Pre-op hop continues . . .

22 Sep

Yesterday was a good day . . . I got a lot done. All medical stuff. With Monday’s insurance caused fire drill, I wasn’t so sure I would be able to get what I need done prior to my surgery on Monday. If you have been following my blog the past few days, then you know that my insurance company initially refused to cover the surgery. My insurance company informed me of this on Monday – a week before my surgery date. Their reason for denial was that there is a “competent” surgeon within the network. Yet, it was my insurance company who sent me to Cedars Sinai in the first place, because that is where they send reconstructive patients who have problems (with their in network “competent” surgeons . . . ugh). So after seeing Dr. Sherman at Cedars Sinai who is one of few surgeons on the West Coast that has the expertise to fix my problem, I was told I had to go back to my first surgeon.

Incidentally, I saw three other plastic surgeons about this – all three out of pocket, by the way (and my pocket is pretty much empty right now :)). All three surgeons told me that I needed a different type of procedure for the radiated side – different than what my first surgeon was planning on doing. And, two of these surgeons told me that they could not perform the surgery because they were not trained in the technique. Dr. Sherman’s name came up repeatedly as “the guy”. Another local surgeon came up as well. But, my insurance has a relationship with Dr. Sherman (they contract with him in high risk, problem cases) so that is who they sent me too.

Anyway, the upshot of all of this is great . . . the surgery is back on (it was only off for one day, but, a whole day, that I lost to fighting with my insurance company, making my case and standing my ground). Like I said earlier, if nothing else, it was good to know that I still have the fight in me. You never know when you are going to need it.

So, one lost day . . . BUT, I got all of my pre-op testing done yesterday (SO happy about that). Today I have work to do – cleaning up my place, getting things organized for my recovery and hopefully arranging for caretakers. I slept last night for the first time in weeks and I feel energized . . . rest is such a good thing.

Tomorrow I have to get up to Cedars Sinai for my pre-op appointment with Dr. Sherman. Friday morning I have a pre-op appointment (and first meeting) with my new primary care physician. I am looking forward to meeting my new PCP as I have heard really good things about him.

I fired my last PCP doctor. I have fired a few doctors in the past couple of years. But, I refuse to have sub-standard health care . . . I dumped my last PCP doctor because her medical staff told me that I was just “too complicated” and that I asked doctor “too many questions” . . . they actually called me up and chewed me out over this – telling me in a fairly hostile tone, “Okay, this is how it is going to work from now on – you can only ask Dr. _____ about one issue” per appointment.

Welcome to healthcare USA.

They explained that she (my former PCP) can only afford to meet with me for 15 minutes, that is how long all of her appointments have to be in order for her to make money. The office staff then proceeded to give me a whole run down on how it costs money to run a business (as if I wouldn’t know this) and that I was, essentially, costing them too much money because I was too “complicated”. So their solution to this problem was to have me come in for two or three appointments in the same week . . . that way my doctor would get paid what she deserved . . . they actually admitted this to me . . . hysterical.

I told them that I wished more than anything that I was not so complicated, that I was sorry that my cancer diagnosis was creating so many problems for them, but, that I could not only not afford the time of two or three extra appointments in a week, but, that I could not financially afford to pay extra co-pays.

I asked them if they could recommend a doctor in my network who would not charge me a “cancer surcharge” . .  . ooh, did that one piss them off.

The other thing about this doc that really annoyed me was her insistence that I go on some kind of anti-depressant. “You seem depressed”, she told me, “I think you should go on an anti-depressant”. I told her that I preferred not to force yet another drug through my chemo-taxed liver; that I preferred to meditate, exercise, pray and diet my way to feeling better. And, I told her that I thought it was kind of normal to occasionally get a little down once in a while about having cancer.

Still, she recommended that I go on an anti-depressant, urged me to “at least think about it, don’t be so stubborn” . . .

So I thought about it. I researched the drug she recommended I go on and discovered it interacts with Tamoxifen in such a way to make it ineffective. I’m telling you, I have to check all of this stuff out myself. When I told my doc about this bad interaction she got angry with me. I guess I am not supposed to know anything or learn anything. Okay, sorry . . . enough ranting.

Today is Wednesday, one of the last days to get stuff done (since tomorrow will I will be up at Cedars Sinai and Friday I have to be in San Diego). There is Saturday . . . I am considering asking friends to come over and help me get my house ready . . . but, then my friends would see my mess 🙂 . . . a year and a half of cancer treatment and surgeries really gets in the way of keeping up on your home.

I am physically feeling a bit better, but, still really not in a position to lift much . . . the skin on my right side is paper thin in places (from the over-expansion, from the radiation and just because it is). So, when I use my right arm, it pulls that skin and poses a risk that the expander will tear more skin. It is really a creepy, creepy feeling. I can not express how grateful I am that surgery is this coming Monday. I am grateful for the time I have had leading up to surgery, but, I SO want this surgery over with and behind me . . . it is just so creepy and kind of scary to be walking around the way I am right now. But, all is good, really it is.

I just need to get my place in order. And, I need to get groceries and things like paper towels, napkins etc. . . . and I am completely broke. Isn’t that nice. I ran through so much money this past year (so grateful I had a bit socked away . . . I thought it was going to be “down payment on a house” money. But, instead it was “kicking cancer’s ass money” . . . well spent I think :)). My parents have helped me SO much – covering rent and so much else. And friends have helped me too.

I have stayed in my place, as my family and I agreed that this would be best for my getting well. I don’t know, maybe it would have made more sense to move in with a family member – it would have saved a lot of money. But, I didn’t. And, I am nearly done . . . nearly about to get off of this cancer roller coaster. Unfortunately, I ran out of money before the carnival ended . . . 🙂 ha, ha, ha . . . the “cancer carnival” . . . full of so much amusement, hijinks and hilarity 🙂

BUT, I am going back to work in a few months, who knows, maybe even sooner. I will be recovered in time, for the FIRST time in over a year, for my next busy season. I am SO excited about this.

And, I have a book that will be out in a few months, already pre-ordered by Hastings College of Law Bookstore (kinda excited about that). So, things WILL pick up on the money front. Unfortunately, not before my surgery on Monday.

But, these things will work out. I see this surgery as my gateway to my return to life, to work. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t like I haven’t been living. I have. But, it is going to be so nice, so great, to be back to working. The last time I worked steadily was during chemo (of all things). But, after my mastectomy, it was one complication after another. I have no regrets about a penny that I spent on second opinions and specialists that my insurance would not cover. And, at least I am not in debt (yet) over this cancer nonsense. So, I have to be thankful for all of that.

Okay, time to get to work, the day is whipping by!

Love and peace,

Lisa

3 Responses to “Pre-op hop continues . . .”

  1. Sandy September 22, 2010 at 12:18 PM #

    Lisa,

    It was wonderful talking to you today. You sound great and full of energy! I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

    BTW, I’m still laughing at the “cancer surcharge”! I hope you write a book!

    Love,
    Sandy

  2. Sally September 22, 2010 at 9:20 PM #

    Hi, Lisa,
    I am so glad you are writing all this down. One, we know just the act of writing can be therapeutic. Two, I believe this is leading to a book that will help others facing similar issues. And lastly, it’s quite incredible the way our medical system can treat patients. There has to be a way to write what that PCP said without inviting a lawsuit. It should be in Michael Moore’s “Sicko.” Hopefully the medical costs issue will soon be a non-issue. At least it would have been if we got real universal healthcare reform with insurance companies out of the picture.
    I hope you continue to get a good night’s sleep every night and the best of care next week.
    Love and prayers,
    Sally

  3. cancerfree2b September 22, 2010 at 10:15 PM #

    Dear Aunt Sally,

    Thank you for your message. It does me a lot of good to write here. Sometimes it is how I end up getting to sleep . . . simply dumping all of the nonsense onto/into this blog. Even if it doesn’t get me to sleep, at least it gets “it” off of my mind. And, some days, if I haven’t slept the night before, it is the way I am able to purge that too . . . by starting the day with a ramble 🙂

    My only worry is that I cause others to worry about me or to suffer reading some of the things I write about.

    Mostly I am in good spirits and mostly I have good days . . . having days is good, so I guess that really puts it in perspective.

    I recently started watching some youtube videos about Dr. Slamon at UCLA. He is the clinician who developed the drug Herceptin, the drug that saves so many women with HER2 positive breast cancer. There is a movie (made by the Lifetime channel) about him – Harry Connick Jr. played the part of Dr. Slamon. I have not watched the movie (it apparently airs from time to time and it can be found in some libraries and rented through Netflix). Anyway, it is based upon the true story of how Dr. Slamon developed the targeted therapy, Herceptin and how he fought to get it FDA approved.

    I don’t know that I will ever watch the film. I just don’t think I can. It follows the lives of some of the women who participated in the early trials and gave their last days of their lives to help others . . . to make it possible for so many women to know the possibility of a real cure. There are women who were in some of the clinical trials that are still here today . . . 14, 15 years later . . . they were given Herceptin, are still getting Herceptin and are still alive because of Herceptin; because of Dr. Slamon. These women were stage IV and were told they did not have much time, and yet, the drug worked and continues to keep them alive. Amazing.

    I know that the move has some embellishments – it is not a documentary, but, a drama. And, I just don’t know that I will ever be able to watch it. I hear it is pretty emotional. I do know some women who have seen it who thought it was well done. But, I can’t really say whether it is something I can recommend.

    But, as I said, I have recently been watching videos on Youtube . . . there are many with Dr. Slamon speaking about Herceptin and about new targeted therapies. He is still a relatively young man and it is very exciting to think about what he will continue to contribute.

    My oncologist, Dr. Sara Hurvitz, works alongside Dr. Slamon. She spends about 50% of her time running clinical trials and the other 50% seeing patients . . . I am so grateful to be one of her patients.

    You can check her out or Dr. Slamon out on Youtube. Or, maybe I will post a few of their videos here on my blog.

    Well, a long ramble, sorry. I don’t really know how this works . . . when I reply to a comment, do you get a notification that I replied? I would guess that you do, but, I am not sure.

    Well, I hope you are doing great. And, I hope to see you sometime soon.

    Much love always,

    Lisa
    PS – I haven’t seen Michael Moore’s “Sicko” yet, I know, kind of crazy. I wanted to see it, I love his stuff. But, I didn’t fit it in before my diagnosis and haven’t really been in the mood to see it yet. As of late, I tend to limit what I watch for fear it will simply be too upsetting to me – that is kind of a bit lame, I suppose. But, as much as I am good on most days, the veneer can be pretty thin sometimes, and easily shattered by something that is a bit too gloomy. So, not like the old Lisa. But, this is temporary I am sure. I definitely want to see it . . . sometime 🙂

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