It’s been a long hot summer and quite awhile since I’ve posted to the blog. I’ve been busy putting off plans for the Homestead and tending to my health. It’s the most I’ve been able to do. In late February/early March I was diagnosed with a rare yet treatable skin cancer. By April it was spreading aggressively across my skin (back, legs, face, scalp, arms, chest – you name it) and had metastasized to my digestive tract. It still remained treatable, but it upped the game (and the price) of my cancer treatment.
To date, I’ve had five chemotherapy treatments with a drug called Doxil. It’s used to treat breast cancer, the particular skin cancer I have, and sometimes ovarian cancer. It’s effective but also expensive. The treatments I’ve been receiving have gone for about $50,000 a pop. Yes, that’s right. There is no “typo” there. In chemotherapy treatments alone I’ve “spent” $250,000 on my health in less than six months. And this doesn’t count consultations with my oncologist, CT scans and other procedures associated with my treatment. But that’s not all. I’ve had lots of doctor and ER visits, rides in ambulances, and a hospital stay. Want to know what all that can cost? Read on…
I didn’t have any insurance when I first got signs that I was sick. To make matters worse, I’d been laid off from my job (a part-time job with no benefits) two months before, so I didn’t have any money.
It was irresponsible, but I waited almost three months to go see a doctor. I felt caught between a rock and a hard place. I had NO money and NO insurance. The thought of walking into any medical facility in the United States seeking diagnosis or treatment was altogether frightening.
Rationalization and denial became my M.O. I told myself I was stressed, that my body would heal up on it’s own, that I was young and it couldn’t be that serious.If I kept my head in the sand long enough, maybe it would all just go away.
Here’s where Obama and Health Care Reform come in. In 2013 I was lucky enough to qualify for an early roll-out pilot of the Health Care Reform law that was taking place in select California counties. Now that I had insurance I made an appointment to see a doctor. “First available” was in February. That is when I learned I’d be facing the biggest challenge of my life.
I’ve had countless doctors visits, which bill at several hundred dollars each. At each visit I have extensive blood tests that also run into the hundreds of dollars. I’ve had three ambulance rides to hospitals, each of which can go for over $1,000 a pop. I was in the hospital for one week for observation after they gave me my first chemotherapy dose. Cost for care: just under $100,000.
And then there are visits to the E.R. In the past six months I’ve been to the emergency room more times than I care to admit. Add ’em all up, and they’re worth another $100,000.
That much, you say? Let me give you just one example:
After my fourth chemotherapy treatment I was having really bad stomach pains and had to go to the E.R. twice within 24 hours. Remember, my cancer is in my digestive tract. It does all kinds of crazy things with my stomach, intestines, esophagus. Think vomiting, diarrhea, etc. And sometimes PAIN.
The first time I was there for about 7 hours and had a CT Scan. I was given DILAUDID by injection and allowed to sleep on a bed for six hours. Then I was sent home – told to come back if the pain didn’t subside. When the Dilaudid wore off the pain was the same. I drove back to the E.R. and waited there for 2 hours until they prescribed some additional medication and discharged me.
FIRST VISIT: $13,479.37
SECOND VISIT: $3,067.47
GRAND TOTAL FOR 24-HOUR EPISODE: $16,546.84
The Million Dollar Man:
So, to summarize…I’m not quite at a million dollars, but they’ve spent more than half a million in six months just to keep me alive.
Something about that just doesn’t seem right…Should it really cost this much? A bag of medicine that drips into your arm at $50,000 a pop? An Emergency Room visit that lasts less than 12 hours and costs over $13,000? Hospital stays that cost more than I will ever make in a year?
I used to think that the key to reforming our healthcare system would be the extension of health insurance so that every American is covered. I don’t believe that is enough anymore. The cost for healthcare in this country, driven up by the for-profit nature of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, is unsustainable. The whole system is sick. Much more sick than I am.
Feeling Like Patty Hearst:
Someone’s getting rich. Someone or some corporation is getting filthy rich. And government’s getting stuck with the tab. I feel like I’ve been held captive by an out of control healthcare system that has used my unfortunate situation to milk the system for all it’s worth. Like I was kidnapped, kept in a closet, brainwashed and then forced to help some freaks rob a bank.
Do I really want to be a part of this? Do I have any choice?
But I’m getting better. I guess I shouldn’t complain.
Note: All the external cancer sites are now gone as a result of treatment. In a few weeks I will have procedures to determine the progress of treatment within my digestive tract. A recent test shows that the cancer has not spread elsewhere in my body. I may require additional chemotherapy treatments, but I am hoping to be in complete remission by the end of the year.