Category Archives: Get well soon!

The Cost of Vaccinations. Literally.

Did you know that medical providers are one of the last bastion against transparent pricing? Somewhere along the line, they decided their patients shouldn’t "shop" for care, and I guess there’s a logic to that as the idea of their doctor being the least expensive might read "poor quality and service". Even when we were uninsured, I didn’t make phone calls to different clinics to see who had the least expensive office visits. Our pediatrician was Dr. Kidd before I lost my insurance; it was Dr. Kidd after.

Our insurance through the Evil Hospital did not cover vaccinations. We took Doodicus to the clinic his pediatrican referred us to that was funded by the state. We paid a palsy "copay" ($20 maybe?) and for almost nine years, all shots were administered by them. Our current insurance now covers vaccinations 100% and with that coverage, the clinic prefers we take the kids back to Dr. Kidd, which is totally understandable.

In July, I took Aitch in for her well-baby check which included five vaccinations. I paid the office visit co-pay of $30 and never gave it another thought until I received my Explanation of Benefits from the insurance company. I wish I could play the game, "Guess How Much It Cost?!" through my blog, but obviously I can’t, unless you’re willing to spread this post out for the next couple of weeks and no one has time for that level of shenanigans, right?

Aitch’s exam, five vaccinations, and the administration of the vaccines came to a grand total of $1,000*. The specific breakdown (I’ve included the codes for you medically-inclined) follows:

99392 – $152. This was for Dr. Kidd to tell me that Aitch is perfect.
90461 – $100. This was for the nurse to poke my kid in the thighs with a pointy object and make her cry.
90670 – $205. Prevnar 13 vaccine (pneumococcal)
90716 – $125. Varicella vaccine (chix pox and boosters)
90707 – $78. Measles, mumps and rubella vaccine
90713 – $48. Polio vaccine
90700 – $52. DTaP vaccine (diptheria, tetanus, and pertussis)

Now let’s play a game. What does it cost in your area for vaccinations?

* This is for a provider in a rural-based community in the middle of the Prairies.

Sing It With Me Now: Sunshiiiine On My Shoooooulders Makes Me Happyyyyyy

In the past week I ran across this article about an elderly gentleman who after nearly three decades of truck-driving, developed an interesting case of what is called unilateral dermatoheliosis (a fancy term for "sun damage"). The left side of his face (hence the "unilateral") is visibly more wrinkled and droopy than the right. The photograph is meant to shock us as to the damage caused by repetitive exposure to the sun and serve as a warning to reduce our risks. Not surprisingly, this has led to the debate as to how evil sunscreen is, chemically altering our bodies and generating third nipples and pus-filled toenails. Have you even met me??

I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2010 and I unashamedly admit to harping on my friends who unwittingly announce, "ohemgee! I got The Worse sunburn this weekend while boating!" Frankly, I don’t find it an amusing anecdote, and I find it similar to my 20-something nieces and nephews regaling of how much they puked in the neighbor’s yard last night after binge-drinking. It’s stupid, self-harming behavior that’s entirely preventable.

It’s been a long time since I have felt so unwavering about a topic. I’m about to get up on my high horse and RIIIIIIDE!!

What really twisted my knickers were the remarks that came up in response to this particular image (which I discovered has been circulating around the ‘web for a couple years now…), specifically how they would rather send their kids outside without sunscreen and expose them to the risks of the sun rather than apply sunscreen because the risks that can be attributed to the chemicals. Then there’s the argument that exposure to the sun is good for us and our children.

…Regretfully, this is true.

My oldest sister was diagnosed with rickets as a little girl. When the disease was described to me, I imagined that she had decided to hole up in the basement and live among the toads and salamanders we shared the dirt walls with, and that she only came up to go to school. It explained so much about my weird sister… Now of course, I was just a child then and have since realized that my sister’s rickets resulted in her refusal to drink or eat dairy of any kind (not an uncommon side-affect of having been raised on a dairy farm. Some day I’ll tell you about chickens. REAL chickens.). My sister did not acquire rickets because she was not outside getting sun, it was her crappy diet.

"Sunlight lets human skin cells convert Vitamin D from an inactive to active state," (Wikipedia) That’s the simplest definition I have found, but what’s difficult to calculate is HOW much sunlight is needed to do this. Surprisingly, it is very little. VERY little: 10 minutes a day for most Caucasians. For me, that’s how long it takes me to walk up our lane to the mailbox and back dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. Plus, our bodies can store Vitamin D, which is how we get by in the winter months, in addition to foods that are supplemented with the vitamin. That means if you are going boating, beaching or biking, you’re going to need to protect yourself from the sun for all but a handful of minutes, which is the amount of time it will take for you to properly apply it. Sunscreens are not your only options here, but let’s talk about it.

Sunscreens can be filled with lots of nasty chemicals. The kind of stuff you don’t want on your skin when you go out in the sun, much less every day and certainly not every day on your kid’s skin. I found this wonderful website that can help you immensely wade through the goop of sunscreens, whether you just need a lip balm or something mineral-free for your family. It’s Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) and this database on their site lets you look up the sunscreen you are using; research the ones that your friends have "recommended"; or to research what ones are the best to go out and get. I wish I had known of this website before our Disney trip as it includes make-up and moisturizers as well.

From this website, a bullet-point review of sunscreen (emphasis is mine):

  • Use a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 and a maximum of SPF 50;
  • Make sure labels list UVA and UVB (or broad spectrum protection);
  • Avoid products containing oxybenzone and retinyl palminate if you’re concerned about potentially toxic chemicals;
  • Choose lotions versus spray sunscreens for a more evenly distributed protection.
  • Remember to apply at least 2 ounces of lotion (about a shot glass full) and reapply often. The sun breaks down the ingredients in sunscreen that protect your skin. Experts recommend reapplying every two hours, or after swimming or heavy sweating.

Not only is anything over SPF 30 a waste of money, it can actually contain more harmful ingredients. With the new labeling requirements, it’s easy to spot the ones that say "broad spectrum". I do like the convenience of the spray, but only because I use to not like having the lotion on my hands and nowhere convenient to wipe them. Now that I can use every drop of coverage possible, excess just gets wiped off on my arms and legs. You all should know what a shot glass looks like. Imagine it full of your fave booze. That’s how much an adult needs to use with EACH application.

OK. You don’t like sunscreen. Fine, I get that it smells, is sticky, can make the kid’s eyes burn out of their heads, attracts dust, is full of poisonous shit. Well, whatever. No one ever said "sun protection" comes in applicable sunscreens only. Here’s your chance to show off your Scarlett O’Hara straw hat or to take a stroll with a parasol or wear a flowy beach cover-up. I have versions of all of those and I can’t tell you how freeing it actually is to 1) not have to do my hair just to go to the pool or beach; 2) get to use the silk parasol my husband had personalized with my name from Disney (and receive compliments everywhere I go with it) and the luxury of shade when there is none to be found (soccer field! track field! local car show! parade!); and 3) keep my fat ass under wraps.

I am definitely in the minority here in Hickville, USA. I guess I would have to call myself progressive when I’m surrounded by a sea of farmer’s tans, exposed bra straps and tank tops. I had to make this lifestyle work for me. I’m aging and my children are so young. I want to see my daughter get old enough she can sign my living will and put me away in a nursing home. I don’t want her to get married and have "In memory of my late Mother" typed in hindsight on the wedding program.

I honestly didn’t mean for this to be so long and I admit that about three-quarters of the way through, my bitch-and-complain sail lost wind, which explains why I started off so ranty and then petered out. To end this diatribe, I’ll share a quick exchange between my husband and myself from this weekend when we went to the local lakeside beach. Setting the scene: Me, sitting under our enormous sport-brella. Sparring Partner, sitting just outside of the shaded area next to me where I notice his back is getting a bit red in spite of getting an application of sunscreen.

"Hey, why don’t you scoot back a bit so you’re in the shade?"

"I’m fine. It’s not affecting you."

"If I had had lung cancer, and I knew you were smoking cigarettes when you weren’t around me, would you still say ‘It’s not affecting you,’ as an excuse to smoke?"

He moved to sit in the shade with me.

Your choice to not protect yourself may not directly AFFECT me, but it does have an effect on me. I care.

It’s Just One

With most of us experiencing early spring-almost-summer, it’s tempting to head back outside and soak in the sun without care. A coworker said she was outside this past weekend for about 20 minutes and sunburned her back. It was hazy that day, which is especially deceiving.

I had my third mole-check after I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and while the last time I went scott free, today I am sporting a simple bandaid on my left forearm. I wait two weeks for the results of the biopsy.

I’ve had friends and family explain how they’re afraid to get their moles checked out. They have so many! They’d be covered with bandages from all the biopsies!

It doesn’t work that way. Sure, if you have lots of moles covering your body, then yes, you ARE at higher risk because your body is funkifying the pigment in your skin. But it’s not the one-hundred moles on your right shoulder you need to worry about. It’s the ONE that doesn’t look like the others that you need to have looked at by your dermatologist right now.

Me? I don’t have a lot of moles. I have ‘sun-spots" on my hands and I have a very faint pregnancy mask. My dermatologist loves me because it takes him just a couple minutes to examine my skin. That ONE he took yesterday stood apart. No bigger than a mark made by a Sharpie pen-tip and dark. He may have decided to take it just because I asked about it. Why wonder later, he said, so it’s gone.

After having had seven biopsies, I do have two major scars. However, they are both direct results of surgery, not biopsies. Scars are ugly, I’ll give you that. But radiation therapy and chemotherapy is uglier. Dressed up in your Sunday best lying on a bed of white satin and air-brushed to look semi-human even though you’re dead is Ugliest, even if you haven’t a scratch on you.

Oh, Mickey. You Sulfite. You Sulfite, You Blow My Mind.

Over the past couple of months, it has come to my attention that I may have intolerance to sulfites. It’s generally used as a preservative in some foods, which THAT is no big deal. In fact, maybe cutting out foods with those asthma-inducing preservatives is probably a good idea. It might help reduce this Miss Muffet’s tuffet’. However, sulfites are also commonly found in alcohol, especially wine. Especially red, dry wines.

Commence dramatic weeping.

Upon initial research, I found that white wines or other clear alcohol (VODKA!) may be better tolerated for sorry souls such as I. This was a glimmer of hope as I just don’t like white wines (and Zinfandel? That bastard of wines will not even get past my front door.), but I keep a couple of bottles of Vodka in the freezer, ever at the ready for emergencies.

The other night I craved a Bloody Mary (spicey! With pepper!! And O! M! G! horseradish!!) so I threw one together, garnishing it with a couple of pickled asparagus spears. I soaked in the beauty, both visually and gastronomically. Thirty short minutes later I felt the tightening of the sinuses at the bridge of my nose followed shortly by tell-tale faint wheezing.

I am gutted.

At a recent family gathering, I was offered a glass of wine. I declined and explained my sensitivity. “OH! That’s going to suck. What are you going to do?”

I responded, “I suppose mainlining heroin would be considered a ‘bad thing’?

Ambivalence is My Middle Name

It’s funny how I don’t feel like updating here anymore. Every day several times a day I think, “Hey! That would make for a great blog post!” and then? Seriously. I haven’t written a great blog post since never. Speaking of which, I started blogging August 2005.

I have no idea why I brought that up since it’s October somethingorother. Which also reminds me, I won’t be participating in NaBloMo or whatever it’s called.

Did I just hear a collective sigh of relief?

My daughter still hasn’t pooped in the potty but she’s not holding it for five days at a stretch, either. She keeps telling me “next time”. In an uncharactheristic move, she also pissed her pants while sitting on my glider-rocker. As I was stripping her down for a quick belly-button-on-down bath, I asked why she did it.

“It was an accident, Mommy! I’m sorry.” …. dramatic pause … I love you.”

I bought a couple tuttu skirts from Target thinking they’d be a novelty. However, Aitch has become so enamoured with them, I went and bought a couple more. She has worn one at least every day now. When it’s cooler, she’ll succumb to the addition of leggings, but it’s like trying to wrestle a cat into a pillowcase.

I went back for a three-month follow-up appointment with my PA. I need a refill of the paxil and ambien. The thing is is that I didn’t really want a refill of the ambien because I was anticipating my evenings just so I could TAKE the ambien. He said as long as I’m able to get up in the morning and feel rested that I’m taking it as I should. And then we talked more about my depression. Actually he asked why I thought I was depressed. I told him I wasn’t really sure, but that maybe it was the miscarriages and infertility or the pregnancy with Aitch that I was sure was going to end with a dead baby and then the loss of my job after ten years and then the cancer. Oh, and let’s not forget my son’s ADHD which makes him do things that make me so angry at everyone and everything that I’m sure my fury will result in one of those rare cases of spontaneous combustion and the only thing that will be left will be a pair of hopefully fabulous shoes and a singe mark on the ceiling.

I’m sorry. What was the question again?

He suggested, as many of you did, I seek counseling. I told him I would think about it, because you see I am still in denial. Enough so I didn’t pick up my refill of paxil and ambien. At least not yet.

For Some Reason, the Only Title I Can Come Up With for This Post is ‘Angry Birds’

I called the PA and told him while I’m getting to sleep easily enough, once 3:30 a.m. comes around, I’m tossing and turning. Literally. It’s like the bed’s on fire and I’m trying to put it out with my thighs of ham. His suggestion was to continue taking the 10mg of ambien but to go from 20mg of paxil to 12mg so the nurse was going to send a new script to the pharmacy and I was like, say what?? Couldn’t I just cut the ones I have in half? Sure, she said, you can try that. Could two and half mg make THAT much of a difference, I thought?

But this I do know: 10mg of anti-crazy is apparently NOT enough to take the razor’s edge off of everything and everyone around me. Yesterday when I left work and got inside my car which was so hot and stuffy inside I couldn’t catch my breath, I couldn’t help but think of any one of the children that probably died forgotten in a car this summer. In other words, my level of anxiety is nearly as high as it was before I started the AD.

The other night while helping my son with his writing assignment, I read back to him the sentences as he had written, which included the misspellings and missing words, in a mocking tone. He became angry and tearful, understandably so, and I realized I was being a horrible bitch. What kind of person…no, what kind of PARENT does that to their child especially knowing that with his ADHD I have to be ten times more patient and encouraging than “normal”?? Just recounting my assholi-ness makes my guts hurt.

Earlier I asked if 2mg (from being prescribed 12mg to cutting 20mg in half) could make that much of a difference in how I felt? I don’t know the answer yet to that but I can tell you the 10mg less per day is definitely NOT helping. I have to decide now whether to go back to how I felt two months ago – at to at least 80% of how I felt two months ago, which was like shit – to feeling better but not sleeping and won’t that make me feel like crap, too?

BAH! Where’s my fucking “normal”?!

Like Water Off A Duck’s Ass

That’s how many of the things that would bother me before feel now. I’m almost wishing Sparring Partner was taking ADs as well and then maybe he wouldn’t blow his fuse every time Doodicus opened his mouth.

I can’t help but wonder if I had done this three years ago, would I have lost my job? Isn’t that crazy? What ifs still haunt me, but it’s been a long time since I thought about my ex-boss in a way that wouldn’t be considered premeditation in a court. Obviously part of it is finding a very comparable job after two and half years of looking, looking, and looking, but I no longer miss where I worked or who I worked with.

I’m still trying to square out the sleep issues. The ambien gets me to sleep, but doesn’t keep me there. I’m tossing and turning by 3:00 am. NOT taking the ambien means a little longer getting to sleep, but I’m once again tossing and turning by 3:00 am. I’ll keep my eyes open (literally?) for other options to the suppository-sized gelcaps of melatonin from my last post. I admit that I reread the instructions to make sure they WEREN’T suppositories.

ADs: not for everyone, but seriously? If you’re a hot, angry mess of tears and rage, I would strongly recommend.

Speaking of a hot, angry mess, Sparring Partner and I are considering finishing our basement. We didn’t when we built the house just because we had no idea how we wanted it finished. We have about 2,000 sq ft to work with and plumbing for one bathroom and a kitchenette already dropped in addition to one large bedroom space already framed but not walled.

SP said that he’s going to have a dropped ceiling installed. I said “you’re fucking insane!” That’s only the first of hundreds of disagreements this next adventure holds for us. I also want heated flooring and sound barriers installed in the ceiling and walls since HE wants to have a media center. Aaaaannnnnd….? yeah, that’s all I’ve got in mind so far.

Do you have a finished basement? What should we consider? What should we avoid? It’s a walk-out to the backyard and patio. This is the view from the outside, except now there’s grass and we decided the propane tank would look better about 100 yards away.