Jan 09

Chemo Man

Wednesday morning, 1-9-02. I got my first chemotherapy treatment yesterday, and things seem to be going really well. I suffered no ill side effects, like nausea, during the administering of the drugs or afterwards, even up to now, as I write this, a little over 12 hours later.

The appointment was rather late in the day; 2:15 PM. I was a little worried about that because the Rituxan treatments lasted 4 to 5 hours each, and I really wasn’t looking forward to being there well into the evening. It turned out that the actual IV drip of the chemicals into my arm only lasted and hour and a half or so though, so it didn’t take long at all, and we were on our way home as the sun was setting.

The chemicals used in my particular chemo treatment are C.O.P.:

Cytoxan, a.k.a.: Cyclophosphamide, Oncovin and Prednisone. The C & O chemicals are dripped in through the IV, and the P is a pill I take the day I get the treatment and for four days afterwards. They also gave me a couple of pills to swallow right at the beginning of my treatment to hold back the nausea side effect, and I guess it worked, because I’ve felt no nausea yet. And they prescribed another pill that I can take at home, as needed, to do the same thing: Torecan (actually, that’s the brand name for the drug “Thiethylperazine”).

I’m scheduled to get my chemo treatments three weeks apart, so my next one will be on January 29th.

The pain in my leg from the Deep Vein Thrombosis (blood clot) is subsiding
S-L-O-W-L-Y, but surely. I can hardly tell the difference from day to day, but it sure hurts less than it did when I first went to the doctor about the pain and started injecting myself with the Lovenox. I’d been taking Vicodin tablets to curb the pain, but this morning don’t really feel a need for them, so that’s good. We’re getting somewhere now!

The doctor examined me yesterday before my chemo treatment and said that the lymph nodes in my neck area are still a bit swollen, but the ones under my arms appear to have gone down. The blood results showed that all my levels are looking pretty good finally, though the assessment of the amount of Coumadin in my system is not quite up to where he’d like it to be yet, so I’ll continue with the Lovenox shots for a few more days. On Thursday I’ll go back for another blood draw and he’ll look at it again. When the amount of Coumadin is up to the levels in my system where it’s doing it’s job, I’ll be able to discontinue the shots of Lovenox.

The insurance people are still showing that their ineptitude has no bounds.
On Monday, 1-7-02, mom went to get the rest of my Lovenox prescription (the one in the needles) filled. The prescription is for 10 needles. The hospital pharmacy (that doesn’t take my insurance, even though the hospital itself does – WHAT?!!) only had 5 needles in stock, so mom made arrangements over the phone when we got home to get the other 5 from a local drug store that has always taken my insurance so far. They said they didn’t have any in stock at the time, but would order it and it have it on Monday in time for when I’d need it.

Well, Monday came, and the local pharmacy said that the Lovenox didn’t show up in their deliveries for some reason. Oh well, it wasn’t their fault. So we called around to some other local pharmacies that have taken my insurance in the past until we found one that had it in stock. Great!! Mom went to get it. And they still DO take my insurance. GREAT!!

Unfortunately, they explained, my insurance has been cancelled – Your total comes to $350.00 for the 4 needles of Lovenox ma’am. Cash or charge? WHAT??!!

She paid for the prescription, came back to the house, and we called Candy about it. Candy called the insurance company and went off on them – again. We made the payment – TWICE, because of their ineptitude!! We got confirmation that they received it. I even got a personal phone call from a guy at SHPS apologizing for the inconvenience and assuring me that I’m all set now and can get my scripts and doctor appointments and chemo treatments and all the rest. The guy called and told me that last Thursday, 1-3-02.Then I had to pay $26 last Thursday to cancel the check they lost because they acknowledged the online payment instead. Yeah, the same check we sent them by overnight, registered mail, which cost a small fortune. The same one they were looking for when they found OTHER people’s checks behind desks and stuff!

WHY did I have to cancel the check you ask? Well, when I asked the guy that called if they would have the sense NOT to cash the check now that they got my payment online, he said that if HE found the check it would be no problem. But since he probably wouldn’t be the one to find it, whoever does will just put it through to accounting and it would be submitted for payment. I guess their accounting department doesn’t have computers with databases that shows it’s already PAID!!

The good news, he told me, is that it would end up just paying ahead on my insurance coverage. The bad news, I told him, is that I don’t have an extra $1400,00 lying around to cover it. “Then I would cancel the check, if I were you.” he said. Of course they probably won’t cover those costs either, for the overnight package and check cancellation. A**holes!

On a side note, my bank informed me that the check will remain cancelled for only 6 months. I guess after that it can be cashed again. WHAT?!! I got a confirmation in the mail yesterday that it’s been cancelled, and a reminder that it will stay cancelled for 6 months. If I want it to remain cancelled for ANOTHER 6 months, it will cost me another $26.00. Wait just a dog-gone minute here! Did I say I wanted to DELAY the check, or POSTPONE the check or RESCHEDULE the check? No. I said I want to CANCEL the check. Is the English language really THAT difficult to understand?!!

I wouldn’t even worry about it, but it will probably take the damn insurance company that long to stumble across it, and then they’ll submit it for payment! Aaaagggghhhh!!! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!! Somebody stop me, before I kill someone and eat them!!

Anyway, Candy called back a little while later with the insurance companies’ lame answers. As it turns out, there are 2 insurance companies involved. The one that called me on Thursday is SHPS and gets the payments and does the business administration stuff mostly from what I understand. The one that actually covers my health care is CIGNA.Somehow, they work together (though obviously not very well) to insure me. So the story is that SHPS got the payment, but it takes a few more working days for them to process the information to CIGNA. The drug stores and doctors and everyone else deal with CIGNA. So until CIGNA says I’m insured, the payment to SHPS means nothing!! Good grief, Charlie Brown!!

On top of that, mom was so flustered by the whole transaction at the drug store, that she couldn’t even deal with them on the fact that we were supposed to get 5 more needles to fill out the prescription of 10, but they only gave her 4. Mom protested, and it was explained to her by someone at the drug store that barely spoke English, that someone somewhere along the line scratched a “4” on the prescription (that had nothing to do with the prescription – it didn’t confuse the first pharmacy we went to), so they thought that’s how many to fill, instead of the 5 remaining that the ‘script called for. What?!! They called me at home Tuesday, while I was at the cancer treatment center getting my chemo, and left a message on my machine that they’d discovered the ‘script was for 10, not 4, (what a surprise!!) and wanted to know if we wanted 4 or 10 next time. WHAT??! Where do they find these people? Read the damn prescription and F****ing fill it, for crying out loud!! How hard is that?!!

I saved that little gem of a phone message for posterity. You can hear the actual message here: Drug Store Message It’s only a 211 kb wav file, so you’ll hear it right away. Just click the link and hit “OPEN” when you get the popup question for what to do with it (if you get one – some browsers just play the file). Oh, and I scrambled the phone number part she left on it, so don’t think she was quite THAT unintelligible!! LOL!!

Disgusted with dealing with that pharmacy, mom went back to the first local pharmacy that was going to have the Lovenox delivered on Monday, but it didn’t arrive in time for me. They said that since they didn’t have it when we needed it and we went to another drug store to get it, they cancelled the order, so they still don’t have it. Aaaagggghhhh!!!

If that’s not enough, even with all our head-banging on the insurance companies, courtesy of Candy’s perseverance, I’m STILL not covered as of Tuesday, 1-8-02. Candy went off on them totally this time, demanding supervisors and managers going up the food chain and using the “F” word a lot to really get someone’s attention this time. They tried to feed her more of the same bulls**t story about it taking 5 days to get it into the computer system and transferred and into another computer system and transferred some more and blah, blah, blah, ad infinitum.

She wasn’t going for it. Paraphrasing her: “We can transfer the information on our whole lives to anywhere around the world in an electronic heartbeat these days with computers, phone calls, emails and FAX machines, and somebody had better do just F****ing that RIGHT F****ing NOW, or there’s going to be HELL to pay!!” Hehehe… She’s so tenacious! I love her for that. It’s pretty much the same way I operate when things are going like this, and I’m the one that knows what I’m talking about. I wish I knew what she does about insurance, so we could both beat on them till they straighten it out. (sigh…)

At least I DO have someone on my side that does. I really pity the many in my position that don’t have someone to fight for them this way. She said she called my congressman, not JUST for me, but for the thousands or tens of thousands of people like me that don’t have a “Candy” in their lives to go to battle for them. You GO girl!! I hope it makes the papers, and the House and Senate floors, and something REALLY gets done about it. Not that Bush would sign anything that shoots big insurance companies in the foot, just to help a bunch of sick people, but that’s another story…

She finally got someone there to agree to figure out how the FAX machine works and use it, and to guarantee that I’ll be covered on 1-9-02 (today). She’s supposed to get a call to confirm it, and then I’m sure she’ll call or email me to let me know how it’s going. We’ll see if they can figure it out. I’m betting they’re too stupid or lazy to do it, nothing will change, and Candy will be back on the phone again or taking a ride to Kentucky (where the insurance people on the other end of the phone are physically located) to see them personally, possibly with my congressman in tow and a baseball bat in her hand! Maybe they’ll surprise me. Go ahead… Make my day! Cover me! I’m going in!

Tomorrow, Thursday, January 10th, in addition to the blood draw for the doctor to assess the Coumadin levels in my blood, I’ve got a date with the surgeon that did my biopsy to assess the buried suture problem. My doctor is a little worried about them doing any surgery while I’m on the Lovenox and Coumadin, because it’s hard to stop the blood flow once it gets going when you’re on drugs that keep it from clotting like these do. We’ll see what the surgeon thinks about it all. I can’t really see why the suture can’t just stay there a while longer. But then, I’m no doctor.

What a week we’re having! Well, at least it’s half over now.