Sunday, November 24, 2013

The story of a cancer survivor, part 2

I first learned that I had cancer on June 23, 2011, and I took some preliminary steps at that time to bring myself back to health again. Those steps were documented in an article that I published on July 1, 2011:

the sky is falling

Not long after my visit to the doctor, I retired from my job as a car salesman, and less than two months after that, I moved to Arizona.

Retirement is a nice stage of life to be in, but if you retire at the age of 63 (which I did) you immediately run into a couple of vexing problems. The first, of course, is that you have less money to live on, which is why I have un-retired a few times since then, and currently work for the local school district.

The other problem is that I no longer had any health insurance, which moved the date for my cancer surgery until a month or so after I turned 65 years old (more than a year later), and had obtained coverage from Medicare. I purchased a Medicare supplemental plan recommended by AARP at the end of the year.

The second problem illustrates why the Affordable Care Act, for all its faults, was long overdue in our country. There’s a bit of blame on both sides as to why the roll out didn’t go as smoothly as it should have, and two of the reasons are listed below:

1) The House Homeland Security Committee has discovered that the government website used to sign people up for insurance coverage had been subjected to at least 16 cyber attacks by “Obamacare” opponents, and at least some of the attacks were designed specifically to deny access to the website.

2) The other problem with the Affordable Care Act was that the administration knew as early as March that there were problems with, but failed to correct them in time for the October 1 launch date. The government has initiated some procedures to improve the enrollment process, and have detailed those steps on the website.

The fact that the Medicare Plan D coverage that was started during the Bush administration had significant “teething” problems early on is small comfort to the folks who initially had trouble getting on the website. Medicare itself, of course, had a shaky start in 1965, and Mitt Romney’s universal health plan in Massachusetts took a while to become fully operational.

None of the paragraphs above, though, will help to explain my “K-mart face”, so a little more information is required.

Apart from the fact that the surgery on my back last fall removed the basal cell carcinoma that I had acquired, it also highlighted the fact that I had VERY HIGH BLOOD pressure, which led to a visit to a local cardiologist later on the same day. On a daily basis, I now take medication for both my blood pressure and my cholesterol, and both areas are now under control.

I pretty much forgot about the “pre-cancerous” cells on my face until the end of summer, when a bout of eczema encouraged me to make a trip to a local dermatologist. A week’s worth of a treatment with a tube of medicated cream (which cost $54) cured the eczema, but it led to an appointment to have the “pre-cancerous” cells on my face taken care of.

That appointment occurred on Friday, November 22.

The procedure used to remove my facial cancer is called the BLU-U light treatment, which is what I called it “the K-Mart special”. After an initial treatment with a Levuan Kerastick was allowed to be absorbed into my skin for about an hour, my eyes were covered with protective goggles, and I was exposed to bright fluorescent lights for 16 minutes and 40 seconds. The end result is that the cancer cells have been fried away, but I’ll be sunburned for about a week, and will be unable to shave for a while.

Many folks who are covered by Medicare may not be aware of the fact that Medicare will pay 100% of the cost of a yearly “wellness” visit, which I took advantage of about a week ago. I’ll be getting the lab results in the mail sometime this coming week, but a phone call from my doctor the other day assured me that I had no significant problems to worry about.

I’m as reluctant as anyone to spend money from my tightly managed monthly budget on doctors and dentists, but my recent experiences have convinced me that it’s important to do so. My experiences also reinforce why it’s important that EVERYBODY had health coverage, even if the current program has some flaws. As one pundit said recently, “you wouldn’t throw out your ice cream because you couldn’t find your spoons”.

Enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, but try to stay away from K-Mart on that day. A lot of their stores will be open at 6 a.m., which almost seems sacrilegious, and calling it “gray Thursday” instead of Black Friday doesn’t make it more palatable.

If you’re REALLY health conscious, and want to avoid “genetically modified” turkeys, you’ll be happy to know that there ARE specialty stores across the country that will sell you “heritage turkeys”, which are significantly different than the large-breasted birds that we are accustomed to.

You no longer have to worry about cranberries, since the substance that caused the cranberry scare of 1959 was banned long ago, but go easy on the coffee. An average cup of coffee contains hundreds of natural-occurring chemicals, and at least 80 of them (in large doses) will initiate cancer in laboratory animals.

Bon appetit

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