26 February 2010

Guess Who Ended Up in the Driver's Seat Anyway?

The phone conversation with the insurance lady left me feeling like that plastic bag in "American Beauty." But, I did not find any "beauty" in my particular wind dance. I was angry, sad, defeated, incredulous, tired, at a loss, and depleted. Like that plastic bag, I was windblown and empty. So, I put my hands up in the air once more, said "whatever" and succumbed to Ambien.

I was still in that Ambien haze when Dr. T greeted me the next morning. But, that soon cleared up when he escorted me into his office with that bright smile and hearty handshake. After we sat down, he showed me a luminous outline of a woman's body with glowing dots on his computer screen. They looked like little constellations. It was my PET scan. "It's ovarian cancer," he said as he pointed to the dots around the cervical area. "And as you can see, it has metastesized to your chest cavity," he continued, while tracing the dots up to the area in the midst of my lungs and heart. How ironic that an image so pretty could be an indicator of something so deadly.

Maybe it's because I'd been through the "cancer news" grindstone once that I didn't feel the sting or the blow of the news that it was Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. Or maybe it was because I was numb from my phone call with the insurance lady. But, it was probably mostly because, the news came from Dr. T. It was actually a relief that he had solved the cancer mystery. Strange.

Because of its advanced stage, Dr. T was going to be very aggressive in treatment: Carboplatin and Taxol chemotherapy for at least 8 sessions, once every three weeks. "This is not going to be easy. But it's treatable," he said. "Are you ready to do this with me?" was his battlecry. Yes! Of course! I'm ready! Where do I sign up? When do we start? Let's do this!!

Oh wait...there's "small" matter of insurance coverage....

I took a deep breath, squared up and told Dr. T that I was ready and willing, but may not be able to fight the fight with him. A brief synopsis of my conversation with the insurance company followed. Without hesitation, Dr. T said "Well, you won't have to see another doctor. We're doing this together. Let's have you meet with my finance office now and we'll sort it out. You need not be bothered with this. I need you strong and prepared for chemo."

Dr. T handed me off to Suzanne, who headed up his finance office. After she heard my story, she immediately told me to leave all the financial details to her. She was going to talk to the insurance company and find out what's going on. "Don't worry. Your job is to get well. My job is to deal with the insurance folks. OK?" [I think at this point I may have seen the heavens open and heard a choir of angels sing "Ode to Joy."]

Yes! Dr. T [and his crew] had taken the wheel again! Take that, insurance company! His office ended up entering into a unique contract with my insurance company, agreeing to a very low pay scale (apropos to my POS plan) in order to continue with my treatment. No, I didn't get treated for free. But it cost me much less than what the claims rep had quoted me (it's about 5% of the total cost of treatment), . It will take me a while to pay off what I owe Dr. T. but I'm glad to pay for it. It means tightening the belt all the more, but I have my life! I am grateful, beyond words to the efforts Dr. T's group put into sorting everything out with the insurance company. Not only did Dr. T save my life, but he also agreed to save it for a huge discount.

So here's to the man who took the wheel back from the insurance company and saved the day(nay, my life) with a big smile and an even bigger heart. I will follow him whereever he tells me to go. And I hope my Christian friends will forgive me as I fondly refer to him as my lord and savior, Dr. T.


Bonita said...

I'm so glad you bonded with the most important man in your life. My oncologist's smile sometimes felt as healing as the chemo. I know the chemo nurse's was! How grateful I am to Tim and Amy for their humor and kindness and warmth....oh I could go on. How wonderful that your onc team was fighting for you on so many levels. Do they know what an incredible relief and gift it is when they deal with the insurance company? Makes you want to cry. (Well, we probably did :-).

ce_squared said...

Well, Dr. T is friendly, honest and a good man. You sense that. But he's also quite reserved. I suppose you have to do that as an oncologist. So there was no emotional bonding, per se. But there certainly was the bond of a "common cause." Oh yes, and the nurses. Angels, all of them. :-)

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