Sunday, July 26, 2009

Our Healthcare System, OR: Crying and Throwing Up. And I'm Just the Mom

It was last Monday, maybe halfway through our first appointment with the chemo doctor, and she was explaining to my son and me all of the potential side effects of his going through chemo this summer.

Higher chance of leukemia, for one thing. Oh, and vascular (circulation) effects. As in, for the rest of his life, my son's heart and lungs will be similar to those of someobody who smokes. Several times higher risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, strokes...

And that's when the tears started pressing against my eyelids, and the coffee starting boiling in my stomach, and I wanted nothing more but to leave the room and go into the bathroom so I could throw up and cry.

I didn't, of course. This was a meeting of grownups, and we were here to figure out the best option, which right now appears to be chemo. So I swallowed both the tears and the bile and pretended this was best. And it probably is.

Understand, though, (and I'm speaking here especially to our policiticians, particularly to the Republicans and blue-dog Demoncrats who think our healthcare system is just fine, thankyouverymuch) that this is not the best medical option.

My son's AFP numbers have dropped from 2200 back into the normal level of less than 8. There is less than a 20% chance that the cancer will return. Given the risks of chemo, it would probably be best, medically, to sit back and wait to see if the cancer will return. If it did, they would then treat it with both chemo and surgery.

Problem is that this is more than a medical issue. The peak time for a cancer to return is 2 to 5 years after the original surgery. My son will be a college junior this year. Two to five years will put him just out of college and in the workforce.

But, unless he's one of the lucky ones to get a job with a large company, it will be almost impossible for him to find health insurance he can afford once he's no longer on our health insurance. He will have a pre-existing condition, which makes him uninsurable. A return of the cancer then would be disastrous, as would a return of cancer while he's still in school, when he'd probably have to drop out for treatment and, because he would no longer be a fulltime student, could no longer be on our health insurance.

And so, next week, he will start chemo, because it's covered, and because he can do it this summer when it won't affect his schooling.

And so we will be embarking on thousands of dollars of treatment which may damage his health in the future almost solely because our healthcare system is screwed up and may not be there for him in the future when he needs it.

It's enough to make you want to cry and throw up.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

You Know You've Been Neglecting Church When...

You know you've been going to too many sporting events and not enough church when you carry your Diet Coke into the sanctuary, then find yourself looking on the pew-back in front of you for a cupholder.

Sorry, God. I'll try to do better.

(Unless, of course, I'm already going to hell for the photo.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Health Insurance Reform: My Son's Last Chance

Since my son has been diagnosed with cancer I have been living with one sick thought:

For the rest of his life if we stay with our current US health care system, insurers will be twisting themselves in pretzel knots to keep him from being covered.

I think of this every day when I get the mail and I discover yet another bill. $40,000 so far, and he hasn't even started chemo yet.

I think of it every time I open up another envelope from Cigna, our health insurer. Each time, my heart stops a bit until I get to the part that says yes, they will cover this particular procedure or appointment.

I think of it when I reflect on the fact that if he were to have to drop out of college due to this illness, he could no longer be on our plan, which allows children over 18 only if they're full-time students. (Thank GOD he discovered this at the end of the Spring term, when he could finish all his treatment over the summer.)

And I think of it when I read articles like one today by Amy Goodman (unfortunately I can't find it online right now to link to) where former health insurance executive Wendell Potter details the lengths insurers will go to to keep from covering people like my son. Since he describes the machinations of his former employer, our health insurer, Cigna, the chances are that right now there is some flunky studying our policy and trying to figure out ways to NOT cover my son's cancer treatments.

All because, through no fault of his own, my healthy, athletic son's body was attacked by a malignant tumor.

For the record, profits by the private health insurance industry soared by 428% from 2000 to 2007. They made this profit by being sure that they took in more money than they paid out. In other words, they made sure that they weren't on the hook for the sickest, most expensive patients. Patients like my son.

In other countries, this profit is not a factor. It's only in the US that NOT PAYING FOR TREATMENTS FOR SICK PEOPLE SO INSURERS CAN MAKE PROFITS is considered a valid argument in the health care debate.

And the worst part of it is, even though my son's chances of being completely cured after chemo approach 100%, for the rest of his life this will be a pre-existing condition that will preclude him from ever getting health insurance on his own. His only hope is to start up immediately after college with a large company.

This is not right. We need health care reform desperately in this country, yet our legislators are best buddies with the very people they're supposed to be regulating. This isn't going to happen unless WE THE PEOPLE make it happen.

We have a very short window of opportunity here in the US. This is the chance of a lifetime. If comprehensive health reform to benefit people like my son doesn't happen now, it will never happen.

Please, please, please, mentally insert a picture of your own son or brother or husband or grandson in the above picture.

And then contact your senators and representives.

Because this kind of tihng happens overnight. And next time, it could be you.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Facebook is Freaking Me Out

Resistance is futile. I finally joined Facebook tonight. And it's freaking me out.

So first thing, when I sign in, I have an automatic friend request from someone whose name I don't automatically recognize. Except that I might. And I'd be okay with being friends with him if it's who I think it is, but don't want to, y'know, friend some random perv. And I have no idea how to find this guy's profile and find out who he is and if he is who I think he is. Or even if legit people can attempt to friend you before you're even ON Facebook.

Oh, and also? It greets me with this huge list of people I might know. And it's mostly right! How the HELL does it know these things when I just signed up? And who the hell are these other people I don't know but it says I should?!?

And third? I signed up with an email address that both my husband and I use. So what if these are technically HIS friends? Am I screwing everything up?

I am so confused, and WAY too damn old for this stuff.

Life was so much simpler way back when.

P.S. speakin of things that are freaking me out, this blog got a hit today from somebody searching for "Laurie's pantyhose surprise." This does not feel good.