Renal Cell Live!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Digging Out

Tuesday afternoon Saint H came home sick, staggering with fever, headache and upset stomach. I knew he'd be home for the next day and was grateful that he'd beat the storm predicted for that night and the next day.

Wednesday we got 10" of snow. I called a landscaping contractor to plow us out, as he's done the past two years. Jon got stuck in our lane, not a good sign, but he was able to get us plowed out.

Yesterday I went off to town; the wind shifted while I was gone and I had some trouble getting back to the house. Saint H's doctor called in a prescription for him so I started back to town and got stuck in the lane myself. Saint H came out and we both shoveled, managed to get the car unstuck and backed up the lane to the house for the night.

I called Jon to come back today after the wind shifted - no sense in plowing until then. He's on his way; as soon as he's done we're heading into town to pick up the prescription and a few other things, so we can hunker down for the next storm that's due Monday. I don't know if Saint H will be well enough to go back to work by then or not.

Things were so hectic that I almost forgot about Wednesday's anniversaries - I moved to Ohio 23 years ago, and had my liver resection in five years ago. The move to Ohio was fortuitous on several fronts - I've developed strong friendships and built family relations here; I met Saint H; and I found myself near two wonderful cancer facilities. It was a life-saving move all around.

I guess the snow's a minor inconvenience, all told.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Freeze - Thaw - Repeat

My logon problems appear to have been resolved for the moment (updates downloaded for numerous programs; who knows what happened and who knows when it will strike again). In the meantime we've cycled through some of the coldest weather I've encountered here. One day last week we had the dubious distinction of being the coldest spot in the state according to the National Weather Service, with a -22F air temp and a -37F wind chill. This weekend we soared up past freezing for the first time in nearly 2 weeks and we actually saw the sun! I forget how much I miss the sunshine here, until we enter the next grey winter cycle (Ohio on average gets 30% available sunshine in winter. Ugh) And now, once again, we've settled into temps below freezing for the rest of this week at least.

Cold weather is a conundrum for me. My favorite seasons are autumn and winter. Since my diagnosis and particularly since my liver resection in 2004, however, I have trouble maintaining a reasonable body temperature. If it's just cold, I feel that I can cope with it pretty well by adding layers. If it's both cold and damp, my joints stiffen and swell, I CANNOT get warm, and I feel useless and depressed. Top that off with grey skies and high winds, and I feel like crawling back into bed for six months or so. At least we're nearly through January now.

Saint H has been diagnosed with essential tremor. He's going in for a sleep study to see if his insomnia and fatigue can be resolved, and perhaps (if so) that will reduce the effects of the essential tremor. Right now it's not too bad but we'll have to watch things carefully. I've been panicked by this and he's been very calm. Blessed man.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Usual and Customary

Today's New York Times featured an article I've been waiting to see for a long time. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General of the State of New York, has ordered UnitedHealth Systems to review its database of "usual and customary fees" covered for non-network charges on health insurance costs. The normal procedure, as we all know, is that in-network physicians and institutions have agreed to accept a certain fee for procedures, tests, and office visits; patients are encouraged to go to in-network resources so that the agreed-upon fees will apply, thus saving the insurance company a great deal of money. If a patient chooses a non-network provider, then the patient is responsible for the difference between what the provider charges and the "usual and customary fee". Cuomo alleges that the UnitedHealth database is consistently low-balling the costs, so that the penalty for using a non-network provider is a great financial burden to the patient. The UnitedHealth database is used by nearly all insurance companies as the basis for these costs. It's an interesting concept and I certainly understand the motivation behind it; the "in-network" relationship works well both for the insurance company and the health service provider.

But what happens when the patient has no choice in the matter? All of the local anaesthesiologists are non-network providers, for example. I paid $800 for the anaesthesiologist attending my nephrectomy - what choice would I have had, between undergoing emergency surgery at another hospital, or not having anaesthesia for the operation? Likewise, my lifeflighted trip from the local hospital to OSU was hardly something I had a choice in; I made it to ICU with literally minutes to spare before dying. Was I to have waited for some other helicopter with medical staff to show up? And who determines a "reasonable" cost for emergency transport under those circumstances - what comparable costs can you call for? That $5300 bill was worth it too, so far as I'm concerned, but it's hard for most people to come up with such a sum on short notice. I still keep a reserve in savings for that reason. Anyway, I'll be interested to see what happens with Cuomo's orders.

For the sixth straight week, Saint H will be spending at least one night in Columbus due to weather. Right now it's snowing (4" on the ground); we're supposed to get another 4" tomorrow followed by blizzard conditions. I may not see him until Friday at this rate. Oh well, I have lots of movies to watch ...

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Out, Old!

Well, Happy New Year. I have been awake for 3-1/2 hours for no particular reason beyond a 19-lb cat snoring in my left ear at 2:00 a.m. (thanks, Duke). The pork loin and sauerkraut with onions, potatoes, applesauce and prunes is cooking away in the slow cooker, so we'll have our good luck meal at noon. I don't know that the pork and sauerkraut routine really works but I always have it just in case. (I'm not a fan of black-eyed peas so I don't think I'll try that one)

I had my last doctor's appointment for 2008 yesterday with Dr. SC at OSU. Bloodwork was good - slight elevation in creatinine level and blood calcium level; normal white blood count; slightly low red blood count and mean cell volume. Dr. SC was pretty pleased, said I looked good and commented that he has no other patients on such a low dose of Nexavar.

Maybe pork and sauerkraut does bring luck - I don't know how else to account for the continued positive results beyond magic, witchcraft, and the man behind the curtain. Maybe if I try black-eyed peas I'll win the lottery? (I should be so lucky!)

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