Archives for posts with tag: mastectomy



Money2I was diagnosed with breast cancer in early October 2013 and had 11 business days to prepare for double mastectomy. Virtually every other day I was heading somewhere for a test or to fill out paperwork. Not only did I have to take care of so much administrative stuff before surgery, I also had to get my house ready, and I had to make preparations at my job. Needless to say, this was extremely difficult because of the tight time constraints coupled with a diagnosis that scared the begeezus out of me.

One of the many tests my surgeon scheduled for me in the 11 days prior to surgery was a PET scan and an MRI. Perhaps now is a good time to say I am fully insured having a PPO with a major provider via my employer. After surgery on Oct 29 I had to go back for second surgery 3 weeks later for more lymph node removal. Then chemo began Friday the 13th ( I kid you not) of December. 4 months of chemo followed by 33 radiation treatments and I am now trying to return to normal.

About a month after my initial surgery, I received notice from my insurer that my claim for the MRI/PET was being rejected and I should expect to receive a bill from the facility that performed those two diagnostic tests. My insurer let me know I was responsible for payment in full. Shortly after that I got a bill for roughly $8500.00.

So began a frightening journey into insurance hell. I am a smart person but I know virtually nothing about how to fight an insurance company. I felt like a blind person in a cave swinging at lumps of coal. My repeated attempts to resolve were futile. I shared my frustrations with our HR rep at work and he reminded me that our benefits plan included the service of Health Advocate. So I reached out that day and it was one of the best decisions in my life.

First, lucky for me that our HR rep was informed because I certainly was not. Second, I am just so grateful for such a service and happy to know it is another one of my employer-provided benefits.

Working with the Health Advocate rep was simple, timely and straightforward. Communication was always on time and easily understood. I would not have known all the required steps nor the timing of those steps in order to wage a good fight regarding this $8500.00 charge. But my HA rep knew and finally managed to win on our final appeal. I ended up paying $114.00 instead of $8500.00 and this appeal process took about 4+/- months. I would have failed without the assistance of Health Advocate.

I have since recommended the HA services to anyone who will listen. I encourage anyone facing health care issues to investigate HA and utilize them if necessary. I was trying to fight the rejected claim with emotional responses. The Health Advocate is schooled in responding with medical and processional reasoning which certainly has a greater chance for success.

Even fully insured, this cancer battle has been a huge expense that I never saw coming. It would have been so much worse, had I been responsible for that $8500.00 bill.

Thank you new-best-friend Health Advocate! I expect to stay in touch for many years to come.

That’s my story. I hope this is helpful.

Tomorrow is my first chemo.  Chose Friday afternoon so I can consider it my Happy Hour.  Sister is taking me and I will be wearing Depends just in case I crap my pants (dohhhh). Also placing puppy pee pads on the car seat. Semper paratis and down the hatch!

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So I guess this must be the easy part.  The surgery to remove both breasts and a couple of nodes occurred early Tuesday.  I am already showering, changing my own dressings, dumping grenades, and off pain meds.  My situation is slightly different from most because I elected not to have reconstruction.  I’m 56, single and just made the decision to forego adding breasts back into the mix.  So I don’t have spacers or anything else in there, other than drains.  All is well.

Daily nurse visit has been excellent.  She checks my vitals and dressings and drains and teaches me the things I need to know in order to take care of myself.  My sisters and friends have been beyond believable and I am more grateful than I can convey.  

Monday prior to surgery was excruciating but by Tuesday morning I was feeling calm and peaceful and relieved that surgery was the next step. 

Now, I have follow ups and visit with oncologist to determine proper course of action.  Already knew I would be radiated but may need chemo as well.  Maybe this is when the hard part kicks in.

It is my nature to fight.  So cancer, beware.Image






Double mastectomy is complete and I want to thank everyone who expressed concern and good wishes.  You are appreciated.

 Outpatient surgery took about 2 hours and after a couple hours in recovery I was home around 2pm yesterday.    My sisters are taking great care of me as are a couple of good friends.  I am fortunate to have good people around me that are here when I need them.  I also have good people far away keeping in their thoughts and I am truly touched.

So now I am home, healing from surgery and wondering what the future holds.  I suppose that will be revealed soon enough. Image

So I had PET and MRI on Tuesday and I am expecting the results today.  Waiting.  Anticipating a call from surgeon to tell me if cancer is isolated in left breast or if it is elsewhere.  Surgery scheduled for Tuesday.

Can’t say that I am looking forward to receiving the call today nor can I say I don’t want to know.  Not knowing is excruciating.  Knowing something – anything – allows me to make a plan that will allow me to kick cancer’s ass.

Have to go shopping for specific supplies from a list provided by my doc.  ALSo have to go get fitted for my compression garment to be worn post-surgery.  Some grocery shopping and a trial run to ensure my work laptop boots up and I can connect from my living room since I expect to be working from home for a few weeks.

Maybe I need to wear a rally cap.Image

I have a strong sense to nest right now.  I feel October 29th looming and because of that deadline I am spending my time attending to long-neglected home projects.  My surgery is of the out-patient variety so I will be home the same day they operate.  But then I do expect to he here in my little condo for at least a few weeks and potentially all of November.

So lots of laundry first.  Washing rugs and lots of towels and things that have been lying on the closet floor for months.  Among other things, I gathered  my bras and panties today and realized that the 4 bras I just washed won’t be needed beginning post-mastectomy. I don’t know exactly when bandages come off and not sure when I will need to don a bra again, nor do I know what kind of bra it will be.  Oh well, I reckon that will become clear soon enough.  

It wasn’t depression or fear or hopelessness that I felt at that moment.  Rather, it was a resigned pragmatism.   I think it was similar to the feelings I experienced as I gained weight and had to buy larger jeans and yet it appropriately diminishes that experience.

Trash.  Threw lots of stuff out yesterday.  And I expect to continue performing this exercise in the near term which means more is headed for the dumpster.  

These exercises serve two purposes.  I think it gives me a sense of being in control of something and let’s face it, the cancer diagnosis makes me feel like a game show contestant in my own life rather than the potentate that I had always been.  It also helps burn some nervous energy and focus on something other than all this crap that is front and center.  

I actually went to the gym last night, partly because I don’t have cable TV and my gym does so I could watch my beloved Wildcats on ESPN, and partly because it just seemed like a good idea.  And it actually turned out to be a great idea.  I got to watch the Cats while working the cardio for 45 minutes and then did a round of weights.  I know I can’t undo 4 years of bad habits and I won’t get fit in the next 16 days but I can make some incremental positive improvements.   Again, it just feels good to focus on something positive.

But the best benefit of the busy day and a good exercise session was blissful, restful, sleep.  Just sleep.   An illusive commodity since Friday, October 4 when I visited my regular doctor who immediately got me in to see the surgeon and the waking nightmare began in earnest.  

Blissful, restful, sleep, I have missed you and welcome you back.

To sleep, perchance to dream.  Peacefully.  And wake up rested and ready to fight again.


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