$130,249.83. This is the exact amount my cancer has cost since being diagnosed in June 2015. Not complaining, as I am lucky enough to have insurance but when I sat down recently to look at the bills, I had an a-ha moment of sorts. Not like a ‘wow’ as we know any major illness is expensive but rather realizing that what has helped to truly begin to heal me, is not accepted by most insurance.
123 doctors’ visits including endocrinologists, oncologists, pathologists, 1 otolaryngologist, 3 nuclear med docs (some of the funniest doctors I have ever met, as a collective, to date), internal medical doctors, naturopaths, phlebotomists – you name it. Yes, all these services have been necessary to diagnose and to treat my disease. But the visits that are not documented through insurance are the ones that stand out. You see, losing your thyroid is not just popping a pill, People (side note, NEVER say that to anyone) especially when cancer and an autoimmune disease are involved.
So circling back to the naturopath, it is the first time someone sat down, took my entire history starting with birth (anything happen out of the ordinary she asked, during your birth – I mean other than the fact that my Dad may or may not have been allowed in the room ’cause it was 1976?), spent 90 minutes+ going over all the ways in which the disease, the cancer, and lack of a thyroid going forward will impact my life and has and what ‘we’ were going to do about it. Yep WE.
Next came the acupuncturist. She makes me feel like I am floating on a cloud of fluffy, white marshmallows, my head, legs and arms all softly resting instead of pulling down the weight of my body. I even realized how negatively I viewed the space in which I lived. When I saw my kitchen, I was reminded of the past two years in which I lost my love of cooking for my family and how many others came in and out of my kitchen to help us with meals.
I never talked about it. I faked it because it took long to tell people why I was so tired and I didn’t want the pity. When I saw my couch, I saw the place where I would crawl up into a ball, hoping that maybe just 20 minutes of rest would lift the veil of exhaustion. Truthfully, just moments before I’d be contemplating pushing myself to complete some items on my long list of mommy to do’s. The couch always and, should always, win. Yep, even had a Feng Shui expert come in and help me love my house again instead of seeing it as somewhere I crawl into and hide.
Pain and grief through a disease takes many forms. For me, it hid. I had no time for it. I wasn’t brought up to lay down and wallow. The same tears that would fall when I realized it wasn’t just a bad dream and that this was MY life, MY story, are the ones that made me sit up and stubbornly say, DAMN IT, cancer won’t own me, not now, not ever. I thought of cancer as this skinny stick figure drawing but for some reason in the shape of a pickle but with hands and legs. It’s nosy. It weaves into your thoughts and your dreams. It comes at you at 5am in the morning when you cannot sleep. It unearths you from a sense of calm and peace when you learn that the same week you were told you had a “mostly” clear scan, someone you know and have come to highly respect did not have the same fate.
Cancer hurts, it bites. It divides families and friends into different categories but links them all by the one same underlying belief that it could be worse but it could be better. Some advice. If you don’t know what to say, I get it. No one does. Just tell me it sucks. Tell me you are on this rollercoaster ride WITH me. Tell your friend or loved one whom is sick that WE are in it together.
I guess I also just wanted to take this time to thank the 123 times my care team held my hand, gave me kind words when the day just got to be too much, and for Joan, my Feng Shui chick, who just knew I could love my house again. ( This article is dedicated to a friend and neighbor who lost his fight too soon. #livelifelovepizza )