Friends With Benefits

Hello dear reader(s)!

This post is not about fuck buddies.  I am talking about the kind of benefits you might get from a job.  Benefits like good health insurance, 401K, a pension (if they still have those, and won’t sue to get out of them later), short and long-term disability benefits, a large coke, and a side of onion rings.

I remember when I didn’t have any benefits.  I had friends with benefits, that I was very jealous of.  Having no health insurance sucked.  I was always scared something catastrophic would happen if I were to get sick or injured.  I racked up a lot of medical debt during that time, from the non-catastrophic but still emergent things I needed done.

Eventually, I got a job with good benefits.  It came right in time as only about a year later I really started showing signs that I had cancer.  I was extremely fortunate to have had that job and those benefits when I did.  My company self-insured, but used a major insurance company to administer their plan.  It was a great plan, much better than any of the standard plans you see on the exchanges, or even with a good Medicare Advantage plan.

Now class, pay attention, because here is where I propose a plan for healthcare in this nation that might actually be feasible.  Ready?

Start by taking away the exchange and individual insurance markets from the health insurance companies, and give everyone not on a group plan Medicare.  We will not get a Medicare-for-all system as long as these companies are buying our politicians.  Even taking away the individual markets will require some strength on the part of those in power, but it will make those officials hugely popular with their constituents.  In exchange for losing the individual markets to Medicare, they can open their Medicare Supplemental and Medicare Advantage plans to those new Medicare recipients, provided those plans closed the donut-hole for prescriptions.  Some revenue for them would be better than none to them, which is the only other viable alternative.

In the meantime, the insurance companies can continue to insure and administer group plans, but all ACA requirements on plan quality must remain, and the plans must cover at least what Medicare does, for less cost to the employee, so that those plans are not seen as punishment for working.  Health coverage from a job should be an actual benefit.

Medicare should be allowed to then negotiate with pharmaceutical companies and other provider groups to lower healthcare costs.

My proposal would be paid for by lifting the payroll tax cap, a cut to the growth rate of our defense budget, and by folding the VA into the new Medicare system, and selling the facilities and assets to private hospital groups to be privately run, provided they agree to all of Medicare’s rules.  Our veterans will no longer have to wait and be neglected at some sub-standard facility.  Veteran’s Medicare would not have coinsurance but would be administered by Medicare rather than having a separate department and more overhead.

I would attempt to phase out the insurance companies from group plans as well, allowing those companies to reconfigure and find other ways to remain in business, but that would likely be a non-starter until automation has made employment obsolete and most of us are on a universal basic income.

Any representative who wishes to advance this or a similar proposal in order to fix the broken healthcare system in this country is more than welcome to do so, and can take all the credit for it.

The only thing I ask in return is that I have healthcare when I need it.

 

 

 

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Corner Turning

Hello dear reader(s)!

No, I am not 100%.  I am not even 85%.  Maybe about 70%.  But that is an increase of at least 50%!

And that increase came without needing Neupogen.

I don’t remember the last time I got sick enough to need a doctor and improved without needing a Neupogen boost to help fight off whatever it was that infected me.

Granted, I have antibiotics, and I have been blowing my nose like the military blows money.  I have been blowing my nose like a middle school trumpet player blows through his spit valve.  I have been blowing my nose like a prostitute blows up a balloon to celebrate her birthday.  (Where did you think I was going with that?)

For me to recover from a virus that likely ended up causing a secondary bacterial infection is not an impossibility, even with my immunodeficiency.  To do it without Neupogen?  Well, this would be a first.  An important and exciting first since my diagnosis.

I am not celebrating just yet.  Oftentimes, in the middle of an illness, I will start to feel better for a day or two, before everything comes back even more severe.  I will try not to overdo it today, thus allowing the illness to reform their tattered lines and counter-attack.   We shall remain steadfast in our defense of this great Josh.  We shall go on to the end.  We shall fight at home, we shall fight on our feet and in bed, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in our immunity, we shall defend our Josh, whatever the cost may be.  We shall fight in the kitchen, we shall fight in the living room, we shall fight in the blankets and in the sheets, we shall fight with the pills; we shall never surrender.

Tonight I am going to make chicken rolls!  I love me some chicken rolls.  I have been planning to make them since Sunday, but Sunday is when I started feeling sick.  (Well, more sick than usual, and not counting the months of crazy headaches.)  I think the chicken rolls will help add to my recovery, as many studies have found they do contain healing properties.  To be certain they work, I am thinking about adding extra gluten.

Anyway, I have some things to catch up on today, and I have to go pretty slow so as not to overdo it and ruin all of the goodness that I feel.  Therefore, I may still be a tad absent, and don’t really have the time to write anything of value.  (Not that I do anyway.)  But I am very hopeful that I have a turned a corner.

Now, I just have to figure out where turning the corner has led me.  My GPS isn’t working, and I don’t recognize these buildings.

 

 

Sickly, Again

Hello dear reader(s)!

Urgent doctor  appointment in about an hour.

I can barely swallow, I’m stuffed up beyond belief, and I’m hacking up pieces of my lung (or so it feels).

In addition, my severe headache is beyond severe.

Sorry for my lack of reading and posting.

Please hope they don’t need to admit me for seriousness.

Headaches And Drugs And Bears, Oh My!

Regular bears, sadly not of the Hannah variety.

Hello dear reader(s)!

You have made it to Thursday!!!!  (Or whatever day it is when and where you are reading this.)  Congratulations!  Give yourselves a pat on the pat on the back.  Do it!  Now!  Or else the puppy dies.  Pat it!  Nice and slow.  Yeah….mmm…pat that back.  Pat…  yasssss.

For the last two weeks or so, (going on three), I have had massive headaches.  Today is no exception.  I am not certain as to why.  I am typically not the headache kind of person.  It isn’t as though am anti-headache…wait, yes it is.  I am decidedly anti-headache.

So, because I recently moved, am in need of referrals to specialists, and my head is fucking killing me, I decided to visit my brand spanking new (only without the spanking) primary care physician (henceforth known as PCP (not the drug)).  PCP was in a hurry, as most PCP’s usually are.  As a result, PCP did not really listen to my history.  Either that, or PCP decided that she didn’t need to listen to my history because the specialists would be handling the majority of my care.  (They will.)

However, because it will be a couple of weeks before the specialists can see me, I was hoping that PCP could help with my headaches.  Looking for the cause, not much of anything else.

PCP decided to order labs.  I understand why the PCP chose to do this, and went to the lab at the office of PCP so they could suck blood from my arm as my veins attempted to roll away from the needle of the phlebotomist (henceforth still known as phlebotomist).  Phlebotomist did a pretty good job of taking the three tubes of blood from my arm, and I was on my way to lunch and home.  Because the lab was in-house (not my actual house, but the office of PCP), I figured I might hear back on my results that day.  I did not.  I did not hear most of the next day either.  Until 8:15 pm, (15 minutes after the close of the office of PCP) I missed a call from the staff of PCP (not the PCP Staff, which is an ancient weapon that gives its user super-human strength, similar to someone on PCP).  The staff of PCP informed me that the doctor would like me to go to the ER.

Now, being who I am , I actually sort of assumed that the doctor was likely overreacting to what is my normal numbers.  I attempted to call back the staff of PCP to get my numbers.

I failed in my quest (to the dismay of the hobbits) and reached what was most likely an answering service, given how this person could not read labs.

I asked the questions important to me.  What was my creatinine?  (Not great, but not too far from my baseline, okay.)  What was my neutrophil count?  (And this is where the problem was.)  She answered in a percentage.

Uh….no.

Okay, what was the white count?  (If I had my white count, I could figure out my neutrophils by multiplying the percentage against it.)

She answered with the same percentage.

Now I’m not even trusting the creatinine number she gave me.

So off to the ER I went.  I chose the hospital that my doctor practices at.  It is actually a very nice hospital, with some competent people working there.  It is small, but the staff seemed pretty on top of things.

I was hoping (since my doctor was a part of that group), that they could just print me a copy of my labs without actually being admitted to the ER unless necessary.  But to the dismay of the hobbits, my hopes were dashed.  The doctor could access the hospital records, but not vice versa, apparently.

So in I go.  Which I guess is okay, because my head was pounding by this point, and they wanted to do more tests than just what the office did.  They put in an IV (which they got on the first try, something that hasn’t happened since 2012).  And that’s a good thing because when they did the next tests, my creatinine had climbed above my normal range.  Uh oh.

In addition, after taking the blood, my headache with annoying pain had become unbearable.  So in the ER room, they decided to stick some freaking fentanyl into my IV to help.  Not morphine.  Not dilaudid.  Fentanyl.  The big daddy.  King of the narcotics.

Holy shit.  These guys don’t fuck around.  The hobbits would have been grateful, but they were too busy trying to breathe and peel themselves from the inside of the thin ER bed mattress they had melted into.

So with my headache down a couple of pain scale points, they started me on IV fluids.  All the rest of my blood work, (while horrible), was MY horrible, and therefore okay.  I wasn’t even neutropenic (though I was right there).  They re-ran the creatinine and it had dropped back down into my baseline range.

The problem is that it didn’t drop that far.  I am not sure why it was so high, as I really didn’t think I was dehydrated.  My kidney disease wasn’t supposed to be progressive, and so I am very concerned.

They wrote me a prescription for what they said was something for pain.  I didn’t want it to be a narcotic, but knew it probably would be since I can’t take any kind of NSAID, and there is no sense in prescribing Tylenol (which is shit for headaches anyway).  I got this pill I never head of before, and figured it was more narcotics.  I took a couple, and was out like a light when I finally got home at 3 am.

Then I looked it up.  Fucking barbiturates.  They don’t kill the pain, but they sure as hell knock me out so I don’t feel it.  I spent most of yesterday asleep.  The hobbits are not amused.

I hope they figure out what is wrong soon.  It is getting hard to bear.  (See, told you there would be bears.)

Hospitaling

Hello dear reader(s)!

I apologize for not posting yet today, but yesterday ended up being one of the worst days I’ve had in quite some time.  There are many reasons for it, but the main one was having to go to the ER and staying there until about 2 am.

I still might have posted earlier today, but I was given medication.  That medication could put a meth using Jack Russell into a coma.

There are a couple continuing concerns, so if I’m a little inconsistent coming up, I apologize.

Hope you’re all good.

Brand New Day

Hello dear reader(s)!

First of all, I would like to apologize for not posting yesterday.  I would like to, but I won’t.  Wait, who am I kidding?  I wouldn’t like to either.  Anyway, I didn’t post yesterday because I was finally getting my room all set up from the moving.  I also bought myself a new espresso machine after the last one tragically passed away during the move.  It was a faithful little machine, and will be sorely missed.  It is survived by a carafe, and it’s buddy the steam pitcher.  My new one is red so the mourning period for the old one is hereby cancelled.  I also bought a bookcase.

And while I was putting together my new bookcase, I got to thinking, and it made me realize some important things.  The first, is that I do not own enough physical books.  There are like 3 on the bookcase, the rest is just stuff.  The second, is that I am strong, and independent, and better off.

That last statement is nothing personal against anyone I have ever been with.  It isn’t saying that I prefer to be alone.  It is simply saying that unless it is right, it is wrong.  Looking back on failed relationships, you start to realize all the things that were not right, no matter how much you wanted them to be.  And then you flog yourself in penance.

I woke up this morning with the realization that I am in a new place.  A new town where nobody knows me, with a chance to completely start living my life how I want to.  I answer to nobody.  That really hasn’t happened in a long time.  Before Hannah died, we were very free.  We loved each other unconditionally, so there was no worrying about what the other person thought about our routines, or lack thereof, our need to be alone, or desire to be together.  It just was, and it fit.  After, I have had to tiptoe around people’s feelings.  Whether it was certain people once in my life who were judging me, or my family for intruding on their space, I just simply was not able to be my own person.

Granted, I still have housemates, so there is some respect for other people that is involved, but for the first time in a long time, I am autonomous.  I am treated with respect by them and as long as I am showing them the same respect, things are pretty easy.  They take care not to step on my toes, and vice versa.  We moved into this house together, so there is no feeling like I moved into their house, or they moved into mine.  We all pay rent, and live our lives.  Basically, they are like really close neighbors in that sense.  Since they are also friends, the shared common areas is never a concern.  So even with housemates, I am more independent than I have been in a long time.  It’s a great feeling.

And yet I am still putting myself out there.  Because while I love to be independent, I love to be independent with someone who is right for me.  Someone who can be independent and complimentary.  I am creating options and opportunities here already to meet people.  I am not trying to force some romantic relationship, but am working to create the kinds of opportunities for the possibility to occur.

I fought hard for this life.  No, it isn’t perfect.  Yes, I get down on occasion.  Not everything always goes my way.  I have lost more times than I have won.

But I have gotten back up every single time I have been knocked down.  I am always in the ring, instead of watching from the side.  I am stronger than I give myself credit for, and I’ll be damned if a change in how I initially envisioned life here will keep me down.

I will not apologize for being who I am.  I am happy with who I am.  Granted, I wish that some of the cancer damage never occurred, but unless I meet a genie, wishing ain’t changing shit.

But I am exercising more again.  I am eating a lot better than I ever have.  Eating better and exercising more won’t heal my kidneys, or my cataracts, or my immunity, but it will help me fight off the next thing that comes my way.  It will make it easier when something inevitably does happen.  And, it’ll make me look better, which is always a plus.

I read something about how today was supposed to be a big energy shift for me.  I truly believe that it is.  Good things are already happening and I can feel the positive change in the air.

And maybe it won’t be all that great.  Maybe things won’t go at all as I hope.

That’s okay, I’ll just get up and try again.

Until next time, my dear reader(s), remember that when life gives you lemons, you can do whatever the fuck you want with those lemons.  They are yours now.  If life doesn’t like it, it shouldn’t have given those lemons away.  Fuck you, life.  I have the lemons now, motherfucker.

 

Let’s Talk About Cancer…Again

Hello dear reader(s)!

It is October, and you all know what that means!

If you guessed Halloween, or Fall fun, you probably didn’t read the title.

It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, because, apparently, people only need to be aware that people get breast cancer in October.  So…you know…don’t go doing anything crazy like scheduling those mammograms any other month now.

It is also Domestic Violence Awareness, which is very convenient for the NFL so they can hide their lack of standards on domestic violence behind pink Susan G. Komen merchandise and ribbons for cancer merchandise marketing.

Now, unlike many cancer survivors, I do not have a problem with Breast Cancer having a whole month.  The marketing and profits off of it bother me, but not the concept.  Just because it wasn’t my particular type of cancer, does not mean I am offended mine doesn’t have a whole month.  You can screen for breast cancer, so be aware of that, and do it.  Just don’t pay $35 for a pink ribbon, of which very little goes to any actual curative efforts.

Anyway, this isn’t an anti-Komen post.  This is a post to, once again, educate all of you who have never had cancer about the realities of cancer that you may not understand.

  • Cancer is not a cold  Not everyone just gets over it once it is no longer in their body.  For me, my true battle didn’t even begin until there was no evidence of disease.  The damage done to the rest of my body from the treatment of this otherwise fatal disease did permanent damage to my body that I will never fully recover from.  I hear in one ear only, I have kidney damage, I have immunity issues that can be severe, I have periods of complete fatigue where just keeping my head upright can be a struggle, I have peripheral neuropathy which is constantly painful to very painful nerve damage, I have cataracts that have made night driving virtually impossible, I have low nutritional absorption and hormone production, I have a couple of related psychological disorders.  Just because some days I can walk, and lift, and look healthy, does not mean I am.  To paraphrase one of my former oncologists, I look a lot better in person than on paper.
  • Cannabis has not been shown to cure cancer  But make no mistake, I believe it was imperative in my survival.  I am very much pro-legalization and would still be using it today were it not very illegal here.  My ability not to, has also proven it isn’t addictive the way people claim, for all you anti-legalization advocates.   It’s a great medicine, but if you think you can not do any of the treatment your doctor recommends and only do cannabis instead, you’re gonna have a bad time.
  • It can still happen, no matter how clean you live  Vegans get cancer.  Vegetarians get cancer.  Nonsmokers get cancer, teetotalers get cancer, paleo diet enthusiasts get cancer, gluten-free people get cancer, anyone can get cancer.  I was super clean prior to cancer.  I don’t smoke, and I didn’t then.  I rarely drink.  It didn’t matter.  A cell division error happened, and I had cancer.  That doesn’t mean living healthy will not help to put the odds in your favor, it just means you should not assume that anyone with cancer had a lifestyle issue.
  • All the miraculous treatments you read about on the internet will not be available to most people for years, if ever, and probably won’t be so miraculous by the time they are  Immunotherapy may be the big exception to this one.  I really wish I could have been a trial subject on that one back when I was first diagnosed.  I’d probably have a lot more of my function, and would not have had the kind of insane fight and many near-death experiences that I had if that had been available to me.
  • You have no advice to give  Whatever you just read on the internet has already been researched by either the patient, their doctor, or their family.  Whatever methods you use to get through the things that you have to do does not apply to them.  No matter how much you think your tips for making sure you can get things done works for you when you are having lazy days, it isn’t going to be effective for someone having trouble keeping their eyes open that day.  That doesn’t mean you can’t help.

If you want to help someone with cancer, or with the sometimes very damaging and life-altering after affects, here is what you can do.

  • Ask, “Is there something I can help you with?”
  • Be understanding when someone is down  

If I need something, and someone offers, I will let them know.  Otherwise, not only do I need it, but chances are that I am going to get offended by the person offering things unsolicited.

This isn’t one size fits all.  Neither is cancer.  But with those two last bullet points, you are probably not going to go wrong with anyone.

May you never need to know any of this one day.