When you’ve got your health (you can write more)

24 Feb

I’d told my friends it wasn’t a secret, so it wasn’t a surprise when I started getting emails and DMs about where I’ve been for the last 2 weeks. I don’t usually write such personal blogs, but since this has been put out there, I thought I’d do The Big Share.

If you haven’t met me (or seen that author photo Jeannie Lin made useable for me) then I’ll tell you: I’m pale, blond with light eyes, of almost 100% Irish decent and have a history of skin cancer in my family.

I’m guessing you’re guessing where this is going.

The last few years have been hard. I know you know that. You watched me struggle after my last job went south with getting rid of my apartment and car, selling my furniture and a good portion of my belongings, the rest being subjected to a flood where they were stored (not once, but twice) and generally just struggling to find contract work and retail jobs to stay above water. I’d always been one of those “But I have my health” people because when I was in college I didn’t have my health (a situation that could return but I’ve been blessed that it never has – a definite blessing!)

It had been a few years since I’d had to have something biopsied (it was benign) but a few weeks ago I was trying on a dress at a store. But, here’s the funny part. The dress zipped fine on the hanger, but on me it got stuck. So I went out to the three-way mirror to see what it was stuck on and instead saw not one, but two blotches that fit the ABCD Rule. When I stopped hyperventilating, I took the dress off and… yeah. It zipped just fine again off the hanger. We still don’t know what it was stuck on (it was too big anyway, not that I was in the mood to buy anything right then.)

I went home, had a friend take a picture of them and called my doctor. My primary care phsysician has been great. The office always answers things on the phone when they can. After seeing the photos I’d sent over, she said, “You need to be seen right away.” The only appointment they had was for 2 months from then and she was adament that we’d have to work something else out because that wasn’t soon enough for the evidence she was seeing.

*cue panic*

Now, the panic comes in waves at this point. I had no idea how long they’d been there since I can’t see them (and no one else could either since I don’t go out topless. I know, I live such a boring life, right?) – also, and this is where I’ll refrain from ranting – I didn’t have health insurance.

I’m in the lovely state of Massachusetts where you’ve been told we all magically have health insurance. This is a lie, but that’s another blog. Quickest summary: I’ve been un/underemployed for 4 years. I’ve been trying to get on Mass Health. By the time I somehow was told I didn’t qualify (even though my tax returns say I should have been qualifying all 4 years) I’d timed out of my opportunity to sign up for the Health Connector for this year…by 4 business days. And was told, Oh, well.

I started calling to get prices for uninsured testing in my state. Every freaking place gave me a lecture on the legality of not having health care. Not one person believed me that I was currently fighting the state to be allowed to pay for health insurance out-of-pocket. This has become the medical attitude here. It’s something that’s been discussed, blogged about and covered in newspapers. Also, all of our clinics are closed so there’s no such thing as those cheap walk-ins any more… you know, because we all have health care *not*

The cost (obviously) wasn’t doable. One of the downsides of living in MA is that we have some of the best hospitals in the world. People try to come here to study, work, intern and get help…and so the cost is out of control.

On the other hand, my mother lives in South Carolina. Let’s just put it this way, to walk into a skin care clinic (yes, one that specializes and everything) there costs about 21% of one up here – and that’s just the “sit in here and put this paper fake-shirt thing on” cost.

So, I drove down there and saw the specialist. And, wow – what an amazing experience. They were great. They worked with me around testing and cost and all that stuff no one up here worries about any more since we have forced health coverage (is still grumbling because she just got the FINE she has to pay for being turned down by the state…and done again.)

As I was saying before my grumpy alter ego interrupted us: The doctor was amazing. After she asked me where I got my shoes, she tested what needed to be tested, she said she was doing deeper cuts on the new ones because if they were bad she’d get them all and I wouldn’t have to pay to come back, she kept me calm (I hate needles – I threatened to throw up on here).

The needle work itself was way easier than I remembered (which makes me think I need a new dermatologist up here). I was numb from the injections for a while which made the drive back to my mom’s a piece of cake 🙂  The next couple days were sore and itchy. The biopsies were all in awkward places that mean I can’t do weights or cardio. I’ve been feeling grouchy about trying to stay sedentary so the ones in bendy places will heal.

The waiting wasn’t bad as bad as the trying-to-find-a-way-to-get-tested part. Once the tests were done, you’ve done your part until you get a call, so you try to keep the it-is-what-it-is thing going.

After a week and a half I had to call the doctor and see if there was an answer yet. You’re not supposed to call them for 10 business days, but I’d been offered a job interview back and MA and couldn’t leave if I was going to have to get further treatment.

The biopsy woman had actually been leaving but went back to open the lab back up when she heard the receptionist on the phone with me. (I mentioned they were all seriously nice, right?)

Her answer was: You’re clean to leave. There’s no current next step needed. I can’t tell you the diagnosis beyond that over the phone myself.

Of course, I have thoughts of what that means. I’m fine with it having been a bad pull if it’s all gone and taken care of. And, I’m ready to be back to being healthy because, when you (and those you love) have good-health so much else is just details, right?

Now, still sore and itchy – still unable to workout – I’ve got to get myself interview ready, catch-up on the HUNDREDS of emails I got while not online, rework some edits some more, get in some contest scorecards by tomorrow and basically just catch up with life. I’ll admit it, I’m amazingly behind. Focus is hard even when you’re resigned to something.

But, after the last six weeks? Yeah, you won’t hear me complaining 🙂

Do me a favor? Get screened. This isn’t my first time getting tested, and they were both self-located. Don’t trust your yearly check-up, your masseuse, a lover or anyone else who sees your skin to tell you if something is questionable. If you can’t afford it, here’s a site to find FREE SKIN CANCER SCREENINGS.

Hold onto your health.

10 Responses to “When you’ve got your health (you can write more)”

  1. wartica February 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Thanks for sharing ; I was wanting to move to Mrytle beach and it’s nice to know they have quality skin care places. Great post and I look forward to sharing more with you:)

  2. abby mumford February 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

    this post exemplifies your brave spirit. i’m sorry MA was so annoying re: health care, but i’m so glad SC welcomed you with open arms. i’m even more glad to hear you’ve gotten not only a pretty much clean bill of health, but a job interview to boot. 2012’s going to be your year. i know it.

  3. briaq February 24, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    Thanks Wartica – I was really pleased with the service and doctor. It’s not costal, but if you move and don’t find one you like, let me know and I’ll email you the names.

    Abby – I’m a big chicken! You know that 😉 So glad to be able to get home and back into a routine again! Thanks 🙂

  4. jessicacorra February 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    GUH. I DID wonder where you’d gotten to. 😦 So glad you got a clean bill though, that’s scary. I don’t have health insurance either and I was always a hypochondriac, so it’s made it so much worse. stupid anxiety.

  5. briaq February 24, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

    Thanks hun – This taught me to do your research. Yes, it’s still going to be really expensive – but not CRAZY expensive. And, I got great care near someone/somewhere I can go for follow up… give up that anxiety – don’t borrow tomorrow’s stress.

  6. Chrissy February 24, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    I’m crazy glad you’re ok. Mass Health is such a wonderful idea, but like anything run by the government, it’s a mess.

    Many, many people give up ever finding a primary care physician so they can stay in the system. 😦

  7. briaq February 24, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    Thanks 🙂

    It’s such a mess. Vicarious Writing Girl is relatively high up in the healthcare circuit and it’s a constant discussion for us.

    Good idea: Everyone should have access to affordable healthcare.

    Bad idea: If you can’t afford it, you get hit with a huge fine. If you try to get on the program and are rejected, you get hit with a huge fine. If you miss the ONE month a year you can sign up for it, you get hit with a huge fine.

    That’s not democracy. *sigh*

  8. Erin Knightley February 24, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    I’ve definitely been there . . . well, minus the health insurance issues (sucks, sweetie). I have two, enormous, fugly scars on my back from having to have pre-cancerous (meaning they WOULD turn into cancer in time) moles removed. Every time I wear a bathing suit, someone asks what the heck happened to my back (wildebeest attack? extra spine removed? alien probing?).

    Yeah, it was a really scary call to get that I had to have them surgically cut out (10 stitches from one, 12 for the other), and I’ll forever have those big scars, but you know what? It’s a hell of a lot prettier than cancer. So yes – get screened, people! And point out the ones that worry you – one of the spots my doctor thought was fine, but I asked her to test anyway.

    So glad you are well again! (even if all that fining is utter bullcrap. grrr).

  9. briaq February 24, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    It’s way prettier than cancer…and you’re gorgeous to begin with! Yeah, I’m not psyched about the scars (and they left the two ugly ones they don’t think need to be tested “now” so it’s all around lose on the looks part LOL) — but, that’s a great mantra: It’s prettier than cancer!

  10. Sabrina February 28, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    I’m so sorry you had to go through that but I’m happy to hear everything has turned out okay. Thank you for posting about this because it’s so important for everyone to check themselves and visit a doctor to have their spots checked.

    I’ve personally had 1 pre-cancerous spot removed from my back – which now looks Iike I was knifed in the back LOL (at least that’s the way more creative story I tell people) and also an actual cancerous spot on my right forearm removed.

    About the cancerous spot – it’s exactly the reason patients should never wait for their doctor to call them with test results. I had been going to the same doctor for years. Like clockwork I go 1 time year. They took 2 biopsies one time and they say they will call “only if something is wrong.” I never got a call so I figured I was fine.

    Cue setting my apppointment 1 year later…the receptionist goes to schedule me and says “Oh, can you have the file sent over from the doctor who removed your cancerous spot.”

    Um what?!?

    Yep. They had never called to tell me I had an actual cancerous mole. It was marked in my file that I had been contacted, but I received nothing from them. No call. No letter.

    So please, always call your doctor for results no matter what they say. I was so lucky that mine had not advanced more, but it could have turned out very differently.

    Thanks Bria for sharing!

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