Good News at the Oncologist but Bad News from the Insurance Company (which is nothing new)

So I was back to the oncologist for my 4 month check-up.  My labs were good and there is still no evidence of disease (NED), which I am so thankful for.  I’ve seen many women using the term “cancer-free” instead of NED.  This is a misnomer.  I’ve said it before but it bears repeating – once you are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer there is no such thing as “cancer-free.”  Cancer-free suggests the cancer is gone, disappeared, never to return again, but once breast cancer becomes invasive (the cancer cells spread outside the milk duct or lobules and into the normal tissue inside the breast), all bets are off.  Even with clear surgical margins and adjuvant therapies such as chemo, radiation and/or hormone blockers, those little buggers can hide anywhere for any length of time.  If like me you’ve had lymph nodes test positive then that’s another strike against you.  There is a lot of talk about recurrence and factors that go into projecting when breast cancer may return.  One common thread I have come across in my research is that making it to the ten year mark is a good sign of long term survival.  I just passed the two and a half year mark since my initial diagnosis and while I want to get to the ten year mark as quickly as possible, I also don’t want to wish my life away.  I try not to dwell on the negative and what “might” happen, but I do feel compelled to educate as often as possible.  “Awareness” is not just knowing we need our mammograms, we need to understand the devil we are up against.

Now stepping down from my soap box, I am also very sad to report that I am losing my oncologist.  I received a notification from my insurance company that my premium will likely increase by up to $200, so I’m looking at about $700 per month next year, just for me.  And as if that isn’t bad enough, Dignity Health and its physicians will no longer be a part of my network in 2018.  My oncologist is part of Dignity Health.  I filled out a form that purports to petition the insurance company for continuing coverage from a doctor that a patient saw for life-saving treatment but is now out of network, but I am told all of these applications have been thus far, denied.  My oncologist is like a father figure to me.  He made me feel like everything will be okay.  He saw me through one of the lowest parts of my life.  For two and a half years, he has been my knight in shining armer.  He “gets it.”  For a cancer survivor, having this doctor ripped away is both frightening and heartbreaking, like losing a sense of security.  But, there is not really anything that can be done about it.  I could continue to see him and pay out of pocket and he would probably give me a contracted provider price, but nothing would go toward my deductible.  And God forbid what if I have a recurrence?  I cannot afford out of network treatment.  So, I will suck it up, put on my big girl pants and hopefully find another oncologist that is as wonderful as he is.

We just celebrated Thanksgiving so I want to mention how thankful I am to God for putting me on this path, no matter how dark it seems at times, He has lifted me up and given me perseverance and strength to face whatever lies ahead.  I am thankful for my family and friends who stuck by me during these last couple of very challenging years and all the new friends I have made along the way.  Something new I’m thankful for is our dog Amber who is a rescue we adopted in August.  She is a one year old Australian Shepherd mix.  It had been about a year and a half since our sweet dog Sammy crossed the rainbow bridge and it was time to give all of our love to another soul in need.