Friday, July 14, 2006

On a personal note

For those of you who have maintained the courage, tenacity along with the idiocy to read my sick demented thoughts, rants, and attempts to be funny, I thought I would bring you up to speed on the status of my spouse.

As most of you know Deb was diagnosed with breast cancer in April of 2005. Since that shock of being informed of the cancer it has been a long and difficult road inclusive of her having a breast removed, all of the lymph nodes on her left side, a full 19 cycles of chemotherapy, scans, blood work, and even two attempts at new and experimental treatments. The bottom line of which is that nothing has worked and the cancer metastasized in other parts of her body. The most damaging metastasis has been to her liver and spine.

As I write this we are in the final stages of the fight. We are talking days not weeks or months. What I have discovered on this long journey is how much we don’t know about cancer and why and how it strikes. We don’t know and haven’t figured out why some people are able to react favorably to chemo and some not. We don’t know if staging works or if the best action is surgery from the onset of the disease. Notwithstanding the progress being made if you have a straightforward oncologist and surgeon they will be honest enough to tell you that they know how much they don’t know. That being said however they will try and do their very best using their collective experience curves. An that is about the best you can expect.

Another lesson I have learned from this experience is that money matters. If you are of means you can extend the life of a loved one by having the necessary funds to pay for things that otherwise would not be employed as a matter of normal and customary treatments. On an emotional level I feel this is wrong but on an intellectual level I understand why it is the way it is. I should add that I do not have a solution to the problem, nevertheless I think we should endeavor to find one.

As a case in point of how money matters I give you my example of how it worked in our case. At the time of being diagnosed with cancer you attend an informal class for the patient and family that explains how chemo works and what to expect once the treatment cycles begin. Deb and I went to the three sessions all attended with folks who had just been diagnosed with some form of cancer. Of the nine patients in the sessions we probably were or could be considered more affluent. Deb is still alive and all of the other folks that were in our initial sessions have not survived with most of them passing away from their cancer in less than a year. Having said this you should also know that I have spent and or used 85% plus of our liquid assets while noting that we have good insurance. Good health insurance doesn’t matter at the end of the day.

And speaking of insurance…. I have been in some form of the insurance business my entire working life. I have been a CEO of two large insurance companies and so I think I know of what and which I speak. The health insurance sector of the insurance industry is a disgrace. Some drugs and procedures that they do not cover are only banned from scheduled payment because they are more expensive than other drugs and procedures that are designed to do the same thing but contain much more expensive ingrediants that differ slightly yet react to some patients better than the generic formulation. But differing drugs have differing effects on people as no one person will react the same with any given drug. But the health insurance industry is actuarially built on averages and will as a matter of business practices black list the more expensive drugs only because of price rather than if they work.

My best friend told me that dying is actually about the living. Too bad she isn’t running an insurance company.