Category: Healthcare


After 21 months on the campaign trail (longest in history), Barack Obama still inspires.  Please listen to Sen. Obama’s closing arguments (full speech).

Time Magazine just posted an article on the cost of quality of life for patients – what insurance believes it to be and the actual cost per person.  How accurate – it’s almost exactly what we’ve spent to keep me going.

When we switched over to Wachovia, we were offered four insurance plans.  Erick assumed falsely that these plans would be comparable to Cardinal or even North Bay, a small company with only 22 employees.  The coverage, however, is minimal with absolutely no coverage for my scans, so we’ll need to buy supplemental insurance or pay 5K out of pocket every four months.  And that’s only if I can afford to drive to the hospital.  The train doesn’t run that direction.

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Gerald Ford International (plane in background) Photo by Christy Baum

Our bird landed the night before last through a thin veil of fog blanketing the city of Charlotte, NC after a long day of travel and excitement. The Markers housed us for the evening before, my parents fed us a wholesome breakfast and Christy drove us down to Grand Rapids and was our saving grace at GRR. Without her, we’d still be checking in luggage!

As our plane flew over the Appalachians, we saw the ground for the first time. Lights trailed through the contours of sharp angles; our only indication we were in the air (Ava asked often, “Mama, when are we going to leave?”). I looked down and saw a pattern of lights. I drew in a sharp breath as I identified the object, “It’s so beautiful! And it’s only a parking-lot.”

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The girls before take-off out of Grand Rapids on our way to Detroit, MI. Kennedy takes a nap yesterday afternoon, catching up on some much needed rest following a very intense week of packing, moving, travel.

The snow was so heavy, we never saw the ground. Even at landing. In fact, we hit the ground quite forcefully. The weather in Detroit was worse, with an anticipated 16″ falling rapidly. We were met with some delays, but for the most part, the trip went smoothly. After an hour and a half searching for our beagle, who was mistakenly shipped to cargo, we drove home to Erick’s apartment (our new home) and looked out at the massive buildings rising up invisible into the fog.

In the morning, I took Celli out for a walk and met some very nice people out and about. In the South, were people are not isolated by frigid temperatures and snow, they are friendlier. They make eye-contact and ask about your mother. This is what they mean by Southern Hospitality. It’s welcome at a time when I feel so far away from anything familiar.

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View from our apartment of Uptown at sunset. It’s a beautiful city.

Though I was certain I would lose it once we made it “home,” the city felt so welcoming; the weather warm; and our family whole again, I felt relief, happiness and my sense of adventure was quickly aroused by the city lights and sounds. I’m not going to worry about when we’ll move back to Michigan. I’m going to see what I can learn from this beautiful city and how I might apply this new education in my life.

And yesterday, as I walked with my children and dog along the tracks of the light rail, the engineer waved and tooted the horn, “Veronica” sang out from hidden speakers of a restaurant, and Beth at the Canine Cafe’, stamped my frequent shopper card with a paw print, I knew I was home at least temporarily. Home really is wherever you are.

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Our Street after dark

And for those of you (Mom) who worry about my health, I’m right next door to a Hematology Oncology office!  How strange and convenient.  We’re also near amazing food, music and shows.  (And wonderfully warm weather).

Yesterday I met with Dr. K, my oncologist. He’s my hero for not only was he mindful of my treatments and care, but he was always careful to remember things about me as a person first, patient second. His honesty could be brutal at times, but this I value still for it allowed me to forgo unnecessary worry.

After my blood-work, in which they found a vein successfully the first poke (and in my arm)! I talked with Dr. K about how I’ve been feeling and what lay ahead. I told him I’ve been well and he checked me for the usual lumps and bumps and listened to my heart and lungs and then smiled his broad smile and said everything looks as good as I feel. We talked about my plan of action once I move down to NC and then he shook my hand and said, “Goodbye and good luck to you.”

I thanked him, but it didn’t seem enough just to say thank-you when the person standing across from you has saved your life. And yet, I know he knows how grateful I am for all he has done. When he asked about my heart, I retorted, “Have you considered cardiology as a side career?”

Yesterday was about more than Dr. K. It was about walking away without scheduling another scan. It was the certainty with which Dr. K said “No” when the nurse inquired about a CT scan for January. It was like I had been set free and my life lay ahead of me in long beautiful years that stretched out infinitely. For a moment, I forgot about vulnerability and disease.

Yesterday I said things like, “I feel good.” “I’m well.” “No night sweats, no fatigue.” “I can run and it feels great.” And when Dr. K asked whether I “felt like I had returned to all normal day to day activities,” I happily answered YES! And then some.

I know I’ll never completely let go of this experience. There is a scar still visible to the naked eye and medication I now rely on to some degree and there are times when I must just let myself cry. Along this path, I’ve met and loved some remarkable people who unfortunately succumbed to this disease and even a part of me and who I was fell away as I continued on along my own path. So, in that sense, I still grieve. At the same time, I celebrate each small victory in my return to normalcy.

I will always remember the kindness others bestowed upon me, often by strangers united by the same cause; to beat this disease not with drugs, but with love, compassion, patience and attitude. No matter what happens moving forward, I/We have won over cancer.

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Photo by Dianna McPhail 

I’m sick. Downright sick. This is putting a huge damper on everything from mothering, homeschooling, running to preparations for next week’s ridiculously large feast for all of our TC relatives.

The first thing that pops into my head is, I should go to the doctor. Unfortunately, the next thought reminds me that it is difficult to get an emergency doctor visit same day with my current physician (though I’ll try) and our insurance doesn’t cover Urgent Care visits.

Now that I think about it, while I’m making payments to the local hospital on top of insurance premiums and deductibles, the end tally seems always to be growing. CT Scans, U/S, MRIs, etc are only covered up to 90%, which is pretty darn good, but that also means around $300-500 isn’t covered. For a gal getting 4+ type scans per year and ten or more in the last year, that 10% adds up quickly. Consequently, I’m refusing tests for the next several months. Is this wise for a cancer survivor?

Today’s visit alone will cost me (out of pocket) between $30+ to $75+ depending on which physician will be available and medication-related costs. Not bad, considering, but then again, I do have some of the best health insurance offered in this country. They charge us and our company large sums of money to cover me and in turn pay out a 10th of what we would have to pay out of pocket (I know this because I’ve paid for several scans out of pocket and compared).

So last night I asked Erick to rent Sicko because I’ve long wondered how to reconcile with how rich this nation is compared to how well our nation’s poorest are covered. In the film, Michael Moore, eloquently examines and compares our health care system with systems in other countries with socialized medicine. He dispels many of the myths Americans have about health-care in countries like France, Britain, and even (oh, my) Cuba. These countries place a huge emphasis on preventative care. Their birthing rooms are set up for labor success, more like birthing centers or home, than hospital. People are reimbursed in some countries for their travel to and from the hospital. And everyone laughs at the poor, dopey American who wanders around asking the same question over and over, “How much does this cost you?”

Sicko is a tightly-wooven rhtorical question and answer film about how our country might adopt policies to cover all Americans equally, always, under any circumstances.

Even during my treatments, when I felt my absolute worst, I was fielding questions about how I would pay for my stay. I knew, even while fighting for my life, there was a larger battle looming. I was covered for radiation therapy one minute and then post-treatment, they rejected the original claim. That was the difference between a $10,000 balance and a $28,000 balance and sadly, I considered myself lucky.

I’m moving to France.