By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
Today has been a miserable day for me, feeling like my throat is on fire and a cough that just won’t stop. I finally had to give in yesterday and admit that hey, I must really be sick, so I threw in the towel and went to the doctor this afternoon. Throat infection, probably stemming from allergies. Damn allergies. I did, however, have a fun morning with my friend & hairdresser for years, Liz. She so graciously gave me a cut and color – and BOY did she give me color! I left with blonde and two shades of pink! SO awesome…I love her so much.
But let’s go back to yesterday.
I had an appointment at Moncrief Cancer Institute yesterday at 1:30 PM, in Ft. Worth. Oh THAT was a fun drive. There is construction EVERYWHERE between here and there, so the normally 45 minute drive took me an hour and a half. Good times. But it was necessary and definitely important to this whole process, so I wasn’t going to bitch.
The first part of the appointment was brief, spent with a nice chick named Yesenia, filling out paperwork for Texas Medicaid. I gave her all of the documents that they said that I needed to bring, and she told me that it would take 6-10 business days for me to get into the Medicaid system and have an ID# – but she said that I DO qualify. Huge relief #1. She explained to me that it is good for six months, and if I am still in treatment at that time, then all I had to do is renew it by having my treating doctor fill out a form for me. Easy peasy. She also explained that this particular Medicaid program, while it will cover most of my treatment, there are some things that it will not cover, and only covers three prescriptions each month. So I will have to be careful to pick and choose wisely which ones to use it for – I remember when my mom went through treatment, her anti-nausea meds were OMG expensive, even on her good insurance. And you can guaran-damn-tee that I am gonna want the good anti-nausea drugs!
The next part of the appointment was longer, spent with one of the nurse caseworkers named Edna. We discussed the next step, which was a consultation with a surgeon. She said that a preliminary staging would probably put me at a 2, but that my official cancer stage wouldn’t be given until after my surgery. She had a piece of paper that had the surgeon’s name on it that they were referring me to, and I could read it upside down. I thought I had read it wrong, so I asked, “Does that say Dr. Carolyn Garner?” She said, “yes?” I was like, “Out of Denton Regional? Cute little soft-spoken redheaded doctor?” She said, “yes?” I said, “Well that can’t be right. She is an endocrinologist. Does thyroid surgery. I know her. My friends know her. My mother just had her thyroid removed by her about six weeks ago!” Edna looked at me and said that she has dual specialties: endocrinology surgeries and breast surgeries. Ohmygod seriously? THAT is awesome! Huge relief #2. I would totally go to her in a heartbeat, plus I am already in her system because I had a consultation with her about my own thyroid last year, when I briefly had insurance. That took a huge weight off of my back! I would definitely rather have surgery at one of the bigger hospitals than at Denton Regional, but I trust this surgeon, so I know it will all be good.
Once we got this part out of the way, we discussed various things regarding treatment, and what to expect as best that I can. She said that because of my age and family history, that they want to do genetic testing on me, for the BRAC gene. She said that they want to do it right away, so that the results can go to the surgeon, and we can make a definitive decision regarding surgery. If I am positive for the gene, then I have the option of having both breasts removed and it would be covered completely; while if I am negative, then only the affected breast is eligible for surgery and reconstruction. If I am positive, they will also test my two boys for the gene; because men can get it, too, as well as pass to their daughters (and one of my boys already has one of those!). If I am negative, I could still have the unaffected breast removed electively, but it would likely be out of pocket. I have been saying, for many years now, that if I ever get hit with this type of cancer, then I would for sure want to have them both removed. And I still say that now. I don’t want to ever go through this again! Take them both, take them now.
So now I am expecting a call from the genetics department. She also said that I would get a call from one of their social workers, who will keep connected with me during the course of my treatment, to make sure that I have everything and all of the support that I need. They have support groups. They will be mailing me an A to Z book about breast cancer, since they were out of it yesterday while I was there. I gotta say, this place, Moncrief Cancer Institute, is an amazing place. Nothing but positive people, pushing calm, peacefulness that is full of hope and light. Next week on Wednesday, I am supposed to call and check the status of my Medicaid. If I am in the system, I can get the ID# and make my appointment with Dr. Garner. From what I can tell, with genetics testing (and waiting the 14 days for the results) and any additional testing that Dr. Garner may want to do, I will likely be having surgery around mid-April.
With what I have had to take in during this short time so far, I am glad that it is finally moving along. My biggest fear, in the beginning, was the fact that I had no insurance. I am SO thankful for the programs that exist, for the knowledge to find them, for a great doctor’s office to direct me, and for the grants & donations that fund these programs. I have had amazing support from family and friends, both near and far, in person and across the world of Facebook. My dear friend, Madge, stepped up immediately and set up a fundraising site online for people to donate towards – and after three days she has gotten over $3000! I am overwhelmed and blown away by the humanity of my friends, her friends, and many people who don’t know me at all yet have graciously given a donation! This money will help SO much in the absence of my income, and will help pay the bills that I usually cover, as well as gas to and from all of the countless appointments. Thank you just doesn’t seem like enough. I am humbled and honored by each person who selflessly gave, and will keep it with me always so that I can someday pay it forward.
Onward we go. One foot in front of the other. One step at a time, one day at a time.