Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Fun with Ultrasound

You know my theory. Face the glass half-empty and then from that space, find the half-full. Caring for an aging parent can definitely be a taxing experience. But I have found some fun things that are happening because of caring for Dad. One big thing, is I’m spending a lot more time with my brother than I ever used to.

Dad had his follow-up ultrasound today so my brother Alex drove him out. Dad still drives, but only short distances. We drive over to the radiology center and who knew an ultrasound could lead to so many laughs? Dad and I sit down while Alex parks the truck. I go over to get a cup of tea and ask Dad if he wants some coffee. Now, Alex and I are actually pretty evil when it comes to being children. I know Dad likes his coffee, but I know he can’t have any until after his ultrasound. Alex comes in and he gets some coffee. We all sit down and Alex offers Dad a sip of his coffee. Like I said, we are equally pretty evil.

We get called back to register but there is only one seat. I would normally do Dad’s paperwork but they need his signature. I sit on Dad’s lap, but I know I will crush him. The nurse laughs and the rest of the paperwork is simple. Back to the waiting room. Dad hands me his phone. I look at Alex and hand it to him. I kind of like not being the number one person anymore. Alex is the one that spends more time with him and is taking him home. Alex pockets the phone and then says to Dad, “What about your wallet?” Evil. Entertaining for the people in the waiting room though.

After Dad goes back to the actual ultrasound, Alex and I decide to tell him when he gets out that we got bored waiting and went to breakfast without him. Not to worry. We let him know we were happy to go through a McDonald’s drive-thru for him.

Denny’s is our new favorite hang-out after medical appointments so off we went. Dad wants to sit in a booth so we get planted in the middle of “old person camp.” I tell him I am going to say hi to some friends I see and Alex says,”You have friends?” with great surprise in his voice.

Sitting next to Alex, I am dying because the old man behind me is blowing his nose so loudly it is turning my stomach. For whatever reason, Alex can’t even hear it which I find astounding. About five minutes later, the old man across from us starts blowing his nose. I look at Alex and we crack up. Shortly after that, Alex knocks my elbow off the table. I look at him and he nods at Dad. Sure enough, Dad pulls out his hanky and blows his nose. Alex and I are rolling on the floor by now.

Until Dad gets his bladder procedure done, the poor guy has to go to the bathroom every 10-15 minutes. The joke is old as dirt but after trip number one, I ask him, “Did everything come out ok?” The answer is yes with a slight smile. After trip number two, I ask, “Did you find it ok?” And the joke is on me this time. Dad looks at me without a pause and replies, “Yes, I have a string tied around it.” Now all three of us are rolling on the ground. My sister ended up calling right after that. We put her on speaker phone which livened things up even more.

Dad had a gift card and Alex picked up the rest of the tab and the tip. On the way home, I tell him I understand now why Dad prefers my brother drive. He always picks up the tab. When I’m with Dad, I always let him pick up the tab. I did say that I offer to pay on occasion, but I know he will say no and I only offer once. Either way, now that there is three of us, I’m about 99% guaranteed I am getting a free meal out of the gig.

Next week we go the cute surgeon’s again. Alex will be with us this time. God only knows what will happen.


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Medical Favorites: The Mammogram

It’s that time of year for me. The yearly ob/gyn appointment, which leads to the yearly mammogram. It’s a favorite day for women everywhere. A few years ago there was all this hype because they were recommending only getting them every two years. The biggest reason is that they just cause so much damn stress for women.

I went Monday and it started off the usual way. Pink top, open in front. Arms up. Smooshed breasts, etc. Nothing attractive. When you get a good tech it is not terribly painful. Very uncomfortable, but not actually painful. Then you go in the special waiting room with the other women in the pink tops. They bring you a carnation when they clear you to leave.

“Do you want the new 3D mammogram? It is $60 if your insurance won’t cover it.”

“No thanks. My insurance won’t cover it. I already know that.” That was my first mistake.

I watch several women get their flowers and leave. I always take a long time. I start the usual mental gymnastics of talking in my head. Don’t get nervous, that’s bad for you. You always wait and worry and you are always ok. It actually got explained to me this time, partly by the poster on the wall and partly by the tech. There are four levels of breast density, A through D. I am a level C. Dense breasts make for difficult readings.

That’s what the tech tells me when she pulls me out of the room to talk to me without bringing me a flower.

“Because you are a level C, your doctor now has a standing order for you for a follow-up ultrasound after your mammogram.”

“Ok. I know I’ve had them before.”

“You should know it costs $200 if your insurance won’t cover it.” Crap, they should’ve told me I was getting a bargain earlier with the 60 bucks.

“Ok. So will you call insurance before?”

“No. You have to call them. You can use this room.”

This is when I start to get infuriated. I go through this with my orthotics too. Since when is it the patient’s job to make medical calls? I happen to lecture in the medical field and know how to be a patient advocate, but the average person does not have that experience. And even with that under my belt, I still am lost with this one. My niece works in a medical office and she explained that there are thousands of insurance companies that all have different rules. I get it, but isn’t that why docs hire office staff?

So you know how this goes. On hold. On hold. Verify who you are a thousand times.

“I’m sorry, what is the technical term for the procedure?”

I ask the tech.

“Breast ultrasound.” She seems a little shocked by the question because it wasn’t a tricky answer.

On hold. On hold.

“I’m sorry, but we need to speak to a medical professional about this.”

“Gee, that’s what I suggested.”

I walk over to the tech and have to practically force her to take the phone. She gives the woman the medical code and hands me back the phone.

I feel like pickle in the middle and I think this entire scenario is ridiculous. I’m now on hold again and this time there are two confused techs standing in the doorway because they can’t believe I can’t get a straight answer from my insurance company. I can’t believe I’m the one trying to get the straight answer.

“Good news. Your insurance will cover the ultrasound, but only if your doctor has pre-authorized it.”

I repeat it to the two techs in the doorway like a parrot who look at each other and shrug their shoulders. They have never heard of such a thing. Is that the same thing as a standing order? Back and forth, back and forth.

Finally I have enough.

“I WANT TO GO HOME. CAN I PLEASE JUST GO HOME? I’VE HAD ENOUGH.” I am now crying at this point. The techs feel terrible and say of course I can go home. I hang up the phone and I go take off the hated pink shirt.

On my way out, the techs try to nicely tell me the test can be done anytime. I just need to straighten out the insurance thing and reschedule. I ask her if anything in the regular mammogram came back questionable. She said no. I told her I wasn’t straightening anything out through my tears. I tell her I’m not coming back. And because my depression level has been super bad for 24 hours before I ever walked in the door, I tell her I don’t even care if I have cancer.

(Now right now, I apologize deeply to my dear, dear brave friends who have survived breast cancer. Several of you amazing powerhouses read my blog, so please know I mean no disrespect. All I can say is that depression makes you think terrible thoughts. That day I was sure that a mistake had been made and I was the one who was supposed to have cancer and die instead of Tim. Frankie desperately needs his father. At the time, I meant it, but I know it’s depressed thinking. Forgive me?)

Sometimes I just shake my head and wonder what has happened to the world. When did it get all mixed up? Why the hell was I even on the phone trying to get medical codes? Aren’t I the patient? I got the flower because they didn’t find cancer, but I admit I came home and threw it out. I was just angry. And I spent almost two hours in that office.

The next day my doctor’s office called. I assumed they were going to talk to me about the debacle of the day before. Nope. Just wanted me to know my pap came back positive for HPV virus. She explained it’s something you can get the first time you ever have sex, it just doesn’t show up. Nothing to worry much about though, just make sure you come every year to your check ups so we can keep on eye on you.

I always go to my appointments but I ask her what they are keeping an eye on? Oh. Higher risk of cervical cancer.

Perfect. I figured that’s just the universe being pissed off at me for saying the day before that I didn’t care if I got cancer.

I love being a woman.