Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanks Obama!

Just thought I'd throw my two cents in ...

For the past 7 years, my health insurance has been through the Texas Insurance Risk Pool.  It's insurance for people with pre-existing conditions who are unable to obtain an individual health insurance policy through regular avenues.  Since we have our own business, and it's a small business, we are ineligible for a group policy.  So the pool has been a godsend!  The premiums are about double what a healthy person would pay, but thankfully we have been able to afford it.  Well, let's say we have made it a priority in our lives because we can't afford the alternative of having cancer and no insurance.  We have always "played by the rules" in that we have never been without health insurance, always doing what we had to do to have it for our family.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the Texas Insurance Risk Pool will no longer exist as of 1/1/14.  It makes sense.  Now that insurance companies can no longer exclude people with pre-existing conditions, there is no need for the Risk Pool to exist.  We can get insurance elsewhere.  I've been very happy with my policy, but I can't keep it.  However, now I have lots of options and my premiums should be much lower than they are currently.  I think I am in the small minority of people who will be helped by Obamacare!

Aside from the inconvenience of having to go find another policy, I thought all would be good.  I decided to stick with the same insurance company who handles the Insurance Risk Pool.  I've been a satisfied customer, and they have a large network of providers.  But, recently I received a letter from MD Anderson (my primary and only healthcare provider) stating that although they accept this company's insurance now, because of the instability of the health care market, they cannot guarantee that they will continue to do so!  WHAT???!!!

Sooooo, even though I thought that the ACA wasn't going to negatively affect my healthcare issues, but in fact help me out financially, now it appears that my doctor and healthcare facility MAY OR MAY NOT be "in-network."  The creation of the Affordable Care Act has caused my insurance program to be cancelled, and may even cause me to have to leave MD Anderson and be treated elsewhere for my Stage IV breast cancer!  Talk about my life being turned upside down!

I credit MD Anderson for keeping me alive.  I would not be alive today if I had not decided to seek my medical care there 7 years ago.  I can't stand the thought of going anywhere else!!


Monday, November 4, 2013

Test results and chemo holiday!!!

I consulted with Dr. Moulder, another breast cancer oncologist at MD Anderson who is working on the "Clearinghouse" research study.  This, as I mentioned earlier, is a database of patients' tumor tissues/cells that are tested for genetic mutations or irregularities (totally different than BRCA gene testing.)  The findings help determine which drugs or kind of drugs the cancer cells would be most sensitive to, and will be available in my medical record for all time, much like tumor characteristics such as hormone sensitivity (ER/PR positive/negative) and Her2Neu status.  It's very personalized medicine -- the future of cancer research.  And the future is NOW at MD Anderson Cancer Center.  So happy to get my tumors in the study!  Also glad that all it takes for me, now, is another blood draw and signing papers authorizing them to use the tumor tissue they already have from my previous biopsies and mastectomy.  Easy peasy, but such valuable information!  Amazing what they are doing nowadays in cancer research.

Thankfully, the direction of my CURRENT treatment does NOT depend on the results of this genetic testing.  According to my latest CT scans and bone scan, overall my cancer is STABLE!  Yayyyy!  The bone metastases has all been stable (not growing yet not going away) for some time now.  This is where the majority of my metastases are --fairly widespread in the spine, ribs, femurs, etc. They are closely monitoring metastases in my lungs and liver, and they see very slight growth on those small tumors.  I am told that the minimal growth noted on the scans could be related to the way the tumors were "sliced" during the imaging process.  I trust that this is all it is, and not some really slow-growing tumors that are difficult to treat.  Regardless, even if it IS ever-so-slight tumor growth in the lungs and liver, the changes are not significant enough to warrant changing my treatment plan.  And, none of the metastatic lesions are affecting my level of health (from the medical personnel's point of view, that is.  I can feel that my lungs are not operating at 100%.)  My move to Abraxane over a year ago was prompted by slight tumor growth AND a pleural effusion.  I have no pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs) at present.

Soooo, great news, right?  Even BETTER is that Dr. Coscio is allowing me to have a "chemo holiday" over the holidays!  The plan is that I will finish out the 4-week cycle that I'm on now (last infusion on 11/20,) and then instead of taking only a week off and starting up again, I will have 6 WEEKS OFF!  Honestly I don't really know anymore how it feels to not be on chemo.  Surely I will feel better!  I think I have adjusted to this "new normal," so I am hoping to feel different/improved not having poison infused into my body on a weekly basis.  The holiday season is usually packed with family activities, and this year we are planning to squeeze in a visit to our family in Louisiana as well.  Should be FUN!!!!!

Thanks for reading!