Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I have....New Jersey!

Merry Meet and Happy Wednesday Family and Friends!

So, today was one of those days that, no matter what else is going on, I needed to pause, give thanks for my blessings, and have a couple of glasses of wine!

Over the past several years, I've been followed closely by a Pulmonologist. As some of you know, my sister, Leslie, passed away from a lung disease about 8 years ago. Since her illness has a familial form, meaning one that can be carried genetically, I need to be monitored for any changes in my pulmonary status.

Everything was fine, until 2 years ago when a pulmonary nodule was found on my chest x-ray. It was very small, but because the radiologist reported the finding, I needed to be followed for the next three years with CAT scans to insure that it remained stable.

The first CAT scan confirmed that there was a 2 mm nodule and then a year later, confirmed that it was "unchanged". Last year, when I was supposed to have my final CAT scan, it was denied by my insurance carrier. Why? Because I had no symptoms. Now, if I had symptoms and a nodule in my lung, it could be a bad thing, but since I only had the nodule, they decided not to cover it.

Well, my Pulmonologist and I both argued with the insurance carrier to no avail. What I now find really amusing is that one of the diagnoses that my physician used to support the necessity for my CAT scan was the fact that I live in New Jersey". I shit you in New Jersey is actually considered a health risk! Still, my request to have my CAT scan covered by insurance was denied.

Now, common sense should have prevailed and I should have just paid for it myself, but our finances simply could not bear the burden of a $1200.00 medical bill at the time. Besides, I concluded, I don't smoke, was having a blast, feeling well, so I assumed I was probably ok.

Then I learned that someone I love very much was diagnosed with lung cancer and suddenly, I realized all the possible implications of having blown off that follow up CAT scan! Several panic attacks later, I called my pulmonologist for an appointment.

It's customary to have a chest x-ray as a prerequisite to my appointment. My first order of business after doing so is trying to read it myself. This only heightens my anxiety because, let's face it, I have no fucking idea what I'm looking at and even a normal chest x-ray looks bad to a neurotic mind! Shortly thereafter, I rush it over to my doctor's office, where after several more panic attacks, he calls me to tell me whether or not I can stop freaking out! Ya just gotta love a doctor who indulges his patient's neuroses!

When I had my chest x-ray a few of weeks ago, I was nervous. Really, nervous. The x-ray technician asked if I was coughing or having any symptoms. I explained that I wasn't and that I was just following up a "stable" pulmonary nodule, convincing myself that if I referred to it as "stable", it would be. I was also convinced that the technician's demeanor had changed after she viewed the x-ray and hoped I was just imagining it.

This time, I wasn't so sure I really wanted to know the results, so instead of rushing the films over to my Pulmonologist, I plopped them on the dining room hutch where they sat, for three weeks, staring at me, until today when I went in for my appointment.

Sitting in the waiting room was excruciating! And by the time my doctor came in to the exam room, I was in a cold sweat. I examined his face for signs that he was about to give me bad news. He began by asking me if I had any changes, coughing, shortness of breath, change in endurance level. "Why was he asking me this?", I wondered. The fact that these were normal, routine questions never entered my mind. I began to feel nauseous. "No, no and no, I reported. Then I blurted, "but I'm freaking out!". I told him how worried I was about missing last year's CAT scan, about my friend's illness and how I still had no idea what the chest x-ray showed! He nonchalantly flipped open my chart and said, matter of factly, "Oh, your chest x-ray was perfectly normal. No signs of fibrosis. No nodules". I let out the breath that I had been holding for the past three weeks.

Then suddenly I realized, I was...livid pissed! I was pissed at myself for not being more proactive in my health care. I was pissed on both my sister and my friend's behalves. I began bombarding my poor Pulmonologist with a million questions. "What were they doing to detect lung cancer at the earliest stages?" "What were the advances in it's treatment?". "What about routine chest x-rays?" Was there anything new in the treatment of my sister's disease?" "Should I have genetic testing?". And finally, "If the insurance companies will only cover the cost of my CAT fucking scan if I'm already sick, what was the point of having them? Oh yes, I did!

He was clearly amused, yet sympathetic and spent the next 25 minutes answering all of my questions in a patient, humorous manner and then he said, "tell your friend, not all cancer diagnoses are as bad as they sound and don't worry about your CAT scans, you don't need any more". Have I mentioned, I love this man!

I stepped outside after leaving his office, wondering how I missed the fact that it was such a glorious the day. Just as I was about to let out a sigh of relief and take in a cool breath of air, I thought....

"Holy Crap!!! I gotta get out of New Jersey!"

In Darkness, Light!



greekwitch said...

I am so happy for you! You can now breath freely!
Brightest blessings.

Tracy said...

Thanks Georgina! As you can imagine, I'm relieved!

I'm thinking about moving to Greece! ;)

Judith said...

ahhhh too late dear! I'm NJ born and raised, and once you've lived here for about 2 seconds, any damage will be already done! Giggle You know I'm only fooling, don't you? Well, I moved for a brief stay (3 years) to Pa where my hubby assured me was clean air... except he failed to mention the area we moved into was a toxic pit of Zinc factory's!!! I rather take my chances in NJ. and came home as fast as my legs could carry me!!!

spottedwolf said...

You and all the rest of us 'neurotics'. Hi sugar ...howz trix???? go inside and visualise loving the dang thing until you start laughing at the futility of everything we ask it for the example of 'fear' it gives it and it will GO AWAY.....I promise.