Don’t Fight The Good Fight


Do you remember the old song that had the lyrics: “I fought the law and the law won”….

Well, I sort of feel like this…not exactly that I have been fighting the law, but a similar looming entity in America that, to me at least, now just feels like a gigantic monster that no longer has the capabilities, abilities or desire to do what it originally was set up to do.

Can you guess?? It’s health care. For months now I have been trying to schedule a routine mammogram and have been getting nowhere. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I have been lead down the dark alleyways of jargon, insurance codes, doctor referrals (or refusals to do so), authorization and the inability of one organization to speak to another –therefore leaving me, the patient, in the middle….

….With no idea what anyone is talking about. I’m in the unfortunate situation of being on Obamacare (or not, depending on how you see this), so the waters become very murky;more shady than usual. No doctors take it where I live, so most everywhere I go is an out-of-pocket expense.  I have it mostly for my one medication. But my understanding was that a routine mammo was covered…. So, I was determined to GET it covered!

After fighting with my doctor, and central scheduling, then trying Planned Parenthood, then central scheduling again, then speaking with Blue Cross at least three times and getting three different stories (all of this over and over)…. and this all after having three appointments scheduled and canceled over a period of months—I decided enough.

Healthcare? I was losing my mind. This all was causing me so much stress; I couldn’t sleep. I’ve had a concern too and really needed this mammo yet was getting nowhere! Only two people I spoke to on this entire messed up journey were actually sympathetic. Most either could barely speak English or just read off a script, and contradicted each other. One I actually spoke to her manager to compliment her because I had to talk to her so many times; she at least seemed to care.

So finally, I made a decision because I could see the fight was leading me to a dead-end and draining me of energy. It would be yet another out-of-pocket expense… I would just have to pay for the thing myself. And miraculously I had an appointment the next day!

I guess the moral of the story is that they wear you down until you succumb. Maybe this is part of the plan now. Read the small print…. If they can drive you crazy and stress you out bad enough over enough years, maybe you will die sooner.

So anyway, I fought the healthcare system and I lost bad….

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Ghost


I saw a ghost on my way into work this morning.  It was a pretty good day–it was ‘stay at home and work out’ morning. This involves doing my yoga and walking dogs and whatever else I decide to do now that it’s getting colder. Usually I leave really early and swim my mile after walking dogs. But I’ve decided four days a week of swimming is plenty and I wanted a change in routine. So now I break up my week with Wednesday being my home workout day.

So I was feeling all yoga’d out–mellow and serene. It was cool, but bright and crisp. I was listening to a quiet CD when I looked up at a car coming towards me when I saw a ghost driving a car! Let me explain.

Last year I lost a very dear friend to breast cancer. I’ve written about her here numerous times. She was one of my first EMT mentors, a mother of 11 children, humble, lovely, kind, quiet and competent. When she received her diagnosis she had just started nursing school. She didn’t tell people in her ambulance service until she began her treatments and it became obvious. And she courageously fought and finished her degree, but never practiced.

Needless to say she would have been an amazing nurse. The kind we rarely see these days. Partly because she was a natural caregiver, but also because she had life experience and she truly wanted to help. It was in her soul to be kind.

And I’m driving down the road and there’s my friend, behind the wheel: smiling the same unassuming smile she always had, hair parted and behind her ears like we had in the 70’s, with the sun beaming down on her face! My heart just jumped!

To top it off, today I was planning to teach CPR to the nurse from our local factory. She also is a lovely and gentle woman. Soft spoken and helpful, always there on the calls for service when we come to help. I called her house to set up the time for her CPR recert, but her husband told me she wasn’t home because she was getting radiation. I was stunned! He told me they had discovered breast cancer.

When I spoke to her, she informed me that in March she went for a routine mammo and they found two lumps. They were both removed and she was lucky. She only needed radiation and no chemo. But still…is that really lucky? Compared to what? But thank goodness she went for her routine one!

Was my friend trying to tell me something? Was she just telling me not to forget? Her? Exams? To enjoy life? I just walked a race in her honor. I never will forget her. In the Jewish religion they say every time you speak a dead person’s name then they are still alive. Well if you see them, then I guess they still are too!

As Long As You Have Your Health


Today I walked in a race in honor of my friend who died this year of breast cancer. She was an amazing and wonderful person, a little younger than me (in her 50’s). She had 11 children, had been an EMT for many, many years and had just signed up to become a RN when she got her diagnosis. But she pressed on anyway and graduated just before her death, never to practice. My friend would have been an incredible nurse as she had the gift to heal. Just her presence calmed a patient. Her gentle demeanor and quiet tone always defused any scene that had started to unravel. I’m sure if she was watching today’s festivities in her honor she would have been annoyed that we all had made such a fuss, because that was her humble nature. She was loved and is missed constantly.

I learned today that another EMT recently turned paramedic just learned she has stage 4 colon cancer! This woman too is in her 50’s and was in my first EMT class. My heart sank. This is has been such a bad year for that service and for all of us. I lost my Fire Captain to liver cancer, found out my cousin has breast cancer and two dear friends have breast cancer.

While I teach CPR classes all the time and catch every class with the question: What’s the number one killer of women in this country. The answer I get all the time is: breast and ovarian or uterine cancer. I have to correct them saying that no, rather it’s cardiovascular disease. But it’s hard to believe with what I’ve experienced recently.

On this amazingly lovely Autumn New England day, as I walked along the paths of the ski trails, I thought of all the people I know struck by this mysterious disease. I think about all the technologic advances we make all the time! Some are mind boggling. And yet, and yet….we can’t figure this cancer thing out. Not really.

Sure there have been some good changes. I had my yearly mammo this year and they used the ‘new’ machine on me (as well as the old). It’s suppose to detect to a greater degree any abnormalities. What I couldn’t believe was that insurance didn’t cover it! If I wanted the ‘better’ scan, I had to pay for it myself! Wow. Surely I did it, but that doesn’t seem right.

So I guess we will all just have to keep walking, running or whatever it is that we do to continue to raise money to figure out what this disease is and why it kills people. Sometimes there seems to be no rhyme or reason.

Which reminded me again: be grateful. Be grateful for each day. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t worry, be happy. Say you love people before you leave them for the day. Fill your bucket list. Follow your bliss. All the clichés plus the one I made up: peace, love and granola.

My wonderful Jewish Granny used to say (with the NY Jewish accent): As long as you have your health….   Ain’t that the truth!