Our friend Jack Jiampetti took the above picture at sunset of the first storm of this year’s monsoon season. After the hottest June in 130 years, this is a major cause for celebration in these parts. The desert comes alive after these rains and the storms are great fun to watch as they are forming, followed by thunder and amazing lightning shows. We love the monsoon season.
For nearly two weeks I have been fighting fevers reminiscent of those days when I was undergoing treatment with the Enad experimental oncolytic virus. My normal temperature is in the 97 range. When it gets to 99 my cough really begins to increase in intensity and frequency. If I reach 100 I get chills and have coughing spasms. So we have been aggressively using Tylenol and Ibuprofen to fight it. Between the fever and the coughing, I have felt rather exhausted. In fact I pulled some muscles from the intensity of the coughing.
We assumed that I had an infection, but at our meeting on Monday, Dr M. felt it might be tumor fever generated by my liver tumors which have been growing. My left lung didn’t sound bad, but not quite right so he gave us a prescription for antibiotics just in case. After taking them for two days, my temps remain too high but the chills have gone and I feel a tad better. The primary reason for the appointment was to close out the clinical trial, but also to go over the recent blood biopsy and the biopsy of my liver. Unfortunately the data from the liver biopsy hadn’t arrived yet, but the blood biopsy did reveal some interesting changes from the blood biopsy taken in December. Dr. P, my primary oncologist, and Dr. M, my research oncologist, were residents together and have remained friends over the years. They recently discussed my case and the plan is to develop treatment based on the results of the biopsies.
We also met with my pulmonologist on Monday. He changed my lung medication for my cough and it seems to be more effective, but I’ve only used it for a day at this point in time.
This past week has seen a plethora of insurance bullshit including:
1. Banner, a large hospital chain based in Phoenix that purchased the University of Arizona medical facilities (including the cancer center), likes to charge a “facility fee” of $150 just because they want to, not for any services rendered. This is similar to the days when car dealers charged “additional dealer profit” or high end hotels who charge a “resort fee.” The net result is that my co-pay is $112.48 for a blood draw. In a trial there can be 10 draws a month. After hours of talking to my insurance and Banner to no avail, I am in process of appealing to Medicare. This is bullshit, I say.
2. Most of the best clinical trials in AZ are in Scottsdale at Honor Health, Virginia Piper Cancer Center, and Pinnacle Oncology. All three accepted my Cigna insurance. In fact I had signed up in March for a trial at Pinnacle, but changed to the trial at the U of A Cancer Center. Cigna didn’t like that they weren’t given sufficient written notice of the merger so they cancelled their contract. For me, that means my options for new clinical trials within AZ just shrank by about 80%. More bullshit.
3. Yesterday Lee drove an hour to see her doctor only to be told she had no coverage due to failure to pay. Well that’s odd since it is on auto pay. Upon research, when I set it up this January for the new amount I was off by 6 cents. My payment ended in a “2”, it should have been an “8.” This meant that each month was increasing in the underpaid amount. By July the amount of underpayment had reached an outrageous 42 cents. They are actually in process of terminating Lee’s insurance. Keep in mind there was no notice given to us, no warning at all. I was on the phone to them for an hour and Lee was also on the phone when she got home. Lee filed a grievance and we should hear back in a few days. Outrageous bullshit.
So among all this gloomy business of no known treatment on the horizon, no kitties in the house, and no health insurance for Lee, we do have some good news. We are looking forward to this weekend with a visit from Lee’s sister and family. They will arrive on Bastille Day and we have plenty of French wine and cheese in need of consumption. Laissez la fete commencer! That is my bullshit French for “let the party begin.”
Also, our neighbors John and Sandy just dropped a loaf of my favorite olive bread, fresh from the oven at Barrio Bread in Tucson. Mmmmmm. No bullshit, just seriously outstanding bread. Thank you, amigos.
Below is my latest column from the Green Valley News, which can also be ready online at http://www.gvnews.com/opinion/asbell-ignorance-not-bliss-with-cancer/article_750f785e-63f3-11e7-af80-1b3ece239ab8.html