Archive for July, 2006

Hello From The Abyss

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

Hi all. Yep, I’m still here and I’ve finally decided to update. And boy howdy, is there some updatin’ ta do, I tell ya whut. So much so that it may take a few (dozen) entries to get it all caught up.

I know you’ve all heard the excuses about being busy and having a life and all that. But in this case, “busy” doesn’t exactly seem to cover it. Basically, my life has resembled the inside of a blender for several months (and not in a good way), and it’s just now settling down from Puree to Stir.

Beau Hunk and I have come to realize that we have yet to have a moment of peace in our marriage. By “peace” I mean a stretch of time where some big fucking trauma-drama wasn’t hanging over our heads and threatening to change our lives in major ways. But we think we may be coming to the end of that dark dark tunnel and may be actually glimpsing a bit of light. Let’s hope it’s not a train, shall we?

I only say that in half-jest, because life really has been shitting on us lately. At least that’s the way it feels. In spite of some set-backs and a string of bad news (most of which I will not discuss), we are finding our silver linings and making the best of situations.

For instance, one of these changes has made it possible for me to dedicate more time to school in the fall. I will be taking five classes (14 units), which ought to keep me plenty busy. Oh, and for those of you who were kind enough to ask, I finished the spring semester with flying colors: A’s in Family Law and Legal Research and Writing, and a B in Introduction to Paralegalism. My Intro instructor told me “a B in this class is like an A in any other class”. Yeah, right. Tell that to my GPA. Believe me when I say he doesn’t give A’s. He’s very much the hardass.

I took a class over the summer via internet – Computer Literacy Workshop. It’s required for my degree, and a total fucking joke. Basically, the class is teaching shit that is so fucking irrelevant to actually using a computer in any sort of business environment that it’s useless. Those who know computers are learning shit they don’t care about, and those who don’t know computers are learning shit they will never use. The class requires the purchase of Microsoft Office Professional to cover the use of Access. But the chapter on Access is only a week long and you are not even required to turn in any assignments. So exactly why are you making these poor college students spend this money for something they aren’t learning how to use anyway? It’s a clusterfuck. Luckily, I had the program anyway, so my bitch is solely on behalf of the rest of the world.

Bitching aside, I finished the class two weeks ahead of schedule and finished with a score of 458 out of 433. No, that’s not a typo. The bulk of the scores came from online assessments that were written by the book publisher. These assessments were so full of bullshit questions with “right” answers that were either nonsensical or downright wrong, that the instructor decided to declare 32 out of 40 questions right to be 100%. I only got the answers right because I figured out that you could take the pre-test (that tells you the right answer) five or six times and learn how the questions should be answered, so when I took the real test, I could score well. That’s how I ended up scoring 105.77% in the class.

This fall I’m taking three legal classes – Real Estate, Civil Procedures and Litigation, and Contracts / Employment. I’m taking two general ed classes – Nutrition and the Local History of [our] County. Since I’m relatively new to the area, I’m really looking forward to the history class. The Contracts / Employment law class is being taught by the same instructor whom I had for Introduction to Paralegalism. He’s one of the top 10 contract instructors in the country, and he’s already told me I should be ready to work my ass off for the class. Real Estate and Civil Procedures is being taught by the same instructor I had for Family Law, so there’s another known quantity. Even better, I like her.

Unfortunately, there is a major hurdle between me and school. It has to do with my health, and like everything else in the last ten months, it came out of the blue, shit on my head and refuses to be simple. Lucky for you (or not), this is one situation that you’ll be hearing lots about in the next few days. But this entry is long enough, so it’s getting it’s own post in the very near future.

Damned Girly Bits

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

Warning: the following entry contains references to Girly Bits and includes the words “uterus” and “ovaries”. Please procede at your own caution.


I’m a Kaiser baby. Kaiser is what I call a “full-inclusion” HMO. You pay your premium, and when you need services, you go to Kaiser. For everything. Labs, x-ray, emergency, surgery, flu shots … you name it, Kaiser does it. All the services are in the same building, and there’s no such thing as deductibles, “reasonable and customary” charges, and no treatment administered is ever charged for, because it’s all their facilities and doctors. You even get your prescriptions from their pharmacy. You walk in, pay your office visit fee ($15-20) and get your services. It doesn’t matter if you’re being seen for a cold or for a shattered bone, it’s the same fee. It is the perfect healthcare system for a cash-strapped individual. You never get any surprises.

It’s a beautiful system, especially when bad shit happens. Remember when I got hit by the RV a few years ago and had two ambulance rides, four CT scans, a day and a half in Intensive Care, and tons of drugs? Instead of thousands of dollars in co-pays, deductibles and denied services, Kaiser picked up the tab for a single hospital admittance co-pay of $200. That was it. No other out of pocket, no haggling over prices, no questions asked. You have to love that.

I was a member of Kaiser from the time I was three months old until last September. I would still have Kaiser, but they don’t have a facility up here, so that was the end of that. I am now being indoctrinated into the amazing world of “normal” health insurance – one of those Blue companies.

Back in January I finally got around to getting us an insurance plan. I had to, since I was out of birth control pills and needed a refill. So a space of mere days elapsed between the establishment of my new policy and my first visit to my gynecologist. I was only there for a checkup and a prescription. But fate had other things in mind.

Imagine my surprise when the doc was doing my pelvic, looked up and said “Has anyone ever told you that you have an enlarged uterus?” Seems that sucker was about the size of a 14 week pregnancy. And I wasn’t pregnant. After further examination (and an ultrasound), it was discovered that I have a very large fibroid tumor that’s hanging on a stalk and has semi-engulfed one of my ovaries. In February it was measured at 12cm (about 4.75 inches). According to my doctor, I should have been doubled over in pain several months ago. Since I have a very sick since of humor, the tumor now has a name. We call her Myrtle.

There were lots of decisions to be made – treatment, surgery, pre-surgery treatment, and ultimately my entire reproductive future. The doctor said I could go into a chemically induced menopause to shrink the tumor, but I rejected this idea because 1) I hate the idea of fucking with my body chemistry that way, 2) the idea of menopause doesn’t thrill me, 3) it was only a suggestion, not a necessity, and 4) the shots to do this were $400 each, not covered by my insurance, and three shots were recommended. I declined that course of treatment. Since there were other major catastrophes brewing in our lives and I wasn’t in pain, the doc said we could put off a decision for a while.

Meanwhile, my new insurance company started throwing up red flags at this person who claimed to be healthy but was carrying around a big honkin fibroid. Color them suspicious. They immediately started denying claims, saying this was a pre-existing condition. My doctor wrote them a letter explaining that while yes, the condition was technically pre-existing, it didn’t qualify as such because I had no symptoms and was utterly clueless that I was harboring such a beast. The insurance reinstated the claims and we all went about our merry way.

In mid-May Beau Hunk and I met with the doc again, decisions in hand. We came to the conclusion that given our questionable genetics and my age, we would forego having kids. That was not exactly an easy conclusion to reach. But it’s the safest and most reasonable way to go about this, so it was decided that I would have a hysterectomy on May 31st. The doctor requested that I have an MRI first so she would know exactly what she was dealing with.

I had the MRI at 7:30am on May 25th. By 9am my doctor’s office was calling my house to talk to us because she didn’t think she could operate in six days. WTF?? We saw her on what was supposed to be her day off, at 1pm on a day when her office was supposed to close at Noon. It seems the our darling Myrtle had grown to almost 6″ x 4″ x 3″, and the stalk was 1.5 inches and “remarkably vascular”. So much so that the tech reading the MRI called her immediately with the results. Something the doc said has not happened in 10 years of practice. The doc said she had “visions of my patient bleeding out in front of me”. You know, I never want to hear the words “bleeding out” from my surgeon.

Alternatives were discussed: I could take the shots which would put me into temporary menopause – the idea I had previously rejected, or they could do a procedure where a few days before the hysterectomy a surgeon would “kill” Myrtle’s blood supply to reduce surgical bleeing. I liked that last idea, but the risk there is that my doc has never come in behind this procedure and done a hysterectomy. It’s usually used for limb amputation, not gynecological uses.

Eventually I decided on the chemically induced menopause as the safest route with the least possible complications. But because there’s a 4-8 week recovery and I’m supposed to start school on August 22, there definitely wasn’t time for a full three months of menopause treatment. So the doc and I compromised, deciding I’d have two shots and surgery on August 2nd, and I’d just find a way to make school work on three weeks of recovery. Unfortunately, her office put me through a two week clusterfuck where they were supposedly trying to see if my insurance would cover the shots. Which I had already told them wasn’t going to happen, because I had checked it out on the web first. So the first shot didn’t happen until June 13th.

This is where I start my rant about non-Kaiser healthcare. So now we’re two weeks delayed on the already shortened plan to put me in menopause to shrink our darling Myrtle because of insurance insanity. Finally all the pieces are in place and I can go to the pharmacy, pick up my shot, drive down to my doc’s office so they can shoot me in the ass. Imagine my joy and ecstacy when I find that the shots were not $400, as my doctor said, but really cost $627. Each. Did I mention they weren’t covered by insurance and they don’t count towards deductible? I repeat, joy and ecstacy on my part. But I paid it, because the words “bleeding out” were still ringing in my head.

So the joy of menopause began. I kid you not, the very first night I had voices in my head that were completely insane. The thoughts pinging around my skull were completely irrational, and I knew it. Luckily, they calmed down in a few days. Only to be replaced with hot flashes, night sweats, depression and crying jags. All I can say is that my husband has the patience of a rocking horse. He’s been wonderful about the whole thing.

No sooner had the first shot been given than my doc called me, for reasons that I can only describe as being the covering of her own ass. She started telling me that I should be aware that the best course of treatment would have been to have three shots, not two, with a full four weeks after each shot before surgery. She said “And I’ve made a note in the file that if the patient requires a blood transfusion and gets Hepatitis-C, she was aware of the risks.” Excuse the fuck out of me? She signed off on this treatment plan on the front end, and now she’s backpeddaling? I swear, I don’t need this shit. I really don’t.

So I brought up the idea of donating my own blood for my surgery. She said she was against it because they like six weeks to pass between blood donation and surgery. At which point I wondered why in the hell she hadn’t brought this shit up during our consult at the end of May. But anyway. I called the bloodbank who called Bullshit on her six weeks, saying it was ok to donate to yourself as soon as two weeks before surgery, oh, and by the way, you can’t give to yourself more than 30 days prior to surgery because they can’t keep it that long. I called the doc’s office with this info, and the receiptionist told me I couldn’t give closer than four weeks to surgery. At which point I finally lost my shit. I told her “Look, the doctor is telling me six weeks, the blood bank says two, and you’re saying four. Now I’m really confused. Can you just get an answer for me?” I don’t like to be an ass to someone who is trying to do their job, but really folks, can we really be this fucked up??

I gave my first pint to myself last Thursday. I’m scheduled to give another tomorrow. Oh, and I found out that this procedure costs $300 per pint. I asked why I could give to a stranger for free, but I have to pay for my own. I never did get a firm answer, but I guess it is a giant pain in the ass to set it aside and make sure I get it. I’m still willing to pay rather than take any chances. I also found out that I forgot to ask the $64,000 question when picking a blood bank – are you a preferred provider?? I found out too late that the answer was “no”, so I have no idea what’s going to happen now. I suspect I better open up my wallet, a procedure to which I am rapidly becoming familiar.

Which brings me to the heart of my BigBlue medical insurance rant – they are again putting all my claims on hold, trying to deny them for being pre-existing. Only this time they’re not taking anyone’s word for it – they’ve requested my medical records from Kaiser for the last three years – medical, psychological, prescription, AIDS testing – everything. Not that it really matters, because I have nothing to hide. It still kind of pisses me off, but I guess I understand their thinking and don’t blame them. I hate it, but I don’t blame them.

What I do blame them for is the shitty way they’re treating me. They’ve suspended processing of all claims until they get the records. But they don’t seem to be in any hurry to get the records or review them. Also, they wouldn’t give my doc’s office a pre-auth for the surgery until I pre-paid my premium (which they’ve already raised) for July 15 – August 15. Twice I tried to pay in early July, but they kept telling me my card was declined, even though it’s the card I use all the time. My card became magically good again when I was paying current, not paying ahead. Assholes.

I did hear from someone who is reviewing the records who had a minor question about some prescriptions I said I have, but the reviewer couldn’t find in the records. I know I have nothing to hide, and the call from the reviewer makes me think they’ll realize I’m being more honest than I have to, but I still hate this process. Meanwhile, the medical providers are starting to send me bills, wanting payment because the insurance has suspended processing until after they review my medical files. So Blue wants my money, the providers want my money, and Blue isn’t paying jack shit. You know, I pay your bills, so just do your damned job and do what I pay you for!

Well. I think I got that out of my system. For a minute.

So as we stand right now, surgery is scheduled for the morning of Wednesday, August 2nd. If you are a reader of Secra, then I guess you’ll get to be doubly entertained / horrified by post-surgery recovery stories. Well, unless I end up spending seven weeks in menopause hell for nothing and end up bleeding out anyway.

A possibility that I am doing my very best to ignore.

All Prepped Up and Nowhere to Go

Monday, July 31st, 2006

I’m still trying to wrap my head around all this. As usual, my sick sense of humor seems to be rising to the forefront. This morning I woke up around 4am, and as I stared out into the darkness, I started thinking what it would be like if for-profit healthcare was like retail for-profit businesses. In that case, I’d probably be delaying my surgery until they ran the “Buy a hysto, get a lipo for FREE” special. (Offer not valid without coupon. Liposuction limited to the abdominal area. No refunds. Void where prohibited. Cash value of coupon is $0.001)

If you don’t understand where my head is at after that last statement, I’m not sure what else I can say.

With that being said … I’ve had a real red-letter day. Not only have I done both my physician pre-op and my hospital pre-op, but I bought my books for the fall semester.

I bought my books today because it will be all I can do to make the start of classes in three weeks, much less buy my books. So it was off to the bookstore for me. Get this – the books for my five classes ran me over $500. That’s just fucking insane. Actually, I only spent $300+ at the actual bookstore, because it’s so early that they haven’t stocked all my books yet. I spent another $225 online getting the rest.

My first instinct is to buy all books online and have them shipped to the house. Afterall, I always prefer to sit on my ass and do my shopping on the couch – just ask anyone who has ever received a gift from me. But the bookstore link on the website goes directly to, and they are less than forthcoming about the details of the books. Half the time I can’t even get a full title or author’s name, so an ISBN is waaaay to much to ask. Without that, it’s kind of hit or miss whether I’m getting the right books. So ordering from them is the only way to make sure I get the right stuff.

Unfortunately, it’s also the best way to assure I’m paying the most possible for these hideously overpriced books. I am only slightly comforted by knowing that, based on what I paid for last semester’s books, even Amazon and other “cheap” booksellers are not that much less expensive. But what really chapped my ass is when I checked the shipping prices to order online and have the books sent to my house. The shipping rates are based on the dollar amount of the purchase, and believe me, they aren’t cheap. So basically you have a situation where the distributor is charging horribly inflated shipping rates based on the horribly inflated book prices. Wow. That’s one hell of a scam. I should buy stock. Only I can’t, because I spent all my spare cash on the fucking books. Geez. But at least it’s off my plate, because I’ve got enough to worry about in the next few days without dealing with textbook issues.

I had my pre-op with my surgeon this morning. I had to sign a bunch of papers acknowledging all sorts of legalese – including that I realize that having a hysterectomy will render me sterile and unable to have children. Well duh! The really hilarious part is that was even in all caps. Ladies and gents, your doctor’s insurance premiums at work. There were pages and pages that had to be initialed and signed, detailing possible complications and side effects – including but not limited to: complications requiring further surgery, colostomy and, my all time favorite… death! Yay!

My hospital pre-op was next on the agenda. I had to sign the same papers and was treated to the privilege of giving blood. If I’m not on Dracula’s Christmas list now, I never will be. But I did get a look at the hospital, which, believe it or not, was encouraging. This town has three hospitals, including two large medical centers. The hospital where my procedure will be performed is a very small facility, only 15-20 beds. It’s more like a hotel than a hospital. Every room is private, they have a chef on staff, there’s free wireless internet, every room has a guest fridge, and the rooms have a padded “Guest Information” binder, just like a hotel. I only got a quick glance at the binder, but I saw a menu page and a list of available music selections. So maybe my stay will be a little more comfortable than the usual hospital holiday.

Which, aside from the knowledge that I’ll never have to endure a period again, is one of the only bright spots I’ve been able to find. The next few weeks aren’t going to be much fun, but I’m trying to make the most of it. Beau Hunk had the idea of ordering up a few dorky movies from our online account – stuff he won’t want to watch, but might amuse me. I can even use the DVD player on the laptop to watch from the comfort of my bed. I’ve also picked out a couple of interesting (but not complex) books to read, and have updated and put a fresh charge on my iPod. That should give me a nice array of activities for various forms of consciousness. Which I suspect is going to come in mighty handy in the next week.