Friday, October 08, 2010

Cancer McCancersons post: This is NUTS.

I've been all about the numbers today:

Dollar amount I spent at Target today, buying things to last the next six weeks or so:

Almost three hundred.

Number of people who get polymorphous adenocarcinoma every year (generously):


Number of people hit by lightning every year:


Number of people killed by hippopotamuses/i every year:

More than 11,000, or about 33 a day.

Amount I've spent on this cancer so far that hasn't been covered by insurance:

Roughly six grand. (Thank God for a high credit limit. Please don't drop it, Citibank. I'll pay. I swear.) (And how the hell do you do this if you don't have insurance? Starve? It's not like you can get free prosthodontics at County General. This is crazy.) (I mean, I know a universal health care system can't cover everything, but for cryin' out loud: just doing the preliminary dental Xrays on this bastard cost me well over $300. I got one single stinking pano and a couple of side shots.) (That's scary. I really hope I don't lose my health insurance now. I would never get insured again, even with the new rules covering preexisting conditions. They'd find something.)

Number of people over the age of 65 hospitalized for a non-fatal fall in 2006 (US only):


Number of hip fractures resulting from falls in 2006:

More than a thousand A DAY.

Current population of the US:

307,000,000 (roughly).

Number of people who will get any sort of salivary gland cancer this year:

36,000 (roughly).

Number of horizontally-impacted wisdom teeth I will have to have removed during surgery:


Amount of distress it caused my prosthodontist to discover that I was not, as he had thought, perfect:


Number of pounds I've put on--on purpose--since diagnosis:


Number of pounds I can expect to lose if I have radiation treatment:


Number of inches a G-tube would have to be to go into my belleh and stay:

The minimum, about eight. Maybe nine.

Number of radiological tests I will get on Monday:


Number of lymph nodes they will biopsy then:

One. I hope.

Number of positive results I hope I get:



moplans said...

I like that last number best

messymimi said...

Yes, that last number is the one I am praying for.

Without insurance? That person doesn't even go to the dentist for a checkup, so this doesn't get found until it is way too late. Then you get scheduled for surgery at the charity hospital, in about a month or two if you are lucky and they aren't that busy. Radiation? Maybe, depends on whether the same resident sees you more than once and they can work out the scheduling.

Penny Mitchell said...

Number of people who are praying for you: As smart as you are, you can't comprehend the number.

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Jo, we went thru thyroid cancer and follow-up radiation on my husband in 1998 with no insurance. How, you ask? By paying a small amount to each provider, charging it up on credit cards if you have them and later filing bankruptcy a few months before he retired in 2005. It was hard but he survived and so did our marriage.

Eileen said...

I like the last number the best too so that's the one we'll fix on!

In the UK with "socialised medicine" - a dental check-up costs less than £20 (treatment by dentist a bit more). The rest of what you're going through - paid for by everyone's taxes. You won't lose your cover and in this case - there's have been no more waiting time than you've had. You can't legislate for the person who won't spend the cost of 3 packs of cigarettes on what is partly cancer screening.

Keeping my fingers and toes crossed for the next few weeks for you, all the best

Anonymous said...

Jo, crossing fingers etc. for you - and that last number!

btw - re. the UK - that's not always true about the wait times. We lost a family member to cancer in the UK recently. It depends where you are. He had months wait for a referral, months wait for a biopsy, weeks wait for results, months wait for removal of lymph nodes. It spread - he died. I am not a fan of socialized medicine.

CQ said...

I have family in the UK and like everywhere it depends on where you live. My good story of the NHS is of an elderly man who still lives 8 years after a diagnosis of lung cancer. He had a big dose of good luck but also excellent care. I'm sorry your family member died but many more live.

Ewa said...

When I read your posts I am speechless at your strength and that is something one cannot measure in numbers. And your strength is contagious. Thanks. Somehow I know you will come out of this whole and well.

rebekah said...

Simply sending MEGA doses of healing energy...continuously. Do I need to come over before, during, or after surgery to help out in any way??? I will.

KathyR said...

Good luck.

Stay away from hippos.

Eileen said...

Anon - I'm sorry for your loss but if that is true your local Trust needs reporting - it is not allowed that you wait months for a referral for anything. Even varicose veins if you demand it. Of course - it is another thing if the chain of command was expected to mind read at any point. Suspicion of cancer MUST be taken seriously but must also be expressed.

Sorry Jo - this is your blog and this is out of place except as part of a desire to say the NHS is not all bad as some would have it. Still holding onto the zero tolerance figure!!!!

lullaby baby said...

great work done..nice !

Cara said...

Jo - hoping for a HUGE, FAT ZERO.

Canada has socialized medicine. My sister was diagnosed with endometrial cancer (staging could not be completed until surgery). She had to wait 3 MONTHS to have the surgery done,knowing full well the cancer was growing inside her. She said it was like being pregnant... with a monster. Fortunately for her, it was caught early enough. In the words of the doctor "It's a miracle to catch this type of cancer so early, usually your symptoms don't show up until it's progressed to a much less-treatable stage". She had no progression to lymph nodes, had a full hysterectomy and seems to be fine now (besides WICKED menopause at age 38). So, in Canada your surgery is paid for, you just have to wait in line to get it.

There is no perfect system.

Anonymous said...

"Thank God for a high credit limit. Please don't drop it, Citibank. I'll pay. I swear."

Since she has raised the issue, let's talk about money.

1. I want Jo to stop charging these expenses to her card and look at every other available option first, to pay off the balance and then to come at this from another angle. Hopefully, after $6,000 of expenses (sheesh!), she is either nearing her deductible and/or will be incurring expenses, like surgery, that are more likely to be covered by insurance, than, say, office visits. However, there will still be big co-payments and expenses. Credit card companies suck. They are the work of the devil.

2. If the credit card company does lower the limit, they are required to give notice, so keep an eye on the mail. It's true that they have been lowering credit limits, BUT there has also been a backlash against doing this to people in crisis, which has caused some companies to moderate their behavior. The last thing a company wants is bad publicity from "punitively" lowering the credit limit on A NURSE WITH CANCER.

3. What I want Jo to do, as soon as possible, is to seek deferment on her home mortgage. If she has a corporate lender, like Citibank, they will walk her through it online. With a Main Street bank, like a local bank with only a few branches, she will need to find out personally how to do it, but the good thing is, a Main Street bank is generally as easy to deal with in this situation. The process involves stating a qualifying reason for a deferment (illness), and then providing documentation (pay stubs and the like) to show that the borrower will have the resources to pay off the mortgage eventually. It's not some big thing that's going to evoke the dreaded "SYMPATHY" face; she'll get that for the cancer, but not the deferment itself. I want her to line up this deferment in the very near future.

4. Take that deferment money and pay off the credit card company, in FULL. From here on out, I want her to pay off that balance each month. I'm going to take a wild guess and say her limit is $10,00. She's at, say, $6,500. If she comes within about 25% of her limit, and carries that as her balance, her credit score may be damaged. I don't know her exact situation, but people can damage their scores if they are even within hundreds of their balance; depends on the limit. I don't need to see her being charged 20% interest for the delightful benefit of having her credit score messed up even if she is making all her payments on time.

Anonymous said...

5. If the money from the deferment won't be enough to cover all upcoming expenses, because aside from being wildly rare, this cancer is just as expensive as any other, I want her to consider three things. The first is to work out a payment plan with the doctor or hospital for expenses that aren't covered by insurance, to cut the payments down to something that won't need to be charged on a card. If they aren't willing to provide a good payment plan to a respected member of their team, they can go straight to the HELL reserved for people who mistreat A NURSE WITH CANCER. But it should be okay.

6. If further funds are required, I want her to ask her family for a loan. Anyone would be proud to have a family member like Jo, and this is just what families do. There is no reason to be paying 20% interest to an evil credit card company if family can provide a loan, which Jo will treat as seriously as a bank loan. I know she has said they are there for her if she needs them. If she is carrying a balance for CANCER expenses on a credit card, and the even the best cards are predatory, then this is it! She DOES need them. Talk to the hospital, but talk to the family, too.

7. She might also consider tapping into retirement money if she still needs to bridge the gap. Surgery, radiation, overnights in the hospital, and speech therapy don't come cheap. This isn't ideal and comes with penalties, but it is still MUCH better than the credit card rate. It's generally not advisable to run up debt and pay it off with retirement money, but this is crystal clear that we are dealing with a financially responsible person running up debt due to circumstances outside her control. ANYTHING will serve Jo better than the credit card.

8. I hope this doesn't sound disrespectful. I'm aware that Jo already knows all this. I just think she has been hit hard with this random cancer, and hasn't had time to breathe. She doesn't need the burden of being taken for a ride by the EVIL CREDIT CARD COMPANY on top of it. She is a pillar of the community, a woman of integrity, compassion, and tremendous leadership, and deserves better than that.

I'm praying for her.

Cartoon said...

I try to convince my american cousins that socialized medicine is a good thing but I guess they haven't yet lost their coverage or been ill enough yet. I can't say enough about our system as much as canadians like to complain about is a better option than what I have seen in the USA and apart from some glitches, basically I am happy with the system.I can't imagine being out $6K before even having any surgery....oh my.
I think we need to get that tip fund thing going for you....

Anonymous said...

Eileen, I'm really feeling bad discussing this too much on Jo's blog. I probably shouldn't have answered in the first place. Just, it's a raw spot for me, as our family member wasn't elderly, and was in excellent health before all this happened.

The NHS is neither all good or all bad, like most things. But there are many long waits, this wasn't the only case. It truly depends where you live, and what sort of specialized care you need.

I'm sorry Jo, I won't say any more. I hope this isn't upsetting to you.

In any case, I'm glad you are getting prompt and excellent treatment. And I'm glad your insurance is picking up most of it, and am sorry for the part it isn't.

Anonymous said...

Jo - you can crunch numbers here, and you can crunch numbers there. You can crunch numbers *everywhere*. The result methinks will always be the same. You are just. . special. :) It's like in the DNA of Jo, both in the schmaltzy Hallmark way and the "that's really frackin' weird* way. (don't you find the cadence of Dr. Suess comforting? I do.) Don't know how I stumbled back to your blog on the very day of the Well, Fuck. post but I'd forgotten how remarkably cool you are. And of course, special. E in SoCal.

Anonymous said...

delurking here to say that I currently live in Canada but lived in the U.S. for a few years. My daughter was born there. I have experienced both health care systems.

I was utterly astounded at the cost of health insurance in the US (we were in California). We paid taxes (federal and state) that were only about 1% different that what we pay in Canada (provincial and federal). THEN we had to pay for health insurance. HOLY CRAMOLE! An extra $650 per month for my health insurance. My husband (who was working) was covered by his company, I was not. When my daughter was born, she was not covered either.

Finding a physician then an OB/Gyn proved quite difficult in California (we were in the Bay area). First we had to find one who was taking patients and then make sure he or she took our insurance. When we returned to Canada, we were able to find one without any problems.

When it came to surgeries/delays/test results both systems delivered timely results. Neither was more or less effective (in our experience).

The greatest benefit of the Canadian system in my humble experience is the lifting of the stress of worrying about losing my home or dipping into my daughter's university fund. There are financial strains in Canada for those who are sick -- but NOTHING like the stress and strain for those who are sick in the US.

Our experiences are just that, our experiences. There are inequities and problems in both systems -- but I'd take Canadian health care over US health care any day.


Cartoon Characters said...

One more thing. Because there are a couple of "instances" where people think they didn't get treatment soon enough...just think what it would be like to be refused treatment because you don't have the money to pay up front, like a friend of mine in California who is only in his early 30s with 2 little girls with a rare form of cancer.... if it is something that is life canada you will be put to the front of the line. I know this to be true because I am in a position to see it happen every day.
I am still in shock with the $6K and counting. I can safely say, this is not something any canadian has to deal with. I do hear many complaints from canadians, however, that will not save their taxi money to take them to all that "free" care and complain that the government doesn't pay for that too....or complain because they have to pay $10 for an immunization that they want to get for when they travel to a foreign country (expensive flight, mind you!)that they need it for...i could go on and on but all I can think of is a nurse who is $6K out due to copay (something a canadian hasn't a clue about and never has to worry about)and she isn't whining about it.
Maybe there are a few canadians that can offer to trade places? Didn't think so. (sorry for sounding bitter ....but it is a sore spot with me....)

Eileen said...

Cartoon Characters, exactly, it's there when you need it - like Canada, in all the socialised medicine systems I've had personal need of (3 different countries) and the ones I've had close contact with (another 2) if you need treatment for a nasty if you go to a public hospital you get it without them checking on whether you are insured or who by.

And in case anyone is saying I don't know enough about the system in GB - the entire family works/worked in it in one capacity or another. We are all too aware of the iffy bits but the reality remains: referral for suspected cancer must be seen by a consultant within 2 weeks now, and it has been that way for some time. That doesn't of course mean that treatment will start within 3 weeks as you have to identify the culprit first or the treatment just won't work. Nor does it mean that if you have a really nasty visitor (as my 1/2 marathon-running, non-smoking BIL did) that you will survive however healthy you were beforehand.

Jo is lucky that she has had that money to pay out up front - I know a lot of people who would be sitting there abandoning hope because they haven't. If you haven't got the copay - you won't get the treatment as I understand the system.

So let's keep hoping that Jo is also lucky enough to have that big fat ZERO on her biopsy report and it never ever appears on her bank balance.
PS Jo - thanks for the permission to continue the discussion supporting the socialised healthcare system we have lived with - and live because of. Socialised medicine has more good points than bad, honest - it is not to be feared and it is mostly pretty fair. Especially for anyone who has had the bad luck to be diagnosed with a chronic illness or to be made redundant - through no fault of their own. It works because everyone contributes in their taxes, healthy or not, so the bias which is inherent in the USA model where many well-off and healthy people don't join in as there is no compulsory level of cover (they are the ones who lead to lower premiums, they are less likely to need care).

Eileen said...

Er Jo - is that hippopotamus figure genuine? Really?

wv- psisized - sounds like what the hippo might do

Anonymous said...

First point: Who are all those people hanging the hippos? Who are all those hippos hanging around the people?

Second point: FIL died this weekend. 75, diabetic, shrapnel in his legs (STILL!) from the Korean war. Got cellulitis in a leg, MIL found him delirious/confused yesterday a.m. Called 911. To one of metro D.C's premier hospitals. These are people with FULL private and Medicare (public, old age) insurance. He arrested on a gurney 16 hours later in the HALLWAY of sepsis.

Would it have happened anyway? Maybe.

But before you go all off on socialized medicine, just be aware.., in this nation's capital, with full medical can still die unattended in a hallway.

As a Veteran of this country.

Jo, on the other hand, is going to be f-ing FINE. Cause I say so.

Charlotte said...

Seeing the numbers like that - it's crazy. I mean who knew that there was such an epidemic of hippopotamus/i inflicted deaths?? ;) Seriously, thinking of you tomorrow. I hope everything goes well and you get that ZERO you are looking for!