November 18, 2009

It's been an odd 24 hours. It started when I was going through my iCalendar. Turns out that Monday, November 22, 1999, I was sick and tired of being tired and sick all the time. The doctor I'd been seeing for two years was obviously ineffective and I was beginning to fear that something was really wrong, systemically wrong. The kind of wrong I really didn't much want to think about considering the fact that I had just finished grad school, was working in my field full-time (even though it wasn't officially full-time enough to qualify for little things like health insurance), wasn't quite breaking $20,000 a year.

I went to a local MedPoint, a place that many here in the area call Doc-in-the-Box and give no respect at all. I went that Monday, after I had finished teaching for the day. I could barely stay awake, but drove across town and walked in around four o'clock. The doctor was an older guy, very together, very personable. Pretty obvious this was his semi-retirement because he really enjoyed being a doctor and connecting with people. We talked, I told him what all was going on and he suggested we run a blood test. I said that was fine - I was curious as to how much that might be but also told him that we needed to do it, regardless. I also pointed out that my idiot "regular" doctor had neglected to run one even though I suggested it. Instead, idiot doctor wanted to run an AIDS test. Because, you know, them queers all have AIDS if they're not feeling well. Never mind that I am in the lowest risk group (both then and now) for someone who is not completely abstaining. This MedPoint doc was rather grumpy when I told him that. He pulled a vial or two of blood and left to run the test himself.

Next thing I know, I hear him on the phone with my doctor. I tried to listen at the door but all I could tell was that he was chewing idiot doctor out. This didn't really bode well for me.

When he came back in, he told me I was very anemic and that I needed to make an appointment to see idiot doctor. If I remember correctly, he made me call before I could leave. Again, this did not bode well for me. I called, but he couldn't get me in until the next morning - it was after 4, after all. This doctor was not happy that I'd drive myself in and wasn't happy that I was driving myself home ... but wouldn't really say why. His telling me that my hemoglobin was a 5.8 meant nothing to me.

So I went the next day to idiot doctor who asked me about symptoms, obviously reading from a list. The answer to all of them was yes and, in fact, DUH, I ALREADY TOLD YOU THIS FOR MONTHS AND MONTHS. With each new "yes," the doctor seemed to sweat a little more and grew noticeably more distressed.

He left, made a phone call and came back still distressed. I had an appointment the next day, Wednesday, November 24, 1999, with a specialist. A hematologist. And idiot doctor said two more things that chilled me. 1) He would treat me for free for anything the other doctor wasn't covering and 2) if the specialist said I needed to go to the hospital, I needed to go.


I was supposed to teach Wednesday. I don't remember now if I did go to class or not. It was the day before Thanksgiving, so I probably emailed my students and told them to go on home for Thanksgiving.

The specialist looked at the numbers from the bloodwork, ran more bloodwork and then took a bone marrow sample. This was not particularly pleasant, but not the horror story you often hear.

"Which hospital do you want to go to, St. Joe or Memorial?"


Under $20,000 a year. No health insurance. Debt coming out my ass from putting myself through college and graduate school.

Hospital was the scariest word I could think of at the time.

And yet, supposedly we don't need any kind of national health care system here in the U.S. Because what we have now is NOT a system of health care. It's a series of businesses out to make money, not to make the nation healthier and stronger. (Best post I've ever read on this is here.)

As it turned out, I was in the hospital over Thanksgiving and finally let out Monday afternoon -- too late to actually teach class dammit. I'd been given five units of blood - turns out a hemoglobin of a 5.8 is really bad. Like you can die in the 4 or 5 range, bad. Also had my first chemo treatment, cuz yeah, it was bad. I had cancer, Hodgkin's Disease.

So I've been sitting here thinking how it's been ten years since I first found out. It's been eight years since I had a bone marrow transplant.

And yesterday, as I was debating finally following someone on Twitter whose name I saw come from nearly everyone's Twitter stream, there was a sudden flurry of her name. @AnissaMayhew

All last night and all day today I have found myself caught up in the ... drama seems like the wrong word, even though I mean it in the traditional sense. But this is no internet drama with trolls and the righteously over-indignant wounded party.

No, I witnessed an outpouring of shock, concern, fear and an immense amount of honest-to-goodness love. It turns out that Anissa had a massive stroke yesterday and is working hard on fighting to recover now.

She and her husband have family coming in from out of town, there are the kids to consider. And no matter what her income and insurance situation is - it won't cover all of it. It never does. If you'd like to donate a buck or two to help the family - even just to entertain the kids with a Blockbusters game or something, please consider donating here.

For more information (and so you can see I'm not making this up), you can read her Caring Bridge page. Or, do a Twitter search for #prayersforanissa ... if it wasn't such a sad situation it would be heart-warming to see all of the love and support going out to her.

One more thing, since I gather this is a favourite word of Anissa's and particularly appropriate for me as well:

As a fellow monkeyfighter, I know Anissa will look back in 2019 and think much what I'm thinking now.


Posted by Red Monkey at November 18, 2009 4:51 PM | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


inthefastlane said:

I am so glad that some one took the time to figure it out. And pushed others to do the right thing. I am sorry it took so long. There are a lot of things wrong with medicine in this country, but thank goodness that there are the doctors and nurses who are really there just to help people, despite the red-tape they have to go through to do it right.

November 22, 2009 7:50 AM


Huckdoll said:

It continues to blow my mind every day that my American friends have additional financial stresses and worries on top of being sick ... it's just not right or fair or humane in my opinion. I know so many people down there who just don't go to the doctor for simple check ups and minor concerns - even if they're fully insured - because of co-pays. How is that? There seems to be so much suspicion and wariness of Canada's universal healthcare and it really irks me sometimes because our citizens of every social status and income are treated as one - people, human beings that deserve life and don't need further stress when not well.

My truest hope for America right now is that your leader deals with this, takes the reigns and makes a significant change no matter how overwhelming and large it appears to be (and it really is...but something, anything has to happen). I believe he would be a total hero.

And as for Anissa ... I'd never crossed internet paths with her, but that could be me, or anyone I love in a heartbeat so I send lots of healing and positivity her way daily. It sure does put a lot in perspective. The blogging community has really shined here and it's good to see.

November 25, 2009 2:56 AM
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