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St. Caesarius Nazianzen

No greater love hath any woman than to wipe up blood for her friend.  Which is why I am so grateful to have Ms. Jones as my work friend and lunch buddy.  Cuz, dudes, the last few days have not been pretty.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me back up a little.

Last time I wrote about my ongoing Fun With Health, I believe I had just had my first visit with the specialist.  For those who are just jumping into the story (feel free to skip the rest of this paragraph if you’ve been following along), I was seeing a specialist because back in October my regular monthly cycle turned into insane bleeding, which landed me in the ER receiving my first ever blood transfusion.  They discovered a “mass” on or near my uterus which they thought might be either a large fibroid or possibly a benign ovarian tumor.  I had surgery in December, during which they discovered that it was a quite large fibroid (10 cm – about the size of a small grapefruit) embedded in the wall of the uterus.  The doctor didn’t think he could take it out without doing a hysterectomy, which I had been very clear that I did not want.  So they patched me up, and told me to go see a specialist.  So I did.  And now you’re pretty much caught up.

The first specialist recommended that I take two months of a hormonal chemotherapy drug to hopefully shrink the fibroid (which I’m sometimes tempted to name, except I don’t like it that much), followed by abdominal surgery.  I was ok with the surgery, but I really didn’t like the drug he wanted me to take.  The side effects start out with migraines, insomnia, upset stomach, hot flashes, increased irritability, mood swings and depression, and go from there into short term memory loss, muscle and joint pain, bone loss, and suicidal thoughts.  Among others.  The more I found out about it, the more it sounded like a horror show.  So I went to see another doctor, hoping that they would have another way I could go.

Unfortunately, the answer turned out to be no.  She did give me some good information, and some hope that perhaps this drug might not be quite as awful as I am afraid it will be.  However, in the end her proposed plan of treatment was four months on the drug instead of two, and a different version of the same surgery afterwards.  Six of one, half a dozen of the other.  Except when it comes down to it, two months on the drug is far preferable to four, and I think in my case the open surgery makes more sense.  So after much angst, hand-wringing, and cranky whining, I decided to go with the first doctor’s plan.

At that point things got even more interesting.  I took my prescription over to my friendly neighborhood pharmacist to check out how much this horrible drug was going to cost me.  As soon as I saw the look on his face, I knew it was going to be bad.  Turns out that, since it’s early in the year and I haven’t met my insurance deductible yet, a one month dose of this drug would cost $879.  Yep.  You read that right.  For one month.  Friends, that’s more than my entire paycheck.  It was a stunner.

After passing through the usual Bernadette stages of dealing with things (numb/overwhelmed, frustration/anger – complete with a rant about Institutionalized Misogyny in the Medical System, anxiety, the optional detour into emotional paralysis, and whining), I decided to ask for help.  My work has an employee mutual aid society – employees contribute to it, and can ask for help when hit by big, bad, unexpected things.  It took me a while to write my application, since all my early drafts were still filled with too much whine.  However, eventually it was done and in the committee’s hands.

Last Thursday I got my results: the committee approved paying for my first month on the drug.  They wanted to pay for both months, but when they independently verified exactly how much it was, they couldn’t cover both.  Fortunately, we discovered that once the first month of the drug is paid for, I will be very close to hitting my deductible.  That means that for the second month, I’ll just have to pay off the rest of the deductible, plus the prescription co-pay.  That puts it in the painful but doable range.  So at long last I can start moving forward.

So this is how things look: you have to start taking the drug at a certain point in your monthly cycle, which for me will be between March 10 & 15.  I’ll finish my two month treatment about May 15, at which point the doctor will hustle me pretty quickly into surgery.  So I’ll probably be having my surgery about the third week of May, and then be off work for six weeks.  That takes us up to the beginning of July.  And then maybe at long last this whole thing will be over.

Which brings us up to yesterday.  I think I must have been feeling a little bit too relieved, a little too confident that I could at long last see a way towards a manageable future.  Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking either.  Cuz remember the insane, terrifying bleeding from last October?  Yeah, it’s back.  With a bang.  Starting as I was leaving the cafeteria after lunch yesterday.  Which is why I will never stop being grateful that Ms. Jones decided to walk back up to my office with me.  There are times when having a friend with you who doesn’t hesitate to do what’s necessary makes all the difference.

Hopefully this go-round will be shorter than last time.  We’re also hoping to avoid another trip to the ER.  I was able to call my doctor’s office very soon after it started.  They called in a prescription, which is supposed to slow things down.  It seems to be working.  At least I think it is.  Soon I’ll start the meds I don’t want to take, and hopefully before I know it, my surgery date will be here.  It can’t come soon enough.

St. Caesarius Nazianzen, physician, pray for us!