my jaundiced eye

the absurdities of life

Category: health

melanoma’s safe space

Do not enter

No woman that I can think of would ever welcome any sort of kidney infection, no way no how, unless you are melanoma that is. My guess is that she most likely considers her current condition to be nothing short of a gift from god. Ensconced in a luxurious private room in a hospital across town from the white house, presumably guarded like fort knox, she can instruct her medical team that she is not feeling well enough to receive any visitors, except barren of course. Envision the conald’s reaction to being denied entry to melanoma’s room, having reluctantly cut short his “executive time” watching fox and friends to visit his ailing wife as a demonstration of his belated fidelity. Upon arrival, photographer in tow, the implacable secret security detail on duty states that no one is to be admitted to the first lady’s room. At this the conald’s face contorts in fury and turns from its usual mesa sunset hue, to something closer to a vibrant vermilion as he stomps, screams and massages his temples taking care not to dislodge his carefully crafted coif. He bellows in frustration that he owns the goddamned place and thunders that he just might order mass castration, if he doesn’t need the eunuchs in congress to approve.  In response, the chief security officer calmly delivers the coup de grace and informs the president that mrs. trump has in fact issued firm instructions that he specifically be blocked from entering her room. What he did not disclose is that they were directed to discreetly usher in her manicurist, masseur and personal stylist the moment his motorcade is out of sight.

Six months later melanoma’s kidney infection has cleared but she remains hospitalized with an ongoing series of undiagnosable ailments which began to present themselves just hours before her scheduled release from the hospital. Initially it was a dull but extremely painful ache in her right funny bone, then an agonizing throbbing in both of her earlobes, followed by a bout of excruciating itching just to the left of her belly button. The duration of her continued hospitalization obviously required additional space for her staff and for barren’s overnights, eventually taking up an entire wing. Due to the vague but possibly contagious nature of her mysterious maladies, in the interest of national security, the president continued to be barred from her room. Her medical team finally consented to a single one hour visit per week during which he was restricted to standing in the hall and pushing 3″x5″ note cards with messages composed by callous ann conman under the door. However even these communications seemed to aggravate her symptoms and he was eventually informed that he would only be permitted to tweet her every other week. His tweets would of course be screened and any potential triggers redacted.

The doctors are baffled, but her team is united in their opinion that her conditions are chronic in nature and would in all likelihood recur periodically through 2020 and possibly 2024. They have determined that stress is the root cause of her afflictions and prescribed a long term stay in a wellness spa, perhaps in bavaria.

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medicare/rx sux

medicare:rx sux

I just received, via the failing us postal service, my most recent medicare/rx supplemental insurance statement which shows that my plan has paid precisely zero toward any of my prescriptions this year. Yet this coverage is, according to the incessant anxiety inducing advertisements, the only thing standing between me and the monstrous vortex of the dreaded “prescription donut hole” that will suck my bank account dry and leave me lying destitute and infirm on the side of the road clutching a tattered cardboard sign that reads “will work for plavix if I don’t stroke out first.”

So, I pay about $600 a year in premiums, with a $405 annual deductible…so just from the get go MJE is out a cool thousand bucks. As any typical overmedicated boomer, I ingest at least five prescription meds daily, as well as a few almost certainly useless nutritional supplements primarily to offset the results of ingrained unhealthy lifestyle choices, which I have no intention of changing.

So in order to try to sort out the vexing question of why am I spending money on supplemental insurance, which does not appear to supplement anything, I went in search of some answers, However, the federal government, which administers medicare has, in the interest of cutting government spending, deleted customer service entirely. This move, in addition to reducing governmental employee salaries and benefits, offers the added benefit of hastening the demise of legions of doddering lowlifes living off the government’s pharmaceutical tit. But my third party insurance provider, recommended by none other than the esteemed aarp, still employs customer service agents who do ultimately pick up the phone, but not before subjecting callers to a muzak loop obviously intended to force them to hang up and speed dial dr kevorkian instead.

However, MJE don’t scare that easy…I finally got connected to j joey who assured me most heartily that he could without a doubt answer any and all of my questions to my full and complete satisfaction. And true to his word he provided a lengthy and intricate explanation of exactly how each perceived expense had actually been a benefit that actively reduced my deductible, which currently stands at $35.97 thanks to my having spent $369.03 in cold hard cash.  I then got an unsolicited tutorial on the pricing tiers of various medications should the elusive deductible ever be realized: tier 1 for example would only cost $1 for a 30 day supply, tier 2 would cost $3 for a 30 day supply and so forth. As the tiers get higher the formulas revert to random percentage coverages, which are then sliced into tranches, bundled with other medication pricing structures and sold as derivatives on the big pharma futures markets.

So according to the gospel of joey, two of my meds are tier 1, (theoretically cheap), one med was tier 2 (less cheap theoretically) should I ever meet my deductible, which unfortunately lies somewhere between the end of the rainbow and my shallow grave. My three other widely prescribed medications are not covered at all. The good news is that the pharmacy I use is not a preferred vendor so my costs are much higher. Why is that good news…because in the through the looking glass reality of insuranceland the more expensive the drug the faster I will be able to claw my way to the top of mount deductible!

When I suggested that perhaps I should look for another rx supplement provider, joey patronizingly advised me to simply take different meds. Well, that was the pill that broke this camel’s back. MJE’s response was as follows, “You sound as though you are about 22 years old and since you’re working the graveyard shift (in whatever your time zone is) at an insurance company customer service desk I’m gonna guess that you haven’t been to either pharmacy or medical school. And furthermore you are most likely not suffering from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, anxiety, depression, arthritis, bursitis, fallen arches, bleeding gums, tingling in your hands and feet, dry skin, memory loss, or swollen ankles, just to name a few common afflictions of your client base. So please leave the prescribing to the professionals and stick to convincing your pathetic geriatric medicare dependent customers that they are not being taken to the cleaners by your employer, you little prick.”

To which he replied “Thank you ma’am for that excellent feedback which I will certainly pass on to my supervisor, and have a wonderful rest of your day.”

 

spire!

spire!

Some time ago MJE wrote about the Fitbit, which I then thought was the plus non ultra in full frontal digital narcissism. In that same post I predicted the probable invention of a gadget that would document and regulate a number of bodily functions. It did not occur to MJE that there might be a market for a device that measures not your colonic progress but the dryer lint of your brain. MJE grossly underestimated several things: the astronomical levels of self absorption, the dim intellectual wattage of the populace and the speed with which some huckster could exploit both. Folks the future is now.

Meet “Spire!” The Wall Street Journal (a publication I rarely read because it doesn’t reinforce my world view) reported on a new device called, “Spire!.” which advertises itself as “your personal mindfulness coach.” It promises to reduce your stress by 50% via “smart notifications and gentle reminders.” Personally, MJE finds that mindless activities are the best stress reducers around, but that’s just me.

“Spire!” clips onto your bra or jock strap and monitors your breathing which is, according to the“Spire!”-land marketing department, a better indicator of your cerebral wellbeing than a brain scan. It is “backed by seven years of research.” So what, the OB&C has been “researching” a magnetic bead technology for 11 years and it still doesn’t work worth a crap.

“Spire coaches you to a more calm, balanced state of mind. It tracks and improves your state of mind by allowing you to discover when you’re stressed, where it happens, and what you were doing.” Yeah, well booze and xanax do that too and I can guarantee you that I don’t need any gentle reminders for those.

The online accolades from “Simone,” “Michael” and “Hilary” are so effusive that you want to cyber stalk them and make their lives really miserable. Then we’ll see just how effective “Spire!” really is.

well done

well done

Okay, so after eleven months, the medical industrial complex has finally wrung MJE dry and kicked me to the curb…my right hooter has been mammogrammed, programmed, pajamagrammed, MRI’d, FYI’d, DIY’d, x-rayed, blue rayed, inspected, bisected, dissected, irrigated, oxygenated and irradiated. Every doc, nurse, orderly, lab tech and passerby in several states has felt it, held it, fracked it, hacked it and packed it. I’ve been cooked to medium-well and am sporting a Boehner tan headlamp with a permanent smirk. Oh, that and a head of holocaust hair.

So, what did MJE learn from this experience? First off and a tad bit late for me, that the kind of cancer with which I was diagnosed is a form that many in the forefront of oncology now believe may be best left alone and monitored closely. No rush to surgery. Treated more like a polyp in your bottom than a bombshell in your bosom. Also that a surgeon never met a piece of meat he didn’t want to carve up and will never admit when he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. I also realized that many doctors are as resistant to change as the most stagnant civil servants and that a patient needs to do her homework, sharply question a treatment plan, or lack thereof, and to over ride it without feeling guilty about changing docs or getting another opinion. My health and yours are more important than some doc’s inflated ego. I also think that being a tattle-tale is a good thing for the general betterment of the afflicted. I’m not talking about going to the medical board, but if a specialist has been referred by your primary doc and you have valid complaints, you should let the referring doc know before he sends another hapless victim over.

I also discovered that nurses and technicians can literally be your best friends and are entirely under-appreciated in the medical universe. I found that getting their take on what’s really going on is invaluable. They are in the trenches all day every day while most docs pop in when required, having read the notes (or as is sometimes the case not even that) give you a cursory once over and waft out the door without so much as a by your leave. That said, MJE was treated by a couple of exemplary docs who were more than willing to put away their stop watches and take whatever time was necessary, so all is not lost, yet.

Finally MJE was extremely gratified to find that it is actually possible to get your money’s worth out of the godless health insurance companies if you: meet your horrendous deductible, then get some really crappy diagnosis, have months of complications, endless (often unnecessary) tests and a tediously lengthy treatment plan. MJE totally ate BC/BS’s lunch in 2015! Admittedly it was an extremely long and unappetizing meal , but in the end the dessert was delicious. And for once it was on the house.

the annual physical

annual physical

The OB&C is just back from his annual physical. I had preemptively emailed the doc to bring up the one thing I think might actually be lurking about :Alzheimer ‘s. His family is riddled with it (admittedly his mother had so little upstairs that it took a good long while to tell) and I think it might be a good thing to do what we can to put a plug in that brain drain before the tub runs dry. As my loyal readers know, the OB&C never met a personal medical problem he didn’t want to hold on to like a toddler to his pacifier. Sadly, his doc refuses to enable him and he always comes home feeling glum because he hasn’t been diagnosed with some terrible affliction. He was incredibly hopeful when he left for the appointment as he had so many possibilities for bad news: the improperly repaired (and still incredibly painful) hernia, leg cramps, free floating anxiety, dizzy spells, insomnia, tingling in his hands, skin carbuncles, toenail fungus and a tick embedded in his left buttock. Surely the probability that the doc might find something seriously wrong, given all of those maladies had to be a statistical slam dunk.

Instead he returned home, despondent. Dr. Lafeet once again told him that was in excellent health except that he is overweight, doesn’t exercise enough, takes way too many meds and drinks like a fish. The poor guy dragged himself through the house like a whipped dog, collapsed into his armchair, and directed me to open a bottle of red wine tout de suite and pour him a whomping glass just to get over the crushing disappointment. Good health to a hypochondriac is like sunlight to a vampire. Excruciatingly painful.

I offered to give him my breast cancer if it would make him feel any better.

it’s all in the book

it's all in the book

The other night the OB&C and I were having dinner and I was having a bit of a sinking spell, as me ole mudda used to say. He assumed a peckish tone and asked why I was so goddam moody. I suggested he might like to leaf through the informative book that Nurse Navigator had given me, Breast Cancer is a Bitch and No One Wants to Hear About Yours which might enlighten him about what might be going on, breast wise and otherwise. He immediately shot back in a highly defensive manner “Well, YOU never read the book regarding MY recent extremely debilitating medical ordeal, The Heartbreak of Hernia Repair.” He got me there. The poor sod hadn’t even had a nurse navigator to get him through the ordeal of having to be driven to and from the out patient surgery center, helped up the apartment steps, into his jams and into bed and then play step and fetch it for an interminable period of time. Nor to lend a sympathetic ear to his weeks-long complaints that the doctor hadn’t done a damned thing, it hurt worse than before, he could still feel it (that also required a sympathetic eye as he poked and prodded his nether region on a continual basis), and he’d almost certainly need another (traumatic) surgery to finally get it right.

I guess MJE and the OB&C could both take a few lessons in being “mindful” of one another’s suffering.

nurse navigator

nurse navigator

As my readers who’ve paid attention (and give a rat’s ass) may suspect, MJE’s been diagnosed with a wee bit o’ trouble,  bumpulous on chesticle. Nothing she can’t handle and she does hope the experience provides oodles of good material. But so far so boring, “Strip to the waist, put on the gown open to the front” rinse and repeat. Pretty sure everyone within a 20 miles radius has gotten a gander at my six shooters by now. Feel like a middle-aged stripper doing five shows a day. But there was a bright light yesterday when I received a call from Nurse Amy who chirpily introduced herself as my “Nurse Navigator!” Huh? and went on to describe herself as “my new best friend.” Whoa nelly, back off Ames. Besties? Hmmmm. Let’s see, can you handle long boozy lunches and rally in time for the 5pm cocktail gong, or cut someone to shreds with a withering glance or caustic quip, or make merciless fun of your family? What about never mentioning avocados, or talking about god’s will (until Jesu Christe himself comes knocking on my door and turns a six pack of club soda into a couple of bottles of nice cab I will remain a non-believer), or your golf game, especially your golf game. Oh and are you prepared to be almost totally ignored until I need you to do something for me? Pronto. Not so much eh, too much pressure? Got it. Totally understand.

But you’ll still be my #1 NN and that’s something.

remembering names?

remembering_names_10_14_14__pic-1

I just read my daily email from Luminosity, a “brain training” outfit that promises to get your mind to do what it hasn’t done in years: think. They apparently are of the opinion that I am one blank stare from the alzheimer’s wing or they wouldn’t hound me every morning. Alternately it could be that they already know that I can’t remember doodlysquat from yesterday so every email is like my very first. One of their recent tips was on how to remember names. I frankly couldn’t identify my children in an airport, nor would I want to, but that’s a tale for another time. So Luminosity said that when you meet new people you should fixate on some characteristic and link that to their name, e.g. Leroy Pantyhose: really bad teeth. Vulgaria Otherwise: lousiest face lift ever!, Stanley Mattressthrasher: freakishly large nostrils. I got it. From now on I will be able to confidently extend my hand to any vaguely familiar acquaintance, match it up in my mind’s eye with my handy mnemonic of ‘aggressively unattractive.’ and cheerily chirp, “So great to see you again, “Lusitania” it’s been way too long!” you old crone.

step by step

step_by_step-1

 

It occurred to me that about 70% of the exercise I get in a day involves starting at point A, traveling to point B where I then am not able to remember why I needed to be at point B in the first place, so return to point A. I then retrace this path a couple of times before I recollect why I went anywhere at all and realize that where I really needed to go was point C. That, my friend, is called triangulation. While on the subject of exercise, you know those little rubber naval-gazer bracelets that track how many steps you take in a day and give you a virtual gold star when you reach the bracelet’s goal for you? Why stop there? What the world needs is a model that will monitor your every belch, fart, sneeze, hiccup, cough, and excretion and warn you when your performance is not optimal: “Warning! !That was the last fart for you today. Tighten up that sphincter, you foul smelling swine.” or “Alert! You are at only 63% of your recommended bowel movements for the week, Fiber up! Show some effort. Push harder, you unproductive anal retentive toad.”

Company motto: “We make you way better than you really are.”

clean living

mstibbs4

What exactly is so great about clean living? I don’t get it. I know a number of people who watch their diets, never touch liquor, exercise regularly and are front row and center at every Sunday sermon. Sounds like hell to me. They all “act” so very happy, like the people in commercials who have just discovered a new toilet bowl cleaner and can’t believe their good fortune. It’s not the kind of true happiness that’s a result of a long boozy lunch with a bunch of reprobate friends or eating a whole bag of cheese doodles watching Dr. Strangelove. Sure they’re all going to live to be 100, still running marathons when they’re 80, then spend the rest of their overly long lives in a nursing home, surrounded by droolers, due to the hip they broke at the finish line. I want to drop dead at a cocktail party.