Saturday, February 10, 2018

Me, Too.

He was a neighbor.  He went to my church.  He socialized with my parents.  He had seven children and a lovely wife.  His oldest daughter was friends with my sister.  He was my first gynecologist.  

He didn’t have an office nurse, at least, not anytime I had an appointment.  He told me the thing he was doing with his hands was to relax me so that the speculum would go in more easily.   He made sure I was aware of his erection.  He told me that all women were filthy creatures and that I needed to douche every day with vinegar.  He said I had cysts on my ovaries and gave me medication.  But he also said the medication probably wouldn’t work so he scheduled surgery to remove them.  

A week or so later I hemorrhaged, and went to the ER.  When he was called he screamed at me, calling me low class for going to the emergency when it was nothing but a heavy period!  But it wasn’t. I could tell the difference.  He wouldn’t listen.

When I got to the hospital he came to examine me before surgery.  The hospital nurse wouldn’t let him be alone with me - there are rules, doncha know.   He was angry at being interfered with.  He was angrier that my cysts were gone, so no surgery.  No removal of ovaries.  The nurse suggested very carefully I might want to find another gynecologist. 

My family doctor couldn’t understand why I went from having low blood pressure to high blood pressure in a matter of months for no apparent reason.  I learned about White Coat Syndrome.  I tried to forget Dr. Larkin.  Successfully.  For decades.  I just always told my doctors I had White Coat Syndrome and went to female gynecologists.

Two years ago someone in my GP’s office didn’t listen when I said I needed to be referred to a female OB/GYN.  When the male doctor walked into the room I had a panic attack, right then and there.  I suddenly remembered Dr. Larkin and told the story to that doctor and his nurse.  They were horrified, and apologetic, and understanding.  They referred me to another doctor.

It was liberating.  My BP has been perfectly normal at all my doctor’s appointments since that day.  I have answers to some of the questions that came up when I was diagnosed with PTSD several years ago.   

The #Me,Too movement has given me the freedom to tell this story out loud.  I am grateful for all the women and men who have spoken out, and hopeful that all of these stories can bring about change.

Monday, January 29, 2018

My Mother's Pearls

On their 25th wedding anniversary my father gave my mother a string of pearls.  It was one of her prized possessions.  When she wasn't wearing them, she kept them in a velvet pouch.  But she wore them frequently because she said that if pearls are not worn they lose their luster.

When Mother died my sister and I talked about the pearls, and chose to give them to my brother's wife, Carol.   Mother had lived with Nick and Carol for a couple of years before she died.  I knew from experience how challenging life with Mother could be in those later years and really thought if anyone deserved those pearls, it was Carol.  When my brother died a few years later, Carol gave the pearls to me, saying she thought they needed to be in the family.  Although I graciously accepted the gift, in my head I was kind of freaking out. "What am I going to do with pearls?  Do I look like a pearl wearing woman?"   When I got home, I put the velvet pouch holding my mother's pearls in my jewelry box and proceeded to wait for the proper occasion to wear them.

The invitation to a Steampunk themed costume event said, "Here is your chance to wear your best corset and pearls!"  I thought about it for a while.  Although I dearly love costume events (especially if I get to wear a corset!), I gave it a pass.  I wasn't sure that was the appropriate venue for the pearls. Fake pearls, sure.  Pearls I bought myself, why not?  But my mother's 25th anniversary pearls?  I don't think so.

Then came Election Day.   Hordes of pantsuited, pearl wearing women proclaimed their vote with their attire.  I didn't see what pearls had to do with anything.  I mean, yes, I get the symbolism, but we're talking about my mother's 25th anniversary pearls, here!  They are way too important to wear as if they were an "I voted" sticker.

And suddenly I remembered watching Mother getting ready to go out one time, and asking her why she always wore her pearls.  "Because," she said, "pearls need to be worn or they will lose their luster.  They will just be round, white beads, not the glowing things of beauty that you are holding.  They need to be kept warm and cared for and loved."

So I went to my jewelry box and took out the velvet bag.  I poured the pearls into my hand, then put them on.  I felt their weight and warmth around my neck and realized something important.

They aren't my mother's pearls any more.  They're mine.  And anytime I wear them is a special occasion.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Is this for real? Questions about Health Insurance

Is this for real?  Questions about Health Insurance

I got a statement from my health insurance company the other day, a report of what my health care costs were for 2017. 

Background:  I am 66 years old, on Medicare and paying $134 per month for coverage.  Last year I had HealthNet for my doctor appointments and such, with no premium.  I don’t make much money so I have free prescription coverage through Medicare.  That means my total health insurance cost per month is $134.00

During 2017 I had a colonoscopy, a mammogram, an MRI, one (minor) outpatient surgery by my OB/GYN oncologist, several doctor appointments and some lab work.  No illnesses, not even a serious cold, and no prescriptions (except for the colonoscopy prep - yuck.) 

The statement said that my medical costs for 2017 were as follows:
Amount billed by medical providers $27,560.71
Amount approved by insurer $. 4,036.19
Amount paid by insurer $. 3,668.96
My share $.   335.00

So, what I want to know is - what about the $23,524 that wasn’t paid by either my insurance company or me?  Do all doctors and hospitals and labs, etc. overcharge by that much knowing they’re going to receive such a small amount from the insurance company?  

And, if I didn’t have insurance, would I have been responsible for that entire amount?   Never mind.  I already know the answer to that one.  :( 

I know at least one woman who has health insurance through her employer and can’t afford an MRI of her lower spine because it would cost her $2,000 out of pocket.  In December I had the same procedure at a cost to me of $215.    There is something seriously wrong with this picture.

Mind you, I don’t know much about health insurance.  I don’t even really understand my coverage, or the difference between Part A and B and C and whatever.  When I have questions or problems I contact my insurance agent, who does understand all the things that confuse me.  

But I do think that there is something seriously broken in our health care system if someone who is really pretty healthy had medical bills that exceeded my annual salary - and because of my insurance coverage less than 1/4 of the billed amount actually had to be paid.  I mean, how is that even possible?  What if I had been really sick?  Or been in an accident? 

And what about that $23,524 that neither the insurance company nor I had to pay?  Are those legitimate charges that go unpaid or just seriously inflated so they will get what they actually should charge everyone from the insurance companies?  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My husband died last week

My husband died last week. 

Yes, we have been divorced for a year.
Yes, we were separated for a little over three years.
And I have mourned the loss of our relationship - I started mourning that loss years and years ago until it was finally and irrevocably over.

But we were married for 25 years. 

So when I say, "My husband died last week" please understand that I am grieving him,
the person to whom I was married and in love and comfortable with for a very long time.   

I am mourning the loss of
my best friend,
my lover,
my co-conspirator in silliness,
my brother in recovery.

I am mourning the loss of the man who taught me to window shop,
and to spend an hour trying to decide which one thing I couldn't live without at the Dollar Store,
and that it's fun to just drive for the sake of driving - without having a destination in mind,
and that everything is a lesson - we just have to look for it.
And that gratitude is an action word, not a feeling.
And how to play.

So even though I thought that for some reason my grief should be less, because he was my

I was wrong.

I'm not getting over this in a hurry.

This is going to take a while.

I miss you, Ton'Ee.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Why couldn’t the doctor tell me that?

“My knees hurt,” I said to the doctor.
“You have osteoarthritis,” she replied, smiling.
How does she know that?  She never even looked at my knees.  She didn’t touch them.  What is that, anyway?  Is it bad?

Two years later.  
“My knees hurt,” I said to the nurse.  Smiling, she said, “Yes, osteoarthritis comes to all of us as we age.” 
Oh.  Why didn’t my doctor say that?  How hard would it have been? 

Last Year.
I asked the doctor, “What did the Xray show?  Does it tell you why my back hurts? It’s been like this for months.”  
“You have a compression fracture,” he said.  “It’s old, and it’s above the site of the pain.”
Oh. Old?  It must be healed, then.  Maybe it’s from when my ex-husband kicked me in the back 40 years ago.  I wonder what is causing the pain?  What is a compression fracture, anyway?

I said to my new doctor, “My back hurts.  All the time.  I’m tired of hurting.”
(After the exam, after laying down on the table with great difficulty because of the pain, and needing her help to get up again because of the pain, and after we talked about how maybe physical therapy and exercise might help, she looked at the Xray from last year.)
“No PT for you,” she said.  “You have compression fractures, right here, directly above the pain.  You need an MRI, and maybe they will be able to inject cement in there and make it better. And you need to take twice as much calcium as you are taking.” 
A solution?  Maybe?  More calcium?  OK.  And what is a compression fracture, anyway?  Wait.  It’s not that old?  It’s not healed? An that the donut machine or the long scary one?  I am so confused!

Her nurse helped with some of my questions, and gave me some written information about others, but I was too confused really to think of everything I needed to know.

 So I Googled compression fractures when I got home, and discovered that they are related to osteoporosis, and often caused by a fall.  I fell two years ago - tripped over the Cat and landed flat on my back - and I’ve been in pain more often than not ever since.  Compression fractures apparently usually heal on their own in a few months.  But they are usually up higher on the back, not down in the lumbar area where mine is.  Lower back injury is harder to heal?  I guess?  

Why couldn’t the first doctor tell me that?  Why didn’t this doctor tell me that?  Why did I have to go look it up on the internet? 

I am in a field that has its own specialized language.  I spent eight years in college and graduate school learning that specialized language, but when I am speaking with people who are not in my field, I am careful not to use those words and phrases. I am careful to use language they will understand.  If they do not understand me, what’s the point of talking?

Why don’t doctors feel that way?   I am not a stupid person, but I feel stupid when they use words I don’t understand, and don’t explain them, and I know I don’t know enough even to ask intelligent questions.  I go in with a list of questions and topics I need to tell/ask them about, and I do manage to get through my list more often than not.  But if anything else comes up, I am out of luck.  I can’t think of the right questions.  They are usually overbooked and in a hurry to get to the next patient.  So I leave, confused and usually totally misunderstanding what I have been told.   And I don’t trust Google. 

What we really need is....

As I wander around my town I hear people complaining about this problem or that one.  We have homeless issues.  We have crime issues.  We have gang issues.  And I hear specific comments and suggestions.

What we really need is a way for the churches and the police and not-for-profits and even local businesses to work together, going into the neighborhoods so people know we care about them, and what services are available for them.
    We have that.  It's called Bringing Broken Neighborhoods Back to Life and has been functioning very well for several years.   We have block parties where lots of information is available, and free food, and places for the kids to play, and music and preaching and people to pray for them.   They get written up in the Enterprise and there are lots of posts on Facebook about it.  Why don't you know this? 

What we really need is a way for people who need services to get access to them without having to find a ride into Fresno or where ever.  Because when people just get a referral but don't have transportation, they don't get to go where ever it is they need to go.  Maybe there could be a way for all the county services to be made available in one place, and help with drivers licenses and IDs and Social Security and stuff.
  We have that.  It's called MAP - Multiagency Access Program.  They will go get you and help you figure out what you need and take you where you have to go to get those services.  They had a grand opening a couple of months ago, with speeches and a great meal, right next to their office in the old Enterprise Building on Grant.  It was written up in the Enterprise and there were lots of posts on Facebook about it.  Why don't you know this?

What we really need is a place for the homeless to take showers and clean up, so they can go to job interviews and such.
   We have that.  Showers and changing areas are available for men and women behind Valley Life Community Church in the former concession building.   There is a schedule and there is a time restriction on how long you can stay in the shower - but we have that.  I don't know whether the Enterprise has covered this, but it has been posted on Facebook.  So, why don't you know this? 

Last night at a City Council meeting, I said, "What we really need is a good Neighborhood Watch program."   I come from a city with a serious gang issue, and the Neighborhood Watch Program there is one of the local PDs best tools.  But here I haven't seen any signs for Neighborhood Watch as I drive around town, or any announcements of Neighborhood Watch meetings in the paper or on Facebook.
One of the City Councilmen said . . .
   We have that.  The lady who just left is the Queen of the Neighborhood Watch.  Why don't  you know this?

I don't know this, because I don't know where to look for that information.  It's not in the places I am used to looking for info.  Who would I ask, if not the newspaper or Facebook?

So here's another suggestion:

What we really need is a good, general way to make sure all this information is readily available to anyone who wants to look.   I don't know what that would be.   Because we have a newspaper, and lots of this stuff is in the newspaper, but people don't know about it. And we have a Facebook Page called "News Around Selma" plus another one called "News Around Selma -No Drama" where lots of this information shows up, but people don't know about it.   We have electronic billboards, but I've been told it is too expensive to put unpaid PSAs on there for long enough to make a difference.

Do we have that? 

Monday, September 18, 2017

I am Curious - Rainbow

I am curious about pretty much everything.  I spend more time trying to figure out where words and customs and ideas come from than is probably good for me.  Luckily I have Google at my finger tips so a lot of the research I do these days takes just seconds, followed by a few more minutes trying to verify the source of whatever information I have unearthed.  This sometimes keeps me out of trouble.  :D

When I was reminded that the 3rd Sunday in September is National Back to Church Sunday I didn't really give it a lot of thought.  I did notice that there is no National Back to Church Sunday on the Disciples of Christ calendar, but I remembered doing something with donuts before worship last September and figured it was one of those "things that we do here."

As the date drew closer I began to wonder about the origins of this annual celebration.  So I looked on the Internet.  I found the National Back to Church Sunday website easily enough, but much to my surprise there was no back story on the About Us page.  No cute anecdote about how some kids (or adults) thought it would be great to welcome the choir and Sunday Schools back with donuts, no theological justification for the day, just "Hi!  Here are some folks who look like you celebrating National Back to Church Sunday! Sign up so you can be counted!"  There was no founding congregation.  Nothin'.


Come Sunday I was even more curious.  I asked some members when we began celebrating this day, and learned it was introduced just a few years ago.

Back to the computer.  My geek sister Leah found a mailing address on the webpage, so I searched that and found the home page of an organization whose goal is, "To reach every person in America with an invitation to a Bible-believing church."  That's good.  I like that.  Then I checked out their Statement of Belief.  And what I found disturbed me.

You see, here at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Selma we are an All Means ALL congregation.  My message on National Back to Church Sunday was about openness and welcoming every person who comes as a beloved child of God.  It wasn't totally about LGBTQ+ folks, but they were certainly included. Sadly, and according to their Statement of Belief, the organizers of National Back to Church Sunday don't recognize our kind of congregation as "Bible Believing."  We believe people who love one another should be allowed to be married, even if they are the same gender.  They state that this belief means we are guilty of moral compromise, and not their kind of folks at all.

I like Back to Church Sunday.  I don't want to stop doing it.  I like the donuts and the socializing ahead of time and the making sure everyone knows they are welcome here.

But I think maybe next year we will choose a different week, and make it about us instead of a National Event.  Sort of a combination "Everything begins again this week" and "Bring a Friend" Sunday.  And YOU are welcome to join us.   Because, you see, we believe that All means ALL.  No matter who you are or who you love.