The Cost of Cancer

bag of money

It’s been almost 5 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and pretty much everything has healed – everything except my wallet.  Cancer isn’t just devastating physically and emotionally, but it can be financially as well.  I was fortunate to have health insurance and short term disability benefits through my job, but amazingly, I’m still paying off some bills from years ago.  I can still picture the piles of statements in my living room from doctors, hospitals and insurance companies.  I felt like I was drowning in a sea of debt.  I was worried about my health, about my family, about my future, and about how I was going to pay for it all. One day, I actually burst into tears when I was told I qualified for a $100 gas card to help with the cost of driving to and from treatment.  Everything eventually worked itself out and I’ve learned not to get totally freaked out about medical expenses now.  They are a fact of life – my life, especially – and there are people and organizations out there that can help, but you (or someone advocating on your behalf) need to devote a good amount of time to research.  Talk to your doctors about patient assistance programs, talk to the hospital about payment plans, look online for local and national organizations that assist with financial resources for cancer patients, become intimately familiar with your insurance plan and benefits and make informed choices regarding your treatment. In my resource section, I have listed some organizations that I’ve had some experience with and may be able to help you or your loved ones(s).  There’s also a great website called Cancer.net that explores issues and questions regarding the costs associated with a cancer diagnosis and treatment, please visit that page at http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/financial-considerations/understanding-costs-related-cancer-care.

So, let me strongly encourage you to ask for help, accept help, and pass it along by helping others when you have the chance.  It is not a sign of weakness to ask for assistance, especially when you’re fighting for your life or the life of a loved one.  Be well and be informed – help might be just waiting and hoping that you ask for it.

 

I have a pill problem

forgotmeds

I have a pill problem – my problem is I have too many pills and a not-what-it-used-to-be memory.  I’ve had many conversations like this with myself – “I have to take my lupus meds, wait, did I take them already, or was that my cancer meds, no, wait did I actually take any meds or am I just imagining I took them…” Checking the pills left in the bottle used to be a good way to figure it out, but now my pharmacy is giving me 90 day supplies, and I’m not about to count that many pills to figure out if I took one.  So, I tried buying one of those pill boxes, but that still didn’t totally solve my pill problem.  I needed something more – something that would say, hey! you need to take your meds now!!  Then, I figured, as the saying goes, there must be an app for that!  And, guess what?  There are many apps for that! I took a quick look at them on my phone and picked a free one called Med Helper.  It had a good user rating and seemed easy to figure out.  It lets me enter info about all my meds, including prescribing doctor, generic and brand name, pharmacy name and number, dosage, side effects, special comments, etc.  Which is very helpful to have, especially when making out those pesky medical forms in the waiting room that ask you a million questions.  But, even more helpful for me, it sets and stores a reminder alarm on my phone when I need to take my meds.  Hallelujah!  I’ve only been using it for a day, but the alarm did go off today when I was at work and I took my meds like a good girl.  I’m really hoping this is the solution to my pill problem.  It’s too bad that my phone can’t dispense my medicine along with reminding me to take it!  Maybe someone will create an app for that one day…

4 Years and Counting….

4 years and countingI recently had my 6 month follow up with my Oncologist, Dr. Elizabeth Tan-Chiu (whom I, along with many others, believe is a genius and real-life Wonder Woman). We were reviewing my chart and were very excited to see that I’m approaching my 5 year anniversary this October.  For those of you who know – and those of you who don’t – 5 years is kind of a big deal when it comes to survivorship.  I’ll be finished with my Zometa infusions, only need to see Dr.T once a year, and, hopefully, be able to stop taking my estrogen blocker, Arimidex. Some ladies have to take it for 10 years – I’m hoping I’m not in that category.  My wonder-woman doctor then told me something interesting – there is a new test called the Breast Cancer Index (BCI) which can help determine how long it will be beneficial for me to take Arimidex. It’s a test performed on the tissue saved from my tumors that were removed and archived – which is another interesting thing I learned – it is mandatory that tissue is saved for 10 years (which was a relief to hear – I thought they had to poke me some more to get breast tissue to test). So, my doc ordered the BCI and it should take a couple weeks to get the results. I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, to find out more about the Breast Cancer Index, visit www.answersbeyond5.com.

Hello, where have I been?

looking

Bless me Father, for I have sinned, it has been 4 months since my last post….Ok, if you weren’t raised Catholic, you probably won’t recognize that reference to Confession (and, if you were, please don’t think I’m being blasphemous, I’m just attempting to be clever).  I haven’t posted in a long time – 4 months to be exact – and it started me wondering – where the heck have I been?  I’ve been right here, I just haven’t been “write” here, if that makes any sense.  Was it writer’s block, lack of inspiration, lack of time?  Did my creativity take a little vacation – or worse – did my creativity take a permanent vacation??  Whatever it was, I think it’s about time to find my voice again.  I’ve been thinking of possible posts and topics to tackle, including ones that are not my typical cancer and lupus related blurbs.  I’m turning 50(!!!!) this year, have 2 awesome daughters, an amazing partner of 21 years, 2 cats and my outrageous 85 year old mother and her attached at the hip rescue dog living with us, so I think I’ll be able to find more than a few things to write about. Therefore, let this be my first little baby step back into the world of witty banter and blogging, with more to come soon.  Hello, creativity, vacation time’s over, let’s get back to work.

 

Sharing is Caring

pinkribbonsflying

A good friend and co-worker of mine was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  So, being the old pro that I am at kicking cancer’s butt, I’ve been sharing my experiences and knowledge with her so she can kick some cancer-butt too.  While I was looking online for some additional resources for my friend, I came across some awesome sites that I wanted to make sure everybody knew about.  These sites have wonderful information on everything from financial assistance to eyebrow tattoos.  Check them out and pass them along!

http://www.happychemo.com/about-us/

https://www.healincomfort.com/free-stuff-breast-cancer-patients/

http://www.1uponcancer.com/freebies-and-discounts-for-cancer-patients/

Peace, love and good health to us all!

happy and alive

Mammograms may be best, but you still need to check your own chest

love life hope

 Johns Hopkins Medical center states,

“Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.”

I was one of those women who felt a lump in my own breast (followed by a chilling lump in my throat).  I didn’t say anything until the next morning, because I went to bed hoping that I would wake up and the lump would magically be gone.  It wasn’t.  I saw my doctor that afternoon, and he assured me that it was “very unlikely” that I had breast cancer.  Boy, was he wrong.  An ultrasound, mammogram and eventual biopsy confirmed my worst fear.  Mammograms are important, but knowing your own body and keeping an eye out for any changes is equally important – I’m living proof.  So, I’m including  information on both self-exams and mammograms in this post.  Please educate yourself and your friends and family – it can literally save your life.

SELF EXAMS

Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month.

While mammograms can help you to detect cancer before you can feel a lump, breast self-exams help you to be familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your healthcare professional if there are any changes.

How should a breast self-exam be performed?

1) In the Shower 

Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.

2) In Front of a Mirror 

Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead.

Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.

3) Lying Down

When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.

Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.

MAMMOGRAMS:

Breast Cancer Screening Reminder

The American Cancer Society encourages women to make healthy lifestyle choices such as eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and reducing alcohol, if a woman drinks. These choices can help reduce their breast cancer risk. The American Cancer Society also encourages regular breast exams and mammograms to find breast cancer early, when it is most likely to be curable. A screening reminder, to remind you to get your breast exam and mammogram, is a free, easy way to help busy women remember to take care of themselves.

Why Get Screened?

Numerous studies have clearly shown that getting a mammogram and a breast exam reduces the risk of dying from breast cancer. Breast cancers found during a mammogram are more likely to be smaller and still confined to the breast. Finding breast cancer early (called early detection) can improve the chances that breast cancer can be treated successfully and with more treatment options, less extensive surgery, and ultimately, better treatment outcomes.

Who Should Get Screened?

The American Cancer Society’s current Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines recommend:

  • Yearly mammograms at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health
  • Breast exam about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over
  • All women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and should report ANY breast change promptly to their doctor or nurse. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s.

How Does Our Breast Cancer Screening Reminder Work?

You fill out a brief form. We will email you a reminder on the first day of your birth month with the breast cancer screening tests we recommend based on our latest guidelines. Breast cancer screening may include breast exams by your doctor, mammograms, and other tests based on your age and other factors.

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