.

So, when I finished treatment, logically, I should have gone back to eating more healthy.  Except we moved.  And Mom had knee replacement.  And I was stressed.  And And And (insert your own excuse here – because that’s what they were…excuses).  And now, here we are, six months later.   And I’m back up to 225 pounds.  Sigh.

So, I know in my head what I have to do (stop feeding my face would be a good start).  I’ve tried exercising at the gym, but quite honestly, and this is not an excuse at all, my stamina isn’t where it was before cancer.  Cardio exercising wears me out, and a lovely little leftover from cancer treatment is that I get horrible tendon cramps when I get fatigued.  They are HORRIBLE and painful.  I explained them to three different doctors before the Orthopaedist finally saw a picture of one.  I had Bob snap a picture of what my leg looks like when the tendons are cramping.  WILD.  The Ortho said, “wow…never saw that before.”  And then he prescribed muscle relaxers.  But also told me to cut back on exercise that is going to cause fatigue.  I’ve tried walking, and that tends to bring on the spasms too.  But not as badly.  I’m determined to exercise dammit.

But what I really have to do is focus on what is going in my mouth.  I can’t use my cancer as excuse for horrible eating.  I can’t use menopause, or the hysterectomy…stress…any of that.  I never really learned how to deal with stress in a healthy way.  FEED ME.  FEED ME GOOD STUFF.  Sigh.  My love for chocolate is deeper than my love for my husband.  Oh, they run a close race…but damn I love me some chocolate.  And cookies and brownies and pie and…sigh.  I also no longer have the whole dumping thing going in my favor.  Just after bypass, I couldn’t handle sugar.  Now, I can.  Up to about 30g of sugar per serving.  And the only thing that really makes me sick anymore is ice cream.  Ugly bugger that stuff is.

So, this past week, I have made a very conscious effort to watch what is going in my mouth.  Being 40, and post-menopausal now, makes losing the weight hard.  My body chemistry is all effed up.  And I hate all the weight I’ve gained back because I look like a cow in my clothing.  I see pictures of myself and cringe.  It’s time to get this show on the road.  And get down to a reasonable goal weight for a 41-year-old woman who is 5’3″.    So, I’ve reactivated my SparkPeople account.  I’m tracking my food.  Everything I put in my mouth – no matter what.  I’m packing my lunches.  I purposely take no cash to work so I’m not tempted by the stupid vending machines (although quite honestly, everyone here eats relatively healthy and everyone belongs to the gym, so there are no goodies lying around).  I’m drinking my water.  The only thing I will NOT give up is my coffee.  And if you know me, you know why.  I’m a bitch with coffee.  Without it, I’d be in jail.

So, my goal now is to get rid of the weight that has crept back on.  I’m aiming for about 160 as a long-term goal.  In the mean time, my first short-term goal is 210.    I need to lose the weight to keep the cancer at bay.  I need to lose the weight to fit into my clothes.  I need to feel better about myself.  And I need to stop emotionally eating, or I’ll be back up at 331 in no time.

Wish me luck.  Wish my poor husband luck.  He has to live with me.

And please, keep me from the chocolate.  I’m like a junkie. 

Hit the road, Fat Chick.  You aren’t welcome here anymore.

An Aching in My Heart…Still Coming to Grips

I just looked at my calendar.

A year ago today, I had just finished the first third of my sandwich therapy, and was prepping for the awful feeling that was going to hit me in the next couple of days.

I am amazed that I am sitting here today, still in remission, and on the other side of that very horrible treatment.

This time last year, I was making plans for my impending radiation therapy.  I was getting ready to return to work for a brief respite between chemo treatments.  I was under the mistaken impression that radiation was going to be easier on my system.  I was just learning to deal with hot flashes, and how to cope with the end of my fertility.

Here I am a year later.  A survivor.  Thankful to be on this side of treatment.  Thankful for remission.  Thankful that my life, for all intents and purposes, has returned to my new version of normal.  And now that treatments are over, and the OMG CANCER part of my diagnosis is behind me, I am just now coming to terms with the after effects of what the disease, the surgery, and the treatments have done to my body.

I am not going to lie, a lot of things now come back to the fact that I am childless.  And coping with this, and dealing with this, well, it is almost as difficult and traumatic to me as the cancer itself.

My husband and I went back and forth for years about the prospects of children.  I was 35 when we married, and horribly obese (331 pounds the day we married).  I was the survivor of a heart attack at 30.  I had diabetes that wasn’t regulated.  My husband is 16 years older than I, and had raised a family (none of his girls are biologically his – but he raised his daughters from the time they were 3, 5 and 7).  He was open to having children with me, but it was not at the top of his bucket list.  We discussed babies then, but decided that babies would wait until I was in better shape.

In November of 2010, I had gastric bypass surgery and lost over 130 pounds.  I was finally under 200 pounds and healthy enough to have kids if we decided to.  And yet, we were still on the fence.  I was 38.  My husband was 54.  Was this something we wanted to put ourselves through?  We just weren’t sure.  We decided to wait, going back and forth between wanting to get pregnant, and being scared to become parents at our age. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I always wanted kids.  But I knew in my heart that this was a Very Big Deal for my husband.  He had essentially been there and done that.  I understood that.  I didn’t want to do anything until I knew for  fact that he wanted it as much as I did.  I mean, he had three grown children and (at that time) eight grandchildren.  This would essentially be starting everything over again.  It had to come from him.  Plus, I was having issues with my joints, that led to some serious reconstructive surgery on my knee which knocked out pregnancy for a little while longer.

And then, in January of 2012, we finally decided, you know, this might not be such a bad idea.  I was experiencing symptoms at that point, but honestly, had chalked them up to my gastric bypass surgery.  Heavy periods were often related to a release in hormones that hold up in our fat cells.  Now that I was no longer obese, the hormones had nowhere to hide and my periods were hideous.  Little did I really know that it was all related.  Then came the cancer diagnosis, and our gut instinct to go ahead and do whatever it was that had to be done to get rid of it – the hysterectomy.

A year later, I am just coming to terms with all of this.  I thought I had earlier, but honestly, the announcement on Facebook from a girl I had graduated with stating she was expecting kind of put me in a tail spin.  I have bared my soul to my husband many times over the past year that I mourn my fertility.  I think mourning my fertility is a necessary part of this – I can’t just let it go, but I thought by now, well, I’d be more “over it.”

We have talked a few times about adoption, but honestly, with our ages, my medical problems, and our living arrangements, it just isn’t something I think would ever get approved.  I don’t want to foster – I’d have the same (if not worse) reaction to fostering a child as I would to fostering a dog or cat – too much on my heart to take that child in and then let them go. 

So that leaves me in this position.  With an aching in my heart and an ultimate sadness that I’m having issues with getting over.  I mourn the child I’ll never have.  I think what brought it up this time was a comment that my husband’s ex made on his Facebook page last week.  (Um, she and I are NOT going to be best friends…or friends…or anything like that…she can’t let go of the fact that he married me, and quite honestly, says things she knows will hurt me).  She had posted a stupid cartoon on his Facebook that stated they broke up over religious differences – he thought he was God and she didn’t.  Um, whatever.  My husband replied to her (why they are friends on Facebook is beyond me) that he remembered it differently – in that she dumped him for a white trash biker and it freed him up to find the love of his life (me).  She replied that at least she was able to provide him with a family.  I know she said this to hurt me.  And, well, it did.

Bob and I talked about it.  I told him that I was very sad about the fact that I’d never be a Mom.  He told me I WAS a mom.  But it’s not the same.  It’s hard to feel as if you are a mother to someone who is, well, only 10 years younger than you.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my girls.  My step-daughters are wonderful and they are my family.  I consider them family, and I consider their kids my grandkids.  And vice versa.  But, it still doesn’t fill this empty horrible hole in my heart where MY baby should be.

I hate to go back to the “It’s just not fair” whine, but really, it isn’t fair.  I know it is all part of God’s plan for me.  I just hope that He decides to show me that plan soon.  I think it will take some of the bitterness out of the whole deal.

 

Limitations? We Don’t Got Not Stinking Limitations

I have a hard time admitting when I can’t do something.

You’re shocked.  I know.

I’ll give you a minute to pick your jaw up of the floor.

/sarcasm

I feel good.  Some days I feel great.  So good, in fact, that I feel as if I never had cancer.  Well, until the hot flash hits to remind me that I am now UF (Uterus Free).

But then I make plans to do something that I did BC (Before Cancer) and I quickly realize that I’m not back to 100%.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve hit 40%.  I have LIMITATIONS.

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!  Limitations?  But I am made of win and awesomesauce…how could I possibly have limitations?

Sigh.

Like yesterday – for instance.  We took that trip to NYC on the Megabus and didn’t have HUGE plans…we decided to just take the subway to Central Park and visit the American Museum of Natural History.   When we were done, we were going to find a deli so Bob could get pastrami on rye, and I wanted a big old kosher dill that you just can’t get anywhere but a NY deli.  This is a trip that prior to cancer would have rocked my world.  I thought nothing of walking through a museum for hours, looking at exhibit after exhibit.  We planned our trip out using the website for the museum to plan each thing we wanted to see.  We knew we wouldn’t see it all, but I thought we kept a conservative list of things to check out.  Surely I could handle a museum, couldn’t I?

So, we made it to NY ok – got on the subway, and got to the Museum.  We got there a bit early, but it was a good thing, because within 15 minutes, there were literally over a 100 people behind us, also waiting to get in.  Yikes.  At 10am, they opened the doors, and after they checked my bag (no, ma’am, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is NOT a lethal weapon thanks), we paid admission (I love the fact that you can pay what you feel is reasonable), and made our way up to the 4th floor to the dinosaurs.   It was AWESOME.  I saw the T-rex (and giggled to myself remembering the meme on facebook that said, “If you think you are having a bad day, just imagine a t-rex masturbating”…I know, I’m 4), and the bronto, and a huge turtle and and and…LOL

After an hour, we headed down to the third floor and started on the reptiles.  Still feeling as if we could go full steam, but hanging back just a smidge.  This place is huge people.  HUGE.  It took us a bit longer on the 3rd floor, going from exhibit to exhibit, seeing everything we had mapped out ahead of time.  The hall of African mammals is fascinating.  Of course, by this time, I had to pee.  20 minutes to wind through exhibit after exhibit just to find the potty.  Yikes.  But eventually, we made our way back to the Pacific Peoples Exhibit, where they had Dum Dum – the Easter Island Head.  I got to have my picture taken with Dum Dum (Me no dum dum…you dum dum…you bring me gum gum?).  We saw the shrunken heads, and the gorgeous silks and paintings from the Pacific Island tribes.

And I noted that perhaps, just maybe…I was moving a weeeee bit slower.

By this time, we have been in the museum an hour and 45 minutes.  And we still have three more floors to go.

By the time we made it down from the 3rd floor to the 2nd, I noted that my bench breaks were coming along more frequently.  And I was starting to lose my OH SHINEY attitude towards the museum.  And to the 90 bajillion screaming children who seemed to follow me where ever I went yesterday.  Can someone PULEASE tell me why it is a good idea to take your newborn to a crowded museum at the start of flu season?

On the 2nd floor, we visited the Mexican and South American exhibits – gorgeous.  I also started to realize that in just an hour and a half, I had seen more penises than I have seen in probably my entire adult life…Peen on statues…peen in videos playing…peen in photos…peen painted on pictures…holy weiner Batman.  (Yup…I said peen).  We make it back to the South American Peoples exhibit, and there, in the corner is a dark little theater playing a video about a naked man hunting monkeys with poison darts.  I am tired here people.  T-I-R-E-D  So, with the ploy of “recharging my cell phone” (there was an outlet, and my iPhone was getting way low on power), I told Bob, “Why don’t we just park it here for a little bit so I can charge my phone because if I lose power, I have no way of loading the map back to the bus stop.”  And also, I needed to sit.  20 minutes I sat there in the dark watching a naked 70 year old man chasing a howler monkey through a rain forest.  I considered laying down on the bench and taking a nap.  Seriously.  I didn’t get up until the security guard yelled at me for using the outlet (um, then put up a sign dude…because everyone has a cell phone and that’s what people are using to take pictures).  It’s nearly noon, and my tummy is starting to think I’d slit my own throat.  And I’m still freaking tired.  And grumpy.  People’s kids are no longer cute.   My legs hurt.  And I realized that I was whining.  Kind of loudly.

And we still had three floors to go (the rest of the 2nd floor, the ground floor, and the basement).

I looked again at the list of exhibits we wanted to see, and mentally started crossing some of them off. 

But I trudged on.

Folks, by the time we finally made it to the last few exhibits (the hall of Meteorites, Origins of Man and the mineral exhibit), I was starting to think that surely, SURELY they had a room where I could take a nap.  Because that would have been the best freaking exhibit ever.  A NAP ROOM.  But no.  Sigh.  It was 1:30.  I was tired.  I was cranky.  I was not all “OH MUSEUM I LOVE MUSEUMS YAYAYAYAYAY!”  I was more, “Screw this place, whose bright idea was this anyway?”  And we still had five hours until the bus home.

We made our way back outside and got ready to cross the street to Central Park.  This, folks, is when the cranky stick broke all over the place.  There was a really obnoxious dude there offering to pedal us around Central Park in his rickshaw.  $3.00 a minute.

“Would you like a ride?”

No thanks.

“C’mon…how else are you going to see the city?”

No.  I’m not interested.

“You know you want to.”

No.  No I don’t.  What I want is to sit on my ass on a bench and eat a sammich.  Now leave me alone.

“Why just sit on a bench when you can ride?”

Ride this ::insert creative hand sign here::

And we walked across the street.

We sat on a bench in the park for nearly an hour, chowing down on a soft pretzel and a diet coke.

Folks, I kid you not.  We didn’t walk any further than five feet into Central Park because the path we were on was all downhill.  And I knew I couldn’t walk back up.

By the time we finally made our way back over to the other side of town, we settled for New York’s ONLY Mexican run Jewish Deli – a craptastic hole in the wall where they were serving corned beef with a side of salsa music.  I sat my ass in the deli praying to just get back home before my tired body started to stage a revolt with muscle cramps (thank you chemo after effects).  When I get extremely fatigued or stressed out now, my body reacts with cramps.  Not just muscle cramps, but tendon cramps that render me absolutely useless.  I have to take a muscle relaxer just to get through them.  We finally headed over to the bus stop three blocks over.  And we stood.  For an hour and a half. 

By the time they finally loaded us on the bus to go home, I was miserable.  I was tired.  I was cramping.  I head a headache.  And I was miserable.  I got on the bus, I cracked open my Arizona Iced Team ($2.00!!  for tea!!), I popped a muscle relaxer, and I don’t remember a thing between that moment and the minute we got back to Delaware.

And I’m still exhausted today.  At work, yes.  But I am exhausted.

One day, I’m going to get back to the way I used to be BC.  I’m going to have energy again.  I’m not going to let my body dictate my plans.  I’m not going to want to drop a class, or skip a weekend at the beach because I just want to curl up and nap.

And I hope that day comes soon.

Because limitations…well, they just aren’t in my life plan.

Start Spreading The News….

We are sitting on the Megabus, heading to NYC! Bob and I are taking a day trip to go see the American Museum of Natural History!

Thanks to treatments last year we did nothing for our birthdays and anniversary so this year we are hitting the big city!

Pictures and a write up of our adventure to follow later!!