Monthly Archives: April 2008

Who’s the Scammer?

So…I hesitate to post this since it verges into political territory and that’s not what I like to talk about here. But then again, it’s certainly relevant to the topic! So I’m going to just go ‘head and (briefly) “get my soapbox on”.

I got my rejection from Social Security for temporary disability last year. I was told they pretty much always reject you the first time. Fine. But it is annoying when their decision is so transparent. They said, “you said that you were not able to work because of your cancer treatment. However, the records show that you had a voluntary 2nd mastectomy in September, but there was no sign that your cancer was actively spreading. So you could have gone back to work then.”

No mention of the 13 hour reconstruction part of the surgery! And of course I don’t even have to go into how ridiculous is their insinuation that action against recurrence is no excuse for treatment! Their audacity and plain old bottom-line mentality leaves me speechless.

These are the moments I am furious at moving back to the US…do you know that here in Europe, when you pay into Social Security, it is considered a benefit made available to you? Situations like this are what it’s there for. The US guards it like it’s a load of gold bars in a bank vault and we’re all robbers. I understand that most peole can work through treatment, but with my job, I was not one of them. Obviously there are people who scam the system. We’ve all heard of them and I think it’s inexcusable. But I think someone who’s paid into SoSec for 18 years (including when living abroad, which is why I claimed in the US and not Belgium) and claims 1 lousy year of help for cancer treatment is clearly not one of those people! Where’s the logic people? Gaaah!

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People are Starting to Notice

…that I’m not back to work YET.

Once again, just like in December/January, I’m waiting for the powers-that-be at my company to clear my return to work. My doctors sent their letters in about 3 weeks ago. Then (over 2 weeks ago) my Airline X faxed back about 20 pages of detailed paperwork. When I saw Dr. Fab last week he apologized for it taking him so long to finish. “There’s a lot of work they ask for, and I only have time to work on it here and there in between appointments.”

Honestly, if there were ever a time to pull the old God-complex routine, this is when I would expect it. If I were him, I’d likely say, “Listen, Airline X, I’m the specialist here. I am in charge of her care. If I say she can return to work, then she can return to work. Now buzz off.” And honestly, I’m quite sure they would think it over and then say, “well…okay.”

But, it just so happens that my doc’s a super-nice guy. So…we’ll all play the game. I hope it ends soon.

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Filed under breast cancer, life, rant, reconstruction ("upgrade"!), this time THIS year, work

Joy!

I just had to share the good news that WhyMommy, whom you have seen me mention here now and again, has heard the magic words: No Evidence of Disease.

I still remember reading her posts when she was suspicious something was up…and then when she got the IBC diagnosis. She had a long, long road of chemo before she could even have surgery, and we’re (almost speechlessly) happy to hear she’s officially entered the NED chapter. If you have a moment, pop over to her site and say: Woot!

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And the verdict is…

So the anxiously-awaited appointment today went…not quite like I (surely, we) had hoped, but more like I had harbored suspicion it would. Which is fine too.

Dr. Fabu had told me to bring a bra and fitted T-shirt. I envisioned walking in, pulling out my favorite shirt and cutest polka-dot camisole (which I purchased optimistically). They’d say, “What size are you shopping for?” and I’d say, “The size that will make me look like this was made for me.” [*cue wolf whistle*]

What actually happened was more like this: “So, I asked you to bring…yeah. Those won’t work.” (Turns to the rep from the implant company.) “Do you have something better?” (Sales rep pulls out some orthopedic bandage-looking contraption.) “Ah, there we go.”

Clearly I had misunderstood the purpose of bringing a bra/shirt. They were tools, not choices for dress-up. I put on the one she offers and she asks the magic question, “What size are you looking to be?” But before I can open the floor to discussion, the convo began in Dutch. “We don’t have a lot of fat to work with, and she’s had radiation on the left side…”, adds Dr. F. The choice was between getting the smallest implant or…well, that was it really. In the end the bras and T-shirts were not necessary as the decision came down to technical limitations, not auditions for size. Given my history, this was no shocker.

Dr. Fabulous appeared to feel that there was one “right” answer. And there’s nothing worse than not making the “right” decision, so that makes it easy. (Know what I mean? There’s this natural tendency to feel that there is a “right” and a “wrong” decision to make, but rarely in life is that true. Or am I getting a little too philosophical?) It’s all a little less “fun” than my imagination had predicted, but I’m actually not disappointed to have the decision made for me.

While I fancy myself too smart to be fooled into thinking that being super voluptuous would suit my body (or my personality), the superficial (and curious) side of me would find it hard to pass up the chance to try something completely different than what I have been before. I might dream of looking like Stephanie Seymore, but I also fear getting what I “want” and hating it. It’s all too easy to say, “maybe just a little more” until…you wake up and say, “Holy crap, how did I end up with these?!”

So, it’s out of my hands and that’s (surprisingly) okay by me. Dr. Fabulous did say that if I had my heart set, it would be possible to “upgrade” again in a year or two. It’s great to be told that there are always options, but I’m confident this will feel just right!

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Busy Busy

But I have an appointment tomorrow to discuss my last surgery. Now is when all that shopping for breasts that Del and I have done for two years now will come in handy. He might be disappointed to no longer hear, “Honey, what do you think of that girl’s? Look, look! They’re nice, right?”, but perhaps I can carry on just for nostaligia’s sake.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the word from work that I can get started. Cross your fingers – it’s been a long radio silence so far.

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Filed under breast cancer, humor, reconstruction ("upgrade"!), surgery, this time THIS year, what's it like for him?

Red Red Whine Wine

Since accepting the hard truth that drinking really isn’t good for those with a history of BC, it’s not been difficult. At first it was. Really difficult. Not because I was ever a big drinker, but mostly because I was kicking and screaming at the idea that I was going to have something else taken away for me. (When, hello, was there ever a time when I wanted a drink more?) Living in Europe, a beer with lunch is like cereal without milk. Doable, but clearly not how the food gods meant it to be.

But once I got out of the habit it was no sweat. I only ever was a social drinker. But recently, the desire’s been creeping back up. Just for a 1/2 glass of beer sometimes when watching a movie. Or a glass of wine with dinner. Oh, sure I do it. But it’s strange that the urge has returned after quite some time without. And I often feel guilty when I indulge.

And it brings back a question that I never did get the doctor to answer. That is, “Um…so, since I’ve chosen to get rid of every breast cell possible, doesn’t that make it at least a little safer for me to drink?” I mean, if you significantly lower your chance of reoccurance via one method, doesn’t that give you a bit more leeway in another? Or is that wishful thinking?

I’m really asking! Anybody know?

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Airline Sidebar

This post started out as a comment and a couple of private emails, to answer a number of questions that have come from the last post.In the end I just decided to answer for everyone, so here goes a post about airline life…

I think I shouldn’t say what company I work for publicly. Better bloggers than me have gotten in trouble that way!

As for the bag thing, I have always found it strange that we’re not covered medically, but it’s because putting up passengers’ bags is not in our *official* job description – and you know how the corperate monster loves loopholes when it comes to having to pay for something! And that’s an expensive injury – out of work for back problems? Big one. (Another example: They also pressure us *heavily* not to go out sick, yet if we fly sick and our eardrums burst [possible from a mere cold] then they say it is our fault for flying sick. Again, that’s a major injury for a F/A. Then it’s a tooth-and-nail struggle to get coverage. Crazy system, I know!) Most of the airlines have similar situations. They want us to take one for the team, but they won’t cover us if it backfires.

As for the bag lifting, it generally just means that we chose carefully. Of course if someone has a good reason not to be able to do it, I’m happy to help them. An old lady? My pleasure. In a wheelchair? No question that we’ll eagerly help anyway we can. Even if you just ask really nicely, I’ll always help. (But you have to help too. I won’t put up the bag of any *able-bodied* person alone while they stand aside and watch.)

But otherwise, people are strangely loathe to check their bag. I know you have to wait longer and it could get lost but that’s what the cargo hold is for. (Actually, we’re far too lax on allowing people to bring so much on, but that’s another discussion.) If you KNOW you can’t handle your bag, you can’t assume that there will always be someone else there to take responsibility. I always check mine in that situation. (That’s why I was so embarrassed when I couldn’t lift my bag!) Sure, it happens to everyone sometimes. We’re human. And F/As are not heartless. But you’d be shocked how many people come on the plane and just dump their bags in the aisle, then go on to their seat. When we ask who’s random bag this is blocking the way they just look up at us from their magazine and say, “Oh…I can’t put it up”. Third parties will also say ridiculous things like, “That lady weighs 110 pounds. How’s she supposed to lift her bag?” And I wonder who they think they’re looking at.

How do I do travel? It sounds obvious but remember: Take a small carry-on with anything that you’d “cry if you lost”. Jewelry, keys, camera, souvenirs, etc. Everything else goes into the checked bag. If it gets lost, it’s annoying, but not devastating. Literally ask yourself, “will I cry if this gets lost?”

Yup, flying can suck. It’s all about picking the best strategy and just getting on with it. It worked with cancer; it works for flying too. (Heh! Do you see what I just did there? That’s talent, right? Zap!)

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