December 8, 2011
i start out this post by stating that i know i am lucky. i have health insurance. we are two freelancers who pay directly for our insurance and i have very good health insurance that we pay through the nose to keep – skyrocketing premiums and now-$50 co-pays (damn that perpetually screwed-up by taxol toenail that now requires podiatrist visits every 5 weeks) and i am even on a separate policy from my husband and teenage daughter with the understanding that under all circumstances, i keep my doctors who have cared for me for the past 6 years. ok….all that said…i am about to make a big change and it ain’t easy.
my radiologist is, and always has been, out of network. it wasn’t such a big deal 6 years ago when my deductible was low and we were always covered for almost 90% of the cost. she came exceptionally highly recommended by my surgeon and it couldn’t have been a better match. compassionate and kind … a small practice where i was always greeted by my doctor with a hug and lots of chatter and where my films (now digital) were not only viewed before i left the office so i knew where i stood – but she brought me into the room immediately and reviewed them with me. as my deductible went up, she really worked to adjust her price so that we had less financial outlay but last year it became apparent that even if we paid the minimum (and she actually offered to do it for the price it costs her to use the machine – but still that’s almost $700 cash we’ll never see again) it was all out-of-pocket.
so with enormous trepidation, i decided to switch to an in-network radiologist. i switched my mri to dec. 23rd and went through the forms and talking with new people – new people mean you get the great joy (not) of telling them the ‘whole story’ – a sort of ‘oh great, let me remember all the hell from the past’ conversation just to bring them up to speed AND you know you’ll have to do that at least two more times before the process is complete. before, they were part of the whole story so no discussion necessary…just chatter about what’s new on the horizon. new nurses; new doctor; allllllllllllll the new forms. but the hardest part was when the doctor called me and offered to do it at cost and i had to stammer that even at cost (above-mentioned $650) we had to decline because of the bigger picture. under sad circumstances i had a chance to say directly to her how much i love her and how i really believe i wouldn’t have gotten through the last six years without her. it’s not so cut and dry. all the doctors and nurses and technicians…my most vivid memories are of her wrapping her arms around me and telling me i would be ok and she would stand by me. and she did.
i made a good decision for my family. every penny counts right now. i made a bad decision for my heart.
December 11, 2009
so many ideas flit through my head over the day and i thought i’d be posting about my day yesterday – a trying day of my now-yearly mri. in a way, this is about that. at 4 years out, i’m in a twice a year mode with my radiologist. in june i have a bilateral mammogram and bilateral sonogram and then in december an mri with contrast dye. in sorting out the things that you don’t mind/can handle and the things that drive you crazy, i’ve settled on being unable to handle nausea and hating needles…specifically iv’s. i was adamant that i didn’t want a port put in before my chemo and had all my chemos iv’d through my left hand. the result being that i have about 2 veins left that anyone can find to put an iv in when needed..and am not allowed needle sticks nor blood pressure readings on the right side because the surgeon took so many lymph nodes out and i have dealt with mild lymphadema (but under control). all of this is a leadup to the dreaded mri in december. i have the most amazing and compassionate radiologist – she had better be because she’s completely out of network for my insurance. however, the ‘regular’ nurses really have trouble finding veins in my arms/hand so i have a dance. i go to my surgeon’s office on 34th street at nyu cancer center and her nurse puts in the iv. they check the blood return, and then tape that sucker down and wrap me up in a gauze bandage. coat slung over my shoulders, i hail a cab and bump up to east 84th street to my radiologist’s office. (and, yes, this is the one appointment my darling hubby still comes on with me…nice to have him there to distract me.) then i wait in the office – last year for an hour and this year for about 10 minutes only, and then on to the mri. last year was awful – took even the super-talented ex-oncology nurse 3 tries to get an iv in. but this year took only twice and i was much calmer in general. in fact, no tears. i tend to have emotional flashbacks at the iv experience and this year, i will pat myself on the back (now that the iv is out and the mri done) to say that i did not cry. i had about 2 minutes of panic while in the mri machine but forced myself to think about something else (the panic was about the ‘what if’s’ and not the being in the machine…even though i don’t love that..at least i’m laying on my belly and head toward the front.) haven’t gotten the full report back but she told me that the quick look looked ok.
after that long-winded setup, what i really wanted to write about was the waiting room. my husband took his customary chair in the corner of this estrogen-heavy waiting room – lots of woman’s magazines and he was the only guy. there were 3 women there. i figured out that they were waiting for a friend who was in the back having a procedure. they were the epitome of the upper east side socialite women-of-a-certain-age. one dressed in workout gear – she had very apparent face work done ..her cheeks seemed to be a different age than other parts of her face. one in stilletto-heeled ‘jungle’ ankle booties, cream apres-ski pants and perpetually blond hair. the third very petite and chewing gum. yes, i was quietly judgemental. it’s hard not to be and anyone who says different is simply lying. i’m sure people make judgements when they see me. to some i’m too fussy or too dressed and to these women, i didn’t even rate on that style scale. ok. but their talk was particuarly vacuous – it was clear that they operated in a small privileged social circle.
when i got out of the mri procedure and came out dressed to wait in the waiting room, they were still there. a few minutes later their friend came out of the back – i’m pretty sure she had a biopsy done and was obviously cradling one side which was probably painful and had obviously already been through some treatments…her hair was at her shoulders but very thin and she looked fragile. they were so there for her. they knew her and they were going to take care of her. she went into the back for a few minutes and i looked over to them and said: “it’s good she has you as her friends…i wish her all the best.” and even though they wouldn’t ever have socialized with me in the real world nor i with them, they smiled at me and we were just 4 women standing there all in the same or potentially the same boat. we all understood each other completely for a few minutes.