Sunday, January 22, 2017

What's Next? Part 6

Another week has gone by, another slew of doctor appointments.  Mom had an appointment with a podiatrist in Green Bay for a corn on her little toe.   She had tried the corn pad route, but the situation was getting worse.  The first visit went well, the doctor seems knowledgeable but the treatment was rather unexciting; apply antibiotic to a Bandaid and change it once a day.  Mom was supplied with a Velcro closure shoe to wear to keep pressure off the toe.  We go back to see the podiatrist next week.
Mom waiting at the doctor's office
Just as I was getting ready to take Mom to the podiatrist appointment there was a knock on my door.  

"Do you have a tractor?" the stranger asked.  "My truck is stuck in a snowbank across the road."

"I have to leave in fifteen minutes," I said, and though it sounded like an excuse, it was the truth.  

"When will you be back?"

"My husband will be home in two hours," I said.

"If I come back then, will he help me?"


Now before you think I'd been very foolhardy telling a complete stranger the following:

1. I'm leaving and won't be back for several hours.
2. I'm home alone and my husband also won't be here for several hours.
3. You'd be right.

Luckily, this situation worked out well, though.  I texted Joel to tell Carl to expect a visit from the man when he arrived home from work.  I couldn't call Carl because I was in the exam room with Mom.  And Carl doesn't text so I had to get Joel involved.  I lead a complicated life, don't I?  Again, thank goodness for cellphones.  

By the time Mom and I arrived home from the podiatrist, Carl was way out in the neighboring field pulling the pickup out.  The man offered to pay Carl, which was nice, but Carl told him to keep the money and pay it forward.  We had a nice visit afterward.

On Wednesday we took FIL to the oncologist to hear the results of the bone marrow biopsy.  The news was not good.  FIL has multiple myeloma which is a cancer of the blood.  

Carl's sister and I were taken aback by the diagnosis since no one had called from the hospital to set up a followup appointment.  We'd thought due to the seeming lack of urgency maybe it had been a false alarm, but sadly, we were wrong.

The oncologist wants FIL to start chemotherapy.  My heart sank.  I asked if chemotherapy was really feasible for an 86 year old man, but the doctor said if FIL is vigorous enough, it is the only option. 

Vigorous?  Well, for the first time in his life, FIL had requested a wheelchair when we arrived at the hospital, so that says a lot about how he's feeling.  We've been unsuccessful about acquiring new hearing aids, so once again, all of the doctor's comments had to be shouted at FIL.  

I'm still stunned; when FIL was in the hospital with pneumonia the staff were all advocating for rehabilitation at a nursing home or an assisted living facility; now that he's got a cancer diagnosis and will be facing chemotherapy, they think he's 'vigorous' enough to withstand it?  However, FIL doesn't seem to be as surprised as the rest of us and is willing to do whatever the doctor wants. 

I did ask the oncologist if he were in my father-in-law's situation would he opt to go through with chemo?  

"Without chemotherapy, he has less than a year left," the doctor answered.  "I think he's a good candidate provided he can tolerate the treatment."

Another appointment is set for January 31 where we will learn all about the dosing requirements and side effects.  The doctor said the medication has a complicated dosing routine to follow.  Again, my FIL is 86 with poor hearing and MIL is not in good shape with her advancing forgetfulness, so I'm not sure what the doctor is thinking.  I'm not against assisting with FIL's meds, too, but I'll have to see what the schedule looks like since I will not neglect Mom, either. 

Back to Mom's situation; her hearing had taken a rapid downhill turn and we'd been dispensing ear drops for the past two weeks in an attempt to ready her for an ear flushing appointment.  Needless to say, Mom wasn't happy with having her ears filled with the over-the-counter drops because it took away what little hearing she had left.  She was a trooper though, and when I took her to the doctor on Thursday we had some success.  

  The doctor bid me hold the small bucket to Mom's head while she did the flushing with a huge plastic syringe and after several attempts one ear was cleared.  The doctor then went to her better ear to flush it as well, but was unsuccessful.  Mom now has another appointment with an ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialist in early February.  

While Mom was seated on the exam table, without moving, I snapped my fingers and she looked at me immediately.  

"Wow, I guess you can hear better now!" I said, and she agreed.  We're both hoping the ENT will be able to steer us in the right direction in a few weeks.  For now, we're keeping up the regimen of ear drops once or twice a week instead of twice a day.  Mom is an avid Packer fan and I'm happy she'll be able to hear the game as well as watch it.

I was at a doctor's office four days in a row last week and two of the visits were for me, too.  My IV therapy has started up again and with any luck, we hope for the best.  On Friday I had a follow up with the gynecologist which went well.  She was pleased to tell me the test results were good and prescribed some medication for ahem, vaginal atrophy.  (Sorry, TMI once again.)

I was on the fence about the medication, but we decided to fill the prescription anyway.  Unfortunately, the price was astounding; for a 30 day supply of Vagifem, the cost was, are you ready?  $600. 

I stood there with my HSA card in my hand and slowly put it back in my wallet.  

"The cost is high because you haven't met your deductible," the pharmacy tech said.  "Once your deductible is paid, your insurance will help with the cost.  However, we can dispense eight of them for $171.  As of today, your deductible balance is $9829.00."

Ok.  Sure.  Not a problem.  

I asked for my prescription paperwork back and Carl and I went home.  All a person can do is laugh; crying makes my eyes sore.

One good thing (or bad thing) I found out was Carl's work will reimburse us for some medical bills after we'd spent $2400 out of pocket.  This was apparently in effect for some time, but I'd forgotten all about it.  I spoke with the human resources advocate at Carl's employer and she said if I can turn in any 2016 bills before the end of March, we would be reimbursed up to $6000.  Up to this point, I hadn't been submitting all of my medical bills because it didn't really pay when facing a $10,000 deductible.  But this is a game changer.

Needless to say, I've spent the last two days wading through my paperwork and it's been stressful.  I need to print out EOB's (explanation of benefits) and was right in the middle of the chore when the printer ran out of ink.  (I had asked if we could electronically submit stuff, but we have to go with hard copies.)  

After a frenzied search for the bottle of toner refill for the printer in our our 'computer room/glorified closet/used to be the nursery when the boys were little' area, Carl and I headed out for a big box store to buy a new cartridge refill for the printer.  Sticker shock abounded once again; the refill we needed was $89.  Hmmmm...a new printer was less than that.  

Cellphones (and sons) to the rescue again; Joel steered us to the right store and sent me an image to show the cashier when we checked out, end cost?  $34.  Gotta love them cellphones.

Back home and a plethora of printing occurred.  I've got receipts all over the house and have at least another day of phone calls requesting printouts from pharmacies and other mayhem to wade through yet.  

So now it's almost noon on Sunday and my house looks as if a tornado touched down, got bored and left for a better neighborhood.  

I'd like to leave, too, but all the snow is melting.  Our weather has been appalling for January.  This should be our coldest, somewhat snowy month, and instead we're in the upper 30's to low 40's with endless fog and drizzle.  I know it could be much, much worse, but my skiing is suffering, I need snow!   Driveways (like ours) that weren't shoveled clean are now ice skating rinks just daring me to fall on my ample backside.  So far I've been lucky with my cleats on my shoes, but the ice is lurking everywhere.  We can't afford to fall.

  Remember that deductible.....



Sue said...

Oh Karen..I don't know how you keep your sanity.

As for the FIL--I don't know that at 86, chemo is the best choice, but if he wants it, I guess...........
Myself, I would NEVER go through that, especially at that age.

And as for your deductible, OH MY GOD.
What is this world coming to. Remember when a deductible was $10???
Funny now that insurance is MANDATORY---no one can afford to go to the doctor.
Our health care system is a joke and unfortunately, there's no way around it.
Best of luck to ALL of you.

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Dear Karen ~ I don't see how they can suggest your FIL have chemo at his age, if he can take it, and if he doesn't, they are giving him a year. Wouldn't a year without chemo be better than with? Just my humble opinion. Big medicine is out for our $ in their pockets.

I hope you get some financial relief with all of this paperwork you are submitting, that will be a huge help to you.

Love, hugs & continued prayers for you all ~ FlowerLady

Tomato Thymes said...

Karen I was not going to chime in on this topic but since others have, I have changed my mind. Ask the oncologists how long he has to live if he has the chemo? Talk to him about quality of life. How will it impact him from a quality of life perspective if he has the chemo. If possible, get a second opinion from another oncologist. This is what I did when I had breast cancer and I had numerous friends who were physicians who advised second opinions should be obtained on the surgery, chemo and even my pathology slides. Just a thought.

Missy, John & Ros said...

Karen, I've been reading what's been happening with you and your family and apart from letting you know that you are in my thoughts and prayers, I don't know what to say. My Mum had multiple myeloma. It is a horrible thing. Her oncologist told her that chemo would not help but I think that may be because it was quite advanced when she was diagnosed.
What I do know is that you and Carl will ultimately get through all the turmoil together and you will need to look after yourselves as well as your parents.
Sending you love from across the globe....

africanaussie said...

Oh gosh - there is never a dull moment in your life. I do hope and pray that you get your situation worked out, and find relief with all the bills. My Dad had been receiving chemo and radiation for so long, and when I went with my Mom to the oncologist I asked him what he would do if it was his father. He said he would stop all treatment. My Dad was very relieved when we told him, and the final few weeks of my fathers life were peaceful and pain free. God bless you and all those you take care of.

outlawgardener said...

Sorry to hear about your FIL and your ghastly deductible! Continued prayers for healing and strength.

Karen said...

Sue, I agree about the chemo, it scares me. Yes, our health insurance has really gone off the rails, hasn't it? I hope I'm able to recoup some of our losses with all of the paperwork. Thank you for thinking of me.

Karen said...

Rainey, yes, I agree about the chemo; I'm not sure it's the right choice. The Jan. 31 meeting might help shed some light on what we can expect. Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

Karen said...

Tomato Thyme, I heartily agree with a second opinion. We'll be sure to look into this very soon. Thank you.

Indie said...

Oh, no! So sorry to hear of all of the health problems your family has been going through :( I hope you can get a good second opinion. It is scary how much a difference the quality of doctor can make in a person's life, for better or worse. Health insurance is a whole different batch of scary. Praying for healing, peace, and strength for your family...

Carol said...

I feel so far behind with everything going on with you... I haven't been staying on top of blogland lately and there are a few I really miss.. your's is one. HOping things work out for all of you and that deductible is rather scary for sure. I thought ours was bad at $4000.