May 2, 2013
I meant to post this last week but time got away from me, it seems. Funny thing, I received this “threatening” collections letter the day I had my last Remicade treatment – which is also the day I read a really fascinating Time magazine article titled, “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us” by Steven Brill. It’s from Time’s March 4, 2013 issue and I luckily found a copy at the clinic so I snatched it up to read while being hooked up to my Remicade I.V. for three hours. Good decision! Although after reading the article (and in the middle of reading it), I became so infuriated and upset, because much of what Brill writes about has affected my life in similar ways. Unfortunately you have to pay to read the article online, but it’s really worth it. Everyone should read it – especially if you go to the doctor often, have a lot of medical expenses, or have any kind of health condition.
The article profiles several different patients and tells their stories about how they racked up huge medical bills, mostly from hospital expenses. Whether a cancer patient, an ER patient for heartburn thought to be a heart attack (and a $21,000 bill for that), the recipient of an overpriced implanted medical device, or a patient injured from a simple fall, one thing is constant in all of these stories – everyone was drowning in thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills. And the majority of the medical costs of these bills were grossly inflated and overpriced. Luckily I have managed to stay out of the hospital so far this year, but since January 1 I have accumulated a lot of medical debt due to doctor office visits, MRI and X-ray scans, prescription drugs, and expensive I.V. treatments for my RA. Let’s also add the bills for my psychologist appointments that I find necessary to help me stay sane trying to navigate all of this health crap on a daily basis. I feel like I’m going to the doctor all the time, even when I sometimes do cancel appointments (especially the therapy appointments) just to save money. Or I try to hold off on making appointments until after I’ve met my deductible and out-of-pocket maximum for the year. I’ve heard stories from many other people who also go without their medications, treatments, or doctor visits because they can’t afford it. This, I feel, is simply wrong. Nobody should have to sacrifice his or her health because of financial reasons. But the way our healthcare system is set up, that is exactly what patients are pressured to do if they can’t afford their medical bills. Go into massive debt? Declare bankruptcy? Lose your house? Risk your life? It’s such a racket, with your dollars lining the pockets of the CEOs and administrators of many health care and hospital systems – especially these so-called “nonprofit” hospitals that are actually making huge profits.
May 1, 2013
Hello from Florida! I’m on a little family vacation now in Ft. Myers Beach with my parents, my sister, and her husband and their two year-old daughter. We just celebrated my mom’s birthday today; we had dinner in Naples and then watched the sunset from the Naples pier. It’s been wonderful to escape from cold (and SNOWY, still!) Minnesota. My family and I have been recently dealing with a very stressful and scary health situation – my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. We still don’t know the results from the last tests he had done to see if the cancer has spread. He wanted to wait to find out after this Florida trip, which is understandable I suppose. Although my mother, sister and I have been worrying like crazy. Relaxing on the beach and just getting away from “real life” for a little while has definitely helped to take our minds off things. So while the questions and fears and “what-ifs” are still nagging in the back of our minds, we are having fun being down here, enjoying the beautiful Gulf of Mexico and the sunny Florida weather. It’s been especially a joy to watch my little niece running around on the sand and getting so excited about being at the beach. She’s so adorable I almost can’t handle it – I just want to hug and kiss and squeeze her all the time. So cute.
In RA news, my arthritis is worse again, of course. Both ankles have been swelling up like balloons, especially my right foot and ankle. I’m not sure if it’s the humidity, the extra walking, or all of the Diet Coke I’ve been guzzling. It’s probably a mix of all three, I’m guessing. So I’ve started taking prednisone again, icing my ankle and I’ve cut way down on the Diet Coke consumption. Water just isn’t that satisfying when you’re lounging in the sun by the beach and you want something cold and zero calories to drink though. But Diet Coke is bad, I know that. Also pain-related, like the moron I am sometimes, I was careless and got terribly sunburnt our first full day here. I went and laid on the beach wearing a tank top and shorts for seemingly not that long – but apparently it was long enough to get fried. What was I thinking? Hello, pasty white Minnesota skin that hasn’t seen sunlight since last May/June! Stupid. My shoulders, upper arms, upper back and the backs of my legs are the worst. Trying to sleep Sunday night was torture. Luckily my sunburn is better today, but my shoulders and back are still pretty sore. You’d think by now that I would be used to being in pain constantly, right? No! I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. Physical pain, mental pain, emotional pain – I need a vacation from all of it.
More posts soon, I promise. I have a lot of new arthritis stuff to write about!
April 6, 2013
Where has the time gone?! Seriously. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to post these JAM photos, but here you go! The annual Juvenile Arthritis March was held March 2, at the Mall of America, and it was a great success. It was the busiest I’ve ever seen it in the four years I’ve been photographing the event. And a record amount of money was raised this year – over $153,000! Anyway, here’s the link to the photos I took. Enjoy!
Two days after JAM, I went to Washington, D.C. for the Arthritis Foundation’s Advocacy Summit. Once again that was a fantastic, inspiring experience. I’ll write an update post about D.C. and the Summit soon!
(there’s still snow here, ugh)
March 2, 2013
Good morning! Why am I awake at 5:00 AM? The Juvenile Arthritis March (JAM) fundraising walk is this morning at the Mall of America! I’m taking photos again for the fourth year, I think? It’s always such a great, positive event – usually with a large turnout. I’ll post a link to the photos once I get them uploaded. Although I’m not sure if I’ll have time to do that before I leave for the Advocacy Summit in D.C. Monday morning. Yikes! I can’t believe I’m leaving so soon for that already.
More info about JAM can be found here, if you’re interested:
February 21, 2013
I’ve been holding off on posting about this on here because, well, I didn’t know what was going to happen. And maybe I still shouldn’t write anything. But…who cares, I guess. So, almost TWO YEARS AGO I was terminated from a temp job because of something related to my RA. Since then I filed a charge of discrimination with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights – which was a long, tedious, annoying ordeal. Just a few days ago I got my answer – my charge was dismissed because there is “No Probable Cause” of discrimination. I’m very angry and frustrated by their decision, however I’ve been told by a couple of attorney friends that it’s not surprising (they probably didn’t do a very thorough investigation – short on staff, short on funds?). Now I only have about a week to appeal this decision and I don’t know what to do. Is it worth it to appeal it? To go to court? I’m beyond broke right now and I can’t afford to hire an attorney. But what this company did to me is so completely WRONG. It infuriates me to think of them being able to get away with it.
This has been a difficult winter so far. I’ve been sick since Christmas, basically, with either bad RA flares or this upper respiratory thing that keeps coming back. I feel really whiny lately, which I hate, but I do hope some good things will start to happen here soon. I’m ready.
February 1, 2013
So I stayed up all night working on this photo project, which is crazy, but I couldn’t sleep anyway. As you may (or may not) know, one of my passions in life is photography. The physical demands of it are often very difficult due to my RA (carrying heavy equipment, standing on my feet for hours), but I still have the drive and desire to keep doing it, for some reason. Anyway, there is a cool thing going on through the local public television station here, TPT (Twin Cities Public Television), called Capture Minnesota. And today is the deadline to enter photos of Minnesota for the Capture Minnesota II photo book. I’ve been digging around in my computer all night trying to find some of the best photos I’ve taken of Minnesota over the last couple years. I think I found some good ones, so if you feel moved to do so, please vote for them. I’d really appreciate it!
January 26, 2013
It’s official – I’m going to D.C. again for the Arthritis Foundation’s annual Advocacy Summit! The Summit this year is March 4-6th and I can’t wait. I registered for it yesterday – the last day to get the “early bird” discount. Hopefully I can get a travel stipend again like last year, because my financial situation is even more dire than a year ago (is that possible?). But being a part of the Summit is really important to me, especially since last year was such a positive, incredible experience. I’m going to contact some people at the Arthritis Foundation who are involved with the event to see if I could also photograph and write about the Summit in some sort of official volunteer way. I’d love to do something like that in addition to being one of the delegates.
Here’s a photo from last year’s Summit of Emily, part of our Minnesota group, reading a letter she wrote for Representative Keith Ellison (I think), sharing her story of living with arthritis.
And here’s a photo of Emily again, along with two other awesome kids (Sammi and Ali) who were part of our Minnesota group. I met and got to know so many nice people last year at the Summit – can’t wait to do it again!