goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Okay, I know I’m a Bit Weird but…….

I know I march to a different drummer most of the time. I stay pretty busy, even in the past couple of years when I was in a lot of pain needing joint surgeries and eye surgeries. It’s been a long haul and I am pleased at my physical healing.  But I recognize I am not “back” yetImage result for different drummer

My energy level is not where it had been. Compared to most people, my activity is high and I am involved in so so much. But I am sleeping more. Needing to sleep more. That’s okay. Early to bed and not so early to rise, unless I have to set my alarm. (That is one joy of retirement.)

But I used to wake up, for over sixty years, early, often before dawn, eager for the day. I knew what I needed to do. I had figured out how long it will take me to do each task and what all I can get ticked off the “to do” list.  (You don’t so that? Chalk that up to one of our differences.) Image result for household chores

Now, though, I am sluggish. I put off getting out of bed. (one more game of sudoku….is anyone still playing that game besides me?)Image result for sudoku

But here it is 9:43 on a Saturday morning and I have stripped the bed, run the wash,  made coffee (very important job in this household), grated carrots and got them into the dehydrator, put a bag of cut veggie ends I keep in my freezer into a dutch oven to simmer and make veggie broth (you can do this too!), checked emails, signed a petition, checked to see where the “emergency” protest marches are close by on Monday (Portland and Vancouver), wrote someone to ask her to do something I know she won’t want to do (hi PF!), and now yakking up my latest itch in my head. I think I’m doing okay this morning, eh?

So, I think we have two basic categories for people. Planners and reactors.

Planners are people like me, who understand the tasks that they need to do, basically, their responsibilities. They accepted these responsibilities. They know how to achieve them and they know how long the task will take, all things moving well.  Planners also have contingency plans. They understand that not all things move well all the time Other issues come up that have to be considered and people have needs or wants and sometimes as much as the task is important, it is necessary to put is aside, because, well people.  People win over things.   But everything gets done because there is a plan.

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(source: Blue Ridge Tutoring.) I used to plan like this on paper. Now I keep my calendar on my smart phone.

Reactors are people who, to me, seem to come in sometime after the movie has started. They are not there (physically or mentally) to set the stage, plan the action, decide on the actors, let alone direct the action.  These are all decided by others and the reactor is sometimes in a position trying to catch up, figure it all out. Off balance much of the time. Stressed by what they don’t know is coming, but they know something is.  And although there is not as much work product as the planner can get done in the same amount of time, the stress level is high.Image result for movie screen

Someone recently asked me what I do. I started telling them about Can-Do Real Food and how, in the off season (not much harvesting right now) I’m probably only putting in 30 hours a week. During harvest, between end of June and the end of October, I end up putting in about 50 hours a week.

LOGO jpegThey said, but you also are involved in Zero Waste McMinnville. Yes, and like the overachiever I have been since I can remember, where I once volunteered to write a blog once a month about garbage and the environment (you’d be surprised how much there is to share how each of us can make some small changes that will have huge effects), I am now in charge of the Facebook page, put together a website, provide marketing dissemination for all Zero Waste McMinnville events, and somehow I also am on the Events committee because i spoke up with a suggestion. (teaches me, eh? probably not…….) And, because of the public response on social media, a team of us are putting together an amazing event that I sure hope becomes an annual success, the McMinnville Recycled Arts Festival.  So all that also takes about 10 hours a week. Or more. Right now, it’s about 20 hours a week just on the arts festival. (Good thing we’re off season at Can-Do so I CAN do.)

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source: Mostly Inspirational Chit-Chat

So, I am busy staying busy and I recognize that I have not been outside to check out how the apple tree was trimmed by the contractor. I have not gone out to trim my raspberry canes, I have not straightened up spaces that are mine (my office and my storeroom) that got really messy over the past year because of my pain and inability to move easily. I have stuff to do……..and that problem with my energy keeps me in my desk chair in front of my computer……..

I’d ask for someone to help remind me to get my butt in gear but everyone else I know has their own level of busy and certainly won’t eagerly take on a task to manage me. LOL I also suspect that a few of the people offering to “help” may have some ulterior agenda. (Beth will do it…..)

So, yes, I am wired differently than most people. I admit it.  If you want to increase your energy level (you do not have to go as nutso as me) maybe the suggestions in this article can help you.  I get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, drink 3-4 tall glasses of water daily, try to cook whole foods to avoid additives that might affect my body (like artificial sweeteners and preservatives), keep my mind-altering recreational enjoyment to end of the day (when I am finished with my responsibilities), and pay attention to my body when it reports it needs attention (yes, we go to the pool exercise class AKA “geezer aerobics” 3 hours a week).

Source: Freepik

One area where I have not been a success is the financial world. But I certainly know I am not alone there. We are “paycheck to paycheck” like most people and yet, I also count my blessings. And we have many. So while there are stressors, there is no reason to be stressed out. The choice is mine. And so it goes….

 

 


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Body Pride

I am not an active person although many people who know me ask if I ever stop and rest. What I mean is that I have never sustained any exercise program more than a month and I am “chunky” or as my daughter calls it,  “fluffy”. The Yiddish words zaftig fits.

So it is with extreme pleasure I can announce that I am healing well from my latest surgery and can see – and feel – the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.  And it is MY flabby, fluffy undisciplined body that is reaching the benchmarks easier and faster than average.

As I sat on the bleachers at the pool where my husband and my friend were participating in what we call “geezer aquatic aerobics” I ached to be in the water with them. I have 2 more weeks to go until I reach the magical 6-week post op mark where the doctor assures me that the surgical incision will be healed enough to block infection from the outside. And since there are kids in the pool right before the low-impact exercise class, we can assume there are elements in the water that could introduce a problem. I will be patient.  Image may contain: one or more people, swimming and pool

This journey through pain and repair has been over two years now. I’d like to run through the story so perhaps others can feel they too can feel better.

est 1978First of all, when I was 19 I went skiing and had a spectacular fall. I laid in the snow off to the side of the run for a while and my memory is that the ski patrol came by and asked if I was okay. My answer was “I don’t know” and they left. Unlikely, but that’s the way I remember it.  I managed to get down the mountain and went back to school and never saw anyone at the health center because hey, I was 19 and healing is pretty magical at that age.

The next time the knee was assaulted was when I was 50 and contracted bacterial meningitis  working at Vanderbilt Medical Center. To be fair, no one else who handled the piece of equipment got sick. The doctors believed that as I was in the 6th year (of what turned out to be 10) of my husband’s fight with brain cancer, my adrenal system had been under assault for some time.  Fight or flight….and since I was choosing to stick with him and fight that cancer, I was bombarded with bad news all too often. That’s when the slow weight gain happened and that’s when my immune system weakened.  Image result for long term effects of stress on the body

So,  there I was all of a sudden, feeling like I had a horrible case of the flu and thankfully friends who came to take care of my youngest son made me go to the hospital.  I was that woman you hear moaning when you walk down the halls of a nursing home….too unable to articulate anything except “I feel miserable”. And then I remember nothing until I woke up and the doc was drawing about a liter of fluid from my knee.

Anyway, I survived, obviously. A year later my knee started hurting and I immediately invaded the doctor’s clinic (one benefit of working in a hospital) and he assured me that the meningitis was not back, but that I had arthritis in that knee.

I controlled the aggravation with glucosamine in various combinations and topped up with Advil if I needed more help. I started acupuncture when I moved to Oregon and sometimes had relief for 10 days without any Advil.

Until June 28, 2016 when I twisted my knee and could barely walk. We were heading to the farmers’ market and poor Graham had to set up everything without much help from me. I went to my doctor a day or so later and she did got me a referral to one of the local orthopedic docs here in town. It took 6 weeks to get an appointment and he took a look at me walking and decided, without the benefit of any x-ray or other imaging that I “just have arthritis and will never need surgery.”  When I asked him why it hurt so much differently and more than before I twisted it he was too busy to answer.

It will be no surprise to you that I refused to go back to him when I asked my primary doctor for a second opinion about 3 months later.  His partner had the benefit of an x-ray at that time and a ct-scan but he said just about the same thing the first doc had said…..I would never need surgery.

And so, while I waited for this knee to magically heal itself, I asked my doctor for PT and continued with the acupuncture. The physical therapy helped some but I was always in pain and always unable to do things I had been able to do before.  A marvelous friend stepped in to help Graham close down our farmers’ market booth each week.

And a year passed. And then my opposite hip started hurting. I had been “walking wonky” for a year because of the knee and the physical therapist opined that my pelvis had tilted because of the knee being out of alignment and the pressure of the femur into the pelvis was different from the way it normally should be.

So, that sounded like the purview of a chiropractor.  The acupuncturist and my primary care physician recommended the same guy so off I went.  There was some relief but when I asked  how long I could expect the treatments to effectively readjust the pelvis I was told “it had taken a while to get to that point and it will take a while to fix.”

Admittedly I was losing patience. And expressed it. So the chiropractor tried some other kind of adjustment and it HURT!  When I went back I saw his associate and that first treatment gave me 3 days of relief. I was looking forward to the next treatment but negated the positive effect by walking six blocks to meet my eldest son for lunch.  Six blocks……and I was in deep pain again. The next treatment the chiropractor tried some other aggressive treatment and that was it. I asked for a referral to a new orthopedic doctor not in this town and went “to get information”.

The new doc ordered a few more x-rays and then showed me on the computer the actual reason for the pain. And he said, very clearly, “you have arthritis which has worn away all the tissue that protects the joint and you are now “bone-on-bone”. There is no getting around the fact that you need surgery.”

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This is the x-ray AFTER the surgery and may look funny because I have porcelain and plastic as part of the appliance because of a concern about a metal allergy. 

I continued with physical therapy and went into the knee reconstruction with muscles prepared as much as possible. I was able to drive in 2.5 weeks (it was my right knee so my driving leg)  which was important because I am the driver in the house. Graham is legally blind and no longer drives. Our friends were fantastic…taking him to the grocery store and me to PT but the relief of being able to get there myself was golden.  I had been told it would take me 6 weeks to be able to drive but I worked my exercise routine at home often.

I wondered how I was going to deal with right knee pain as well as left hip pain during the recuperation. The doctor told me that the hip might be okay after the surgery and it was quiet for about a month, but then starting speaking …and yelling….again.  I was very thankful for that quiet time which permitted me to sit up and get out of bed more easily.

Image may contain: Beth Rankin, standing, sky, tree and outdoor

Taking a walk around the block 3 weeks after the knee surgery. Yes, I was in pain.

And so, the hip was replaced 4 weeks ago.  Bone on bone there also, no getting around it any more.

People who have had both surgeries told me the hip would be easier healing and it has been. Pain levels were not as high and more easily handled with the Tylenol. The issues I had related to feeling like a beached whale having trouble turning over in bed and the bowel issues caused by the anesthesia and the narcotics I took the first couple of weeks.  That issue improved after a few weeks and moving in bed has gotten easier as well.

A few days ago I realized I had not taken any Advil that day. And now I am walking without a cane with an almost normal gait.

The financial side effect of all this is that I had to take money out of my retirement funds to pay my share of the bills. Medical insurance has gotten more and more expensive in the past two years with co-pays and out of pocket requirements higher.  Once I finish paying my share of the bills I will have paid out $7300 and that does not even count my monthly insurance premiums.

The upside to all that is that any additional medical help I need is now without cost. I still need to pay my monthly premium but my prescriptions will be free and the cataract surgeries will be scheduled before the end of the calendar year to take advantage of this benefit.

1983 aSo, I started with a headline called “Body Pride”. There was a time, in 1983 where I experienced a wonderful glowing sense of pride in my body: I had just given birth to my eldest and was sustaining him by breastfeeding him. This was a perfectly clear example that my body worked well.

The faster than usual healing I have had from the knee and hip surgeries is also a mark of my body responding to the work I was doing, both actively through PT and more passively through acupuncture. I was making sure my nutrition was good and my body was getting the extra fuel it required because of the stress on it.

So, for all out there who have similar aches and pains, my best advice is to seek out those things you can do to supplement what you may be doing at home for self-care.  And get yourself to a doctor who will treat you fairly and communicate well. Do not give up and do not set restrictions on where you are willing to go. Yes, it is not fun to drive an hour plus to the orthopedic doc in Portland instead of 10 minutes to the guys here in my town. But it is worth every single red light and I have discovered some beautiful back roads that take me through gorgeous countryside.

I have so much I want to do….I am too young to feel as old as the last two years of pain made me feel.  Now, if only the new joints had amazing other attributes! Image result for bionic woman


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When the Family Fails

I want to share a story while providing some sense of privacy for the people who are at the center of this tale…..they are human like the rest of us. Like the rest of us, the choices they have made and continue to make seem to serve them but they are not happy people, so perhaps even they realize something is very wrong with their life path.

My birth family had its issues. My parents were very close, at times to the exclusion of my sisters and me. See, mom was not healthy. I have no idea what her diagnosis would have been but each of us kids have had our adult issues because what we were TOLD and what we OBSERVED were two different things.

My parents did a lot of good things for us that, for me, offset the negatives a lot. They took us camping around the United States. They encouraged us to learn musical instruments and we were all active in Girl Scouts. We received our religious education and while we did not go to Temple each Friday or Saturday, we went enough for me to understand my heritage and that doing good deeds was a part of making a good life.

But I always knew some of the things mom said were not based in the reality where I was living. I spent a few years in my early adulthood breaking many of those “rules”, proving my life would be just fine even if I rebelled.  I stumbled, and I picked myself up and I learned very quickly that no one, not even my parents would ever ever rescue me.

My sisters and I have compared notes over the years and they did not have the same perception I did. The rules were the rules and there was a lot of guilt over breaking them.  We had failed marriages. We had addictions. We grew through them and beyond them. We still probably continue to stumble sometimes but we have never ever said “stay away from me” because we are family.

dysfunctional-family

source: Lucky Otters Haven

Meanwhile, around us are a kazillion other families, each trying in their own way to do the right thing with their kids. But we know our society has been failing. We have kids who are out of control. Adults now, they want what they want when they want it. They don’t know how to plan for a goal and deferred gratification is a concept that they never learned.

Many adults were not taught life skills by their parents and do not know how to cook a healthy meal. How to plan a budget. How to get along.  How to TRY to get along. They feel what they feel and everyone else who feels differently is wrong wrong wrong. Even sick and maybe should be hospitalized.  Attack and deflect if you can’t get along…..make it the other person’s fault and never never assume any responsibility.

And it goes to the parents….and then to those adult children who continue the cycle by striking out at anyone who ruffles the waters, who disturbs the system that holds the status quo together.

Image result for shutting the door in someone's faceI have a friend I met over 20 years ago who needed a place when her family told her “don’t come here” and so, she came to me. Now, I know with my own mother, most people looking at our family never imagined we had anything less than “happy” going on behind our doors, but that’s the way it was. So I can imagine that it is hard for a 50-70 year history of aggravation to be set aside to rise and be a family, especially when there is a strong person in charge. Even if she is not healthy.  Especially if she is not healthy.

I understand how hard it is to confront an irrational person, even when it is apparent to all around her that things are not right. Weak people tend to hide. They do not want to be the next target.  So they are compliant and accept the way it is, and anyone who tells them otherwise, like me and this blog, is wrong.

Too many people would rather sweep issues that are difficult under the carpet in the attempt to ignore them. Too many people come on aggressively when they feel a horrible conflict with what they “should” do and what they “must” do.

And so, we see homeless people. We see people on drugs trying to make their world calmer, less scary.

When all they need is love and acceptance.

I know they will read this. I know it will not help calm the waters, but you know what, NOTHING I do would help. The only change that could happen has to be from them.

There will be tears. There will be anger. And you know what, it just is more of the same. A pattern that has gone on for over 70 years. People educated in psychiatry would be quick to tell me this blog is not wise.

But it is time for someone to speak up. Before more families do this to each other.  Maybe someone somewhere will recognize that they need some meds or counseling or something to heal the pain that grew. Image result for love and acceptanceMaybe……I hope so.

 


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You DO have time….you have today.

In the past seven years I have really been involved in the local farm-to-table food movement. I urge people to cook from whole foods. They will enjoy the flavor so much more and they can control ingredients, getting away from preservatives that very well could be influencing your health.  But all too many people have the same answer: “I don’t have time to cook.”

Years ago I was ecstatic that my oldest son’s elementary school offered a parenting course when he was in 1st grade. STEP (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) helped me recognize nonverbal signs when things were heading south in the kids’ behavior or my own response. I learned to stop things from escalating out of control and how to talk in a way that taught and provided discipline instead of punishment. I helped my kids learn to take responsibility for their actions and how to communicate their feelings, especially when their emotions were roiled up. And it seemed to have worked, because even if the three of them are not perfect by any means, they are wonderful active adults contributing to their communities. I have suggested this course or some other to many friends who are frustrated by their children’s behavior, since it really helped us.  But all too many people have the same answer: “I don’t have time for a 10-week seminar, one hour a week.”

Each of us makes choices, many of them, every single day. We decide simple things, like what to eat for breakfast and what to wear. And we decide harder things, like identifying the goal of the day.

Some of us are planners; we think about what we want/need to do and figure out the various ways to achieve that with all their pros and cons. Some of us never plan; we are reactors. We respond to things that go on around us. And much of the time we are surprised and maybe a little bit (or more) angry because things are not always the way we want it.

 

I want to share with you the story of one woman I never got to know until after I moved from West Virginia. Having common friends, her comments on Facebook resonated with me in many ways. A few issues were not in agreement and it was in private conversation that I learned that this woman understood her position. That nothing about her was merely reactive.

Until the shit hit the fan. Already a breast cancer survivor, you would agree with me that that should be all Paige should have had to deal with, but no. Her beloved husband collapsed with a brain aneurysm and she had to explain to their two young daughters that Daddy was never coming home. You might agree with me that that is more than any woman should need to deal with in her life.

Image may contain: 4 people, including Paige Muellerleile

Source: Paige M – too long ago

But no, still more. The cancer was back and fully metastasized throughout her body. Paige, above all else, is a realist. She understands there is not much time left.

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source: Paige M December 2017

The pain of knowing she will not see her daughters graduate gets eased for minutes as she makes memories with them. She’s getting things in place, knowing they will be well loved by others to reach their goals, but it is not enough. There is not enough time left.

And then she posted this photo, and I looked at her…..and I see it. Life. In the moment. Participating. Grabbing all of it. Pain. Joy. Achievement. Struggle.

Paige HD

source: Herald Dispatch

So please please please look at your own life. Are you living? Go. Do.     You DO have time….you have today.


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Being Prepared

Graham and I just came back from a short vacation in Puerto Vallarta. Close friends  from our time living in West Virginia have a timeshare there and have been going annually for twenty years.  They’ve invited us before but since Graham was teaching daily then and the timing never meshed with his spring break from Marshall University, we never could schedule it, until now.

Graham is currently teaching one forensic chemistry course for the fall, winter and spring quarters at Western Oregon University. He teaches Wednesday evenings so last week after class we headed to Portland and spent one night in a motel close to the airport. They offer free parking and provide an airport shuttle. That cost us about $20 more than parking in the long term lot and saved us from having to leave home at 4am to catch our southbound flight.  We returned the next Tuesday and so, he will not miss teaching any classes.

It was a short but sweet vacation, valued highly because of time spent with friends who live in Kentucky. We appreciate the ease of communication Facebook and cell phones permit, but nothing is better than to give hugs in person.

Based on my Facebook postings it looks like all we did was eat…and drink. LOL

But I also went prepared with two prescriptions from my allergist. He said he writes them all the time for both Mexico (you must present them in person) and Canada (you can handle the transaction by mail).

I want to explain the reason I travelled with the hopes of purchasing two medicines and then tell you about the experience.

When we first moved to Oregon, my health insurance was part of Graham’s retirement package. It moved me from PEIA (if you have been following the news recently you know West Virginia teachers went on strike to win a 5% raise and no change in their health insurance rate from PEIA. The state had offered a 1% salary raise which was more than negated by a higher increase in the employee share in the health insurance premium. I am so pleased that it took teachers in all 55 counties to stand strong to win this concession from the state legislature but the issue is still not over…more wrestling ahead…but this blog is not about that fight. Just suffice it to say that West Virginia schools are severely underfunded while people in power issue themselves plenty of perks. Seems to be the culture these days throughout the country.)

Okay, back to my story. My health insurance was with a national company and worked fine. It cost me about $500 a month.  Then the ACA passed its Supreme Court test for the mandate that EVERYONE must buy health insurance and I switched over. My insurance premium cost me $550.  That was based on the prior year’s income and of course, Graham had retired and our income was significantly reduced. I appealed for a reduced premium and in their infinite wisdom I was moved to Oregon’s Medicaid expansion, the Oregon Health Plan.

I was initially concerned because I assumed that the healthcare I received would be of lesser quality but with the exception of only one questionable doctor visit,  I was very pleased. The clinic was prompt, the staff was very friendly, and the doctor usually spent at least 30 minutes with me, or longer if needed.

I rolled through that system for 18 months but at the next renewal the questions changed and I got bumped out. Back to the ACA. My new premium was $462 a month BUT it would not start coverage until January 1st. My OHP plan ended September 30th.  That left me three months without any insurance.

I pleaded with each organization to let me stay longer or to pick me up sooner but was told no. I have found out since them I should have called the state insurance commission and it would have continued the OHP the three months. Remember that if it ever happens to you.

What it meant to me was I needed to pay cash for my prescriptions. The blood pressure medication was not bad ($60) but my two prescriptions that help me breathe were close to $1000. Per month.  Simply, we could not afford that.

I picked up my medications the first work day in January and went to the allergist (after I got a referral) about 3 weeks later. My lung function was measured at 37%.

Two months later, back on daily meds, it was up in the high 70s.  In other words, I need this medicine to live.  Each time Congress plays around with dismantling the ACA I know I can expect to die.  I understand I am not alone. I do not generally join in with conspiracy theories, but it is easy to believe “they” want “us” to die.

So flash forward to my friends’ invitation to join them in Puerto Vallarta and our pre-trip discussion about what we want to do etc.  She mentioned that the farmacias there have medicines at much lower prices than here. Hence, the request and issuance of those prescriptions for my breathing.

They had one of the medicines I needed at the pharmacy we visited the last evening we were there. (Yes, I should have started this part earlier but……) I was able to purchase the medicine that helps my lung function, Symbicort. IMG_3171

The cash cost for the Symbicort here is between $400-$450, even with discounts. The cash cost for the same amount of medicine in Mexico was $80. IMG_3172

The packaging is different, but sometimes when I get my prescriptions refilled here the new bottle has a sticker telling me the pill may look different from what I have been issued before but it is the same.  So, the issue is not uncommon.

This is a first person example of how we pay so much more for our medicine than other countries.  You’ve probably seen charts before like this one.oxycontin_0

Some people argue that we are paying for the pharmaceutical companies to do their research. But recently some of those corporations have announced they will no longer do research for medications to help with  AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and more.

Some people argue that we are paying higher prices to subsidize the rest of the world.  Really?  Not true. Other countries have negotiated prices with drug companies for their health insurance programs.

I believe we are charged what they think we will pay. Simple as that.  And so, many people are either not taking the medications they need to be in good health or they are finding other ways to cope.

The problem is, many of us can not afford jacked up prices, like insulin that increased 197% from 2002 and 2013. Or how the cost of an epi pen went up from  $100 in 2009 to $600 in 2016 (400%)and the CEO of that company is well known for his smirk.  Thank goodness there are generic alternatives. 160826143616-mylan-epipen-exlarge-169

Bottom line: there is a lot wrong with our healthcare system and what we pay for it. Our premiums increase annually, our service plans decrease and the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies are experiencing record profits.

Why is health care not considered a public service industry similar to water, sewage treatment, electric/gas/whatever you use for heating and cooking?

Until we fix our issues here in the United States, Mexico and Canada will continue to reap the benefits of attracting savvy  medical shoppers.

 


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The Magic of Having Cheerleaders

On Monday, December 4, 2017 my right knee went missing.  It had provided 63 years of walking, hiking, skiing, whatevering and it was not functioning as it should because of damage caused by a fall and by illness. The knee was replaced with a modern medical miracle, one that has become so hohum that you probably know at least five people who have had knee replacements.

It really helped to talk to all those people prior to my surgery, to hear their advice and learn of tricks they used. The one thing I heard over and over and over was “do the exercises”.  One other comment, made quietly, also was handy, “You will not always get to the bathroom on time.”

When I’ve gone through SOMETHING, whether it is a physical activity like this surgery, or an emotional voyage, like a divorce, it can be very helpful to hear first person experiences. It has let me know that what I was feeling was pretty typical….or not.

It was during one of those discussions with a friend that the idea of an allergy to the implant hit me! I can’t wear pierced earrings of any kind. Sterling silver, 24k gold, surgical steel, platinum, titanium, even plastic coated, all have caused my ears to start itching and I end up removing the earrings within 15 minutes.  So, I read and then I talked to the surgeon at the pre-op appointment and I am wearing low-nickel metal with ceramic and plastic pieces. All fingers and toes crossed.

The first few days after the surgery was spent discovering that the pain meds and I do not get along. This experience made it very clear to me just how different our body chemistries are. I was nauseated and just felt overall horrible.  I had none of the “highs” users addicted to oxycontin enjoy. They obviously do not experience all the “yuks” I had or they would move on to some other drug of choice.  (This lightbulb moment made me realize that “addiction” is a horrible thing and we need a multi-prong attack to help people get off the drugs but also help them learn coping mechanisms for the issues in life that have made them (all of us to some extent) reach for help after a hard day.)

Once we moved me down a notch in the pain medical pharmacopeia, my overall body feelings were healthier and I could get on with the business of healing.

One thing that has made this experience easier is the time people have taken to drive me to my appointments (Graham can’t drive because he is legally blind), take him to the grocery store, run to the drug store for the replacement pain medicine, and just those who stop in for a few minutes with a smile to help distract me from focusing on the knee which is yelling “OW” most of the time.

And then, there is the physical therapist. Most knee patients have love-hate relationships with the love coming much later in the time table. Mine earned it on Day One when he exclaimed enthusiastically how well I was doing. He was so effusive that I started tearing up.  “No,” he said, “It’s good, really!”

So, I explained. Anyone who knows me knows “body perfect” is not now nor has ever been a goal of mine. I try to eat healthy food and not overindulge with the “fun” things but taking the time others do to firm up and have their body parts move better has not been my thing.

Here I am, 63-years-old, and this is the SECOND time in my life where I experienced BODY PRIDE. The first was after my first baby was born and I was able to nurse him. The idea that this body had produced that miracle and could sustain it nutritionally. Amazingly powerful feeling.

And now, in pain and hobbling, I am ahead of benchmarks. Me….the “couch potato” (well, maybe desk sitter is more like it). knee day 6

Altogether, the friends giving their time and sharing their good wishes and this professional who sees a lot of people like me are my cheerleaders. They have assumed the role to help me get better. And while their time investment may only 30 minutes or a couple of hours a week, they are a component in my healing that will no doubt get me to the finish line easier.

So, thank you, each of you, who send a joke, a funny picture, a phone call, a visit, a drive in the car. To all of you who are my cheerleaders, I salute you.

 

 


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It’s a Puzzlement

Sorry for mixing my Broadway musical metaphors but I need your two cents because, like Tevye, I’m getting a lot of On The Other Hand  in my decision making.

Back in January I wrote about my experience with six decades of wading through medical care with all its various changes.  (I wrote that blog to help people who might not understand why the ACA is so important to people who have difficulty obtaining health care that can be within financial reach. Many of the comments I received were that people were sad I had gone through all that. The point was, many many many people do.)  And even as I wrote of all my issues, that was before my left hip started protesting loudly the year plus of walking “wonky” with my bad right knee. After a gait adjusted for pain, my pelvis had tilted. It wasn’t enough to juggle the stupid knee and then the cornea transplant, I had a new medical issue that provided a new education. Lucky me.

The increased level of pain led me to think I would have to close my business, Can-Do Real Food, My logic said that was the right decision. My emotions were not in agreement. (You can see how Tevye’s dilemma discussion seems to be part of my DNA, or at least cultural norm.) fiddler

My regular doctor offered me pain pills.  While I filled the prescription for the muscle relaxant, I soon discovered not only did it not work, but neither could I with a muddy head. I decided to go outside of standard medical practice and found a chiropractor who might help move that pelvis back into alignment.  Between his gentle pokes and prods as well as physical therapy inside his office environment, the screaming pain has diminished and I can see a glimmer of dim light ahead.

But then I ran out of insurance benefits.

The chiropractor reminded me it had taken me a year to get into the twisted position and it would take a while longer to get out of it. His thinking was once I got that part aligned I would be functional and need only pop back in to see him when I realized I was hurting again.

But I can’t afford him.

So, back to my primary care doctor who offered to send me to the same doc who said my original injury to my knee in June 2016 was “only arthritis” and “I would never need surgery”, all without the benefit of a scan. I told my primary doc I would not go back to him. I expect my doctors to base their advice on information and avoid those who don’t.

Also, since I’ve been hearing I have arthritis for years now and the pain is increasing in the affected joints, I asked to speak to someone with arthritis expertise to give me advice.  Turns out that specialization is a rhemolotolgist and the first clinic said I was not bad enough to take up their time and the second clinic gave me their first available appointment four months from now. Since I don’t have rheumatoid arthritis it is perhaps not a needed visit anyway, but it sure would be nice to get some better info.

Yesterday I had an appointment with a new orthopedic doc. I went in wanting info, very much convinced I am not a surgical candidate nor is my knee hurting that badly right now so why would I want surgery?

He convinced me I need to have the surgery.  The pelvis will NEVER be right until I am walking more normally. My knee will never be better and will only get worse. I wanted to know the probably progression of the deterioration and he was able to take the time and explain it.

So, straddling the conventional/nontraditional medicine routes gets sticky when I opt to lean one way or the other; the other side of my care spectrum voices their concerns. Some are valid. Some may be self-serving.

Here are the issues of my dilemma:

  • My insurance will be changing. I have received notice that the plan I currently have is not going to be offered. The next “best” plan not only will cost me almost $300 a month more, but will not provide for any “out of network” benefits. Since I am not always only in my town, I understand that  even a day trip to the Coast with some level of accident could end up bankrupting me. So this next “best” option is not viable. I have an appointment with an insurance navigator next week when the markets open, so we will see what we will see then.
  • Since my insurance will be changing, any additional help beyond the immediate post-operative period by this new doctor may be a financial hardship. Do I wait to chose a new orthopedic doctor after my insurance changes, pushing me into a later calendar schedule for the surgery and recovery during my busy season with Can-Do Real Food (no, I’m not closing the business). Or do I just hope he is “in network”? Or do I just hope I can switch to another ortho doc who is “in network”?
  • Will I even be able to afford any health insurance plan next year? Since Trump has eliminated the subsidies, that means my health insurance premium will most likely take up 60% of my social security payment. That is before I actually go to the doctor and pay my co-pay and pay for all the medicines I need for my asthma and blood pressure. How can I afford this?

And then, on the nontraditional side,

  • I learned on my trip to New England that the CBD portion of marijuana does an extremely effective job of reducing my pain without making my head affected. (It amazes me how many conventional medical people I have spoken with HERE IN OREGON seem not to know anything about the usefulness of this herb. But here, have some oxy. The restrictions by the Federal government have muzzled them at best and stunted their education at worst.)
  • My knee pain is very tolerable right now. My hip/pelvis problem is moving in the right direction. I can still get more physical therapy and of course I have the exercises to do at home.  If I do them…..but that’s another issue.

The new ortho doc said something that sounds real: “Many people opt to wait because they are not feeling “that bad”.  And then something happens and they are in horrible pain, wanting the surgery and then needing to wait a month or two to fit into the schedule.”

And he also said “Most likely you will heal better and faster than someone who is in high pain prior to the surgery because you are still pretty mobile.”

We have mundane but real issues also.

  • I will be restricted from driving, of course, for a while. Typical is 6 weeks but it could be shorter if I can comfortably and in good time move my right foot from the accelerator to the brake sooner. Graham, being legally blind, can not drive. So while we are going into our quiet season with the business, there are normal things we do: grocery shopping for example. Also Graham teaches one forensic chemistry class each week at Western Oregon University, about 40 minutes south of where we live.  So, we will need driving help.  We have many good friends who offered with my eye surgery and that was only needed for two days, so we haven’t abused them too much yet.
  • Sleeping spaces. The master bedroom is upstairs. I have been sleeping in the guest room, a room too small to transition permanently into the master bedroom, for months now, only climbing the stairs when we have overnight guests.  Following this surgery any guests will get the master upstairs. That part was easy enough to figure out. LOL

So, like the King of Siam, it is a puzzlement to me. A time of change is upon me. A decision needs to be made that will have consequences. Those issues, with the exception of the health insurance costs, are not easily quantifiable.options

 

 

 


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Learning Along The Pathway

When I was growing up my Dad would often drive into town and pick up the Sunday New York Times. As I got older I enjoyed reading not only the magazine but I started perusing the classified, looking for my “someday” job and apartment. Oh, the dreams I had of what could be……and then life took another pathway.

I’ve had a checkered past. I earned a degree in geography and urban planning, but  my first job out of college was for the Tennessee Supreme Court in the court administrator’s office. They were starting a judicial PLANNING division and so, since I had a degree in urban PLANNING, I was hired. It was fun but as I realized I was getting further from my education, I looked for and moved to the planning job.  For three and a half years I actually worked for a planning and engineering company and really enjoyed it. But again……life took another pathway.

There was a death in my husband’s family. His mother asked us to move to Connecticut to take care of the estate issues. We lived in the house rent free and would until it was sold. One of my tasks was to determine the market value of the property and in doing so, we listed it for sale and boom! we needed to move within a couple of months. I was looking for work as a planner but we were in the middle of a recession then and jobs were scarce. So… life took another pathway.

I started working as an real estate agent for the broker who had listed the house. While I did well, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Showing houses was a challenge because I did not know the area well and there were no apps with a talking GPS (hey, no cell phones at all)  in those days so I had to rely on paper maps, all the time portraying an image of competence to the buyers.  That was stressful enough but the part that made me more uncomfortable was listening to a homeowner extol the cost of the renovations he had made when it looked like a piece of incompetent amateur construction.  And then Baby #1 was born and I no longer wanted to put in the long hours needed in that kind of sales position.  Once again…. life took another pathway.

 

When I told the broker I was going to let my sales license go he persuaded me to start an appraisal division of his company. I built the reputation and business started coming in nicely and then I needed to hire some staff. The broker told me he was moving to California and was selling the real estate business, including the appraisal division. I said no way, it may be your name but it was my blood, sweat and tears. He very much understood and so, I soon owned it. I got a partner who had the bookkeeping kind of background and so we went on, growing during the 1980s real estate boom to 12 employees. (Although I planned longer, I only was able to take off one week when Baby #2 was born.) And then there was another blip in the financial market and property values started to decline. Where there is no room for a second mortgage or a current home value did not support getting the mortgage refinanced, there are no appraisals. We closed the business and…… life took another pathway.

By this time I had had baby #3 and no income. My husband got laid off. We ended up moving from Connecticut to Tennessee where I stayed home with the baby. Then my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer and after surgery, radiation and chemo I got a job at Vanderbilt Medical Center, working for one of my husband’s eye doctors. I had looked for a managerial position at Vanderbilt and when HR asked me what salary I wanted I thought about what I had made in the good years in Connecticut and then made a “cost of living” adjustment and said $30,000. They laughed…too high apparently. Anything lower would not help the family so I changed my resume to administration instead and ended up taking that first position as an AA for $18,000. I figured if I was not going to earn enough money I might as well not be in charge of anything. And so….. life took another pathway.Image result for vanderbilt university medical center

After five years of learning eye health jargon, things changed when the doctor in charge left. My position was eliminated but I was not, so HR moved me to another place in the hospital. The boss was, to put it nicely, a challenged individual. I left and move over to the university side of Vanderbilt to the Department of French & Italian. More new things to learn and master. And then my husband died and there I was a widow with a young child. Graham entered my life and I sure made him work to woo both of us. And there I was again….my life took another pathway.

My kiddo and I joined Graham when he went on sabbatical to Colorado for six months. I thought a start together in a neutral location would be good. We made friends and when it looked like he might be offered a job there I started looking for work. I had a sweet sweet double interview with the statewide blood bank and they offered me a position for a beautiful salary. I came home from that interview to be told we were moving back to West Virginia.  Ha ha…guess what….. my life took another pathway.

Looking for work in the Rust Belt was a challenge. I finally was hired as a practice manager for a financial adviser. Since it was a start-up I accepted a lower than desired salary with the promise of bonuses that would boost it to the sky (dream on, eh?). That never happened. After three years of building that business into something sustainable, I asked for a $10,000 raise and he basically countered with 50 cents an hour. I resigned. This time, definitely my choice…..my life took another pathway.

I started to build up my book selling business that I had been running on a small scale for about 12 years to provide additional income. I was able to match that prior salary for the next two years while having the time to also get involved in the farm-to-table movement and helping build The Wild Ramp. All the time, we were planning for my husband to retire when my kiddo left for college and so……my life took another pathway.

We moved to Oregon just about four years ago. I applied to about 50 jobs, making sure each cover letter and each resume was custom tailored to each specific job. I never heard from 46 place, but had four interviews. One had the grace to tell me I was overqualified and they were sure I would be bored and quit. I countered with an comment (I had nothing to lose)  that at this age I would love a job I could do with one hand behind my back. But no job was offered. (Ageism is one more hurdle to getting a job that needs to be fixed.  Date of birth information can no longer be asked, but they can and do asked for education information, including year of graduation. I think you agree, most of us complete high school at age 18, so extrapolation is easy.) So feeling ready to do anything….. life took another pathway.

I took a summer job as a farm hand. Yes, me. I never ate so much ibuprofen in my life but I did it and learned a lot more. In all my effort with The Wild Ramp I had probably visited 100 farms and had heard their stories. Now I got to get a (very small) taste of the life farmers live.  And the experience confirmed something I already suspected: I am not a farmer. But I need my farmers (we all do) and respect them highly. And so, taking a plunge……my life took another pathway.

I started up the commercial food processing business, Can-Do Real Food, to support local farmers by preserving their surplus produce by canning and dehydrating. (This gives the farmer another income, provides consumers a way to have a taste of the local summer harvest any time during the year, and reduces food waste.)  When we moved to Oregon I learned to can, so I had one year of canning at home. Other people have forgotten more than I have learned but it has been a pretty amazing experience. You can read more about it at the Can-Do Real Food blog. 

In the past year I had been dealing with a knee that has been injured but there is nothing surgical that can be done to fix it. It forces me to walk a bit wonky which has now affected my hip joint on the other side. I am in a new world of hurt and so…..I suspect my life is about to take another pathway again.

Through all these years (63 and counting) I have received continual education. The first part is one we all are fed K through  12. The next was the narrowing down of a field of study (college). And since then, through work and seminars and conferences and self teaching, the learning has continued and increased.  I urge everyone I love to never stop exploring, never be afraid of change.

I know jargon related to the legal profession, the medical profession, the academic profession, and now food processing (and government regulation thereof).  I wonder what’s next!  Whatever it is, I strongly doubt I will ever live in New York City!

 

 


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Six Decades of Medical Care

So many changes. Any time you can talk to someone whose life has spanned more decades than your’s, an interesting discussion could result if you asked about big changes they had observed. I thought I’d take you through a small walk about health care as I have experienced it. I suspect this post will be longer than most I write.

doctor-norman-rockwellMy mom trained as a nurse in the 1940s and met a doctor studying to be a pediatrician at the hospital in New York City. When she and my dad moved to New Jersey they were thrilled the doctor had set up practice in the next town and I was told years later that I was his first baby, whatever that implies. Anyway, we would go to his office, located in the first floor of a multi-family house and wait to be called in. I read Highlights magazines and graduated later to Reader Digests. (I guess some things never change.)  I had my first asthma attack at age 5 playing with a hula hoop. I received allergy shots with needles that were sterilized with the glass syringes in the doctor’s office in their autoclave.  When I was too sick to go to his office, he came to our house. The house call that no longer exists.

In college I went to the college infirmary. The health care fee was covered in our overall  tuition which was about $500 a year.  My 19-year-old skiing accident where I banged up my knee was ignored and over a few weeks I healed. I developed arthritis in that knee in my 40s.  (Life lesson…if you get hurt, even if you are young and can heal well, go get help to make sure you are healing correctly.)

My first job after college was for the State of Tennessee in Nashville. I really do not remember the insurance plan provided but it would have been a large group of state employees. I didn’t see the doctor at all except my annual checks for health and I ended up with a minor surgery. I did not take any medication in those days.  I don’t remember the fees but I do remember there was no stress in paying even though I was making about $6,000 a year.

herniated-discI changed jobs and moved to Memphis a few years later and in the course of the move, hurt my back. My new insurance was through my company and even though the injury happened before my first day of work, there was no waiting period.  I saw a chiropractor a few times and then an orthopedic specialist for a year before opting for surgery. There were no MRIs in those days and I was in the hospital for 4 days. My portion of the bill was under $100.  I also started allergy shots again while living there and paid $1 per shot.

I ended up a few years later  in Connecticut. My husband worked and had Blue Cross through his employer. He needed counseling and later a short hospitalization. I started taking blood pressure medication.   We had two babies (one by c-section).  One baby needed a couple of surgeries.  Our copays for medicine were $1. The hospital bills were $500 for the c-section, $300 for the next delivery VBAC, and the other surgeries were about $300 each.

That husband and I split and I was able to pick up coverage for a Kaiser Permanente HMO plan through a small business group. I paid $400 a month for a family plan which included my two kids and me, and later, a new husband.  It had no copays nor prescription costs. I fell and hurt my back again. Again I saw a chiropractor for a while and then he referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. Still no MRI in those days. The hospital stay was 2 days and I think my bill was about $700. I later had a miscarriage and the D&C cost nothing since it was done in the office. My last baby was born in the same hospital as the first, 11 years before but was also a VBAC and cost about $500.

Then I moved back to Nashville and my husband started working for the State of Tennessee and we had HMO plan through Aetna. Prescriptions were $2 or $5 each. Doctor visits to our primary physician were free. Specialists were more and this was when things started getting really interesting since my husband was soon diagnosed with brain cancer.  We were sent for a C-Scan one day and then an MRI the next. The specialist at Vanderbilt Medical Center ran a kazillion tests to determine where the tumor was located and the potential effect removal would have. Surgery was scheduled and became the day my life seriously changed as he had the equivalent of a stroke on the operating table and was not expected to survive. But he made it through the night, improved in fits and starts in 8 weeks in the ICU, another 2 weeks in a regular room and then home. Physical therapy was provided at home for a few sessions and then we went to the clinic for that. I understood the coverage for physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy was for 5 weeks. The clinic suggested visits twice a week. We asked for and went daily every weekday of those 5 weeks.  At that point he had improved enough that they wanted to try the surgery they had had to stop 5 months before. It went well, with 2 weeks in ICU and then home after another week. The bill, when it got to us and I finally figured out the in and out and all around nonsense, was $7500 to us.brain-tumors-fig4ab_large

(Now, we step aside for a minute. Recognizing that $7500 is an amazingly low bill for all the scans and surgeries and special tests and ICU and medicines, it still was something above and beyond what we could afford. He was the wage earner. I was home with the baby, something both of us had wanted to try to do for a couple of years and I was just starting to look for work when his seizures started. So, we had no income, no savings and we had that $7500 bill and of course all our normal living expenses and rent, utilities, food, car expenses and then I needed migraine medications, I’m sure you can understand why.

At that point I did a few things. First, I called our landlord and asked him if he had a smaller, less expensive place for us to live and he listened to the why of the question, was silent and then said “The last thing you need is to move. Pay me when you can as much as you can and don’t worry about it until then. I am in a position to help you.” That man is one of my life angels. I have used this story whenever I hear anyone talk about how people who are homeless are all drug addicts or drunks and basically did it to themselves. There but for the grace of that wonderful man, we would have been homeless.

I also called and talked to someone at the county level to find out if I qualified for any assistance program for the six months until the social security disability payments kicked in. They said no. The problem was we had a VERY few thousand dollars in our IRAs and they wanted us to use that up before any public assistance would kick in. The fact that it was a temporary need and very little set aside for our future did not work into any equation for help.

Finally, I called the credit card companies. We had 3 cards and each had about $2000 on it. I asked for the cards to be frozen. Basically I would not use them but asked for no interest or penalties. I owed the $6000 but did not want to see it go ridiculously higher when we could not make payments. They refused to work with me.)

So, back to the medical care. Cancer is expensive. We had radiation therapy. We had chemotherapy. And then, something unexpected happened. He did not die. I was told to expect him to not live beyond five years and when all was said and done, it was about 10 years. I had gotten a job after the first round of chemo so we would start having more income. I was lucky to get a job at Vanderbilt Medical Center and later the University. In those days the issue of pre-existing conditions meant that he would have had no medical coverage at all and I would not have had coverage for my blood pressure, allergies and stupid migraines for at least 12 months. But the year before the Democratic Congress had passed a law that any employer with more than 100 employees would offer health plans with no pre-existing conditions limitations.

So on we went. The plan each year at Vanderbilt changed. Sometimes it was strongly limited to Vanderbilt with very low fees inside that medical center and higher rates outside. No big deal to us since we were relatively new to town, but it caused messes for people who had relationships with doctors outside the system. One year it was equal inside and outside the medical center. I had sinus surgery that year at a different hospital.  By that time my share of our medical bills were topping $15,000. Still not a ridiculously high price but too high for us.

I went to talk to a debt counselor. After hearing my story he got up and shut the door and said they were not supposed to suggest bankruptcy but our situation was exactly the reason the law was there. I refused. Maybe not my wisest decision but I felt we owed all we owed except for the stupid interest and penalties for the three credit cards. He suggested if I chose bankruptcy my credit would be okay in seven years. I still said no. I felt morally obligated to pay my bills. I just needed help getting them reduced or a time payment plan set up.bankruptcy-causes

hospicemedallionAnd on it went. About eight and a half years into the illness my husband could no longer stay home safely by himself. The option of me quitting working was not feasible, so we needed to find a nursing home for his care. The one that had a bed at the time was my third choice. The top two had a medical director that was our primary care physician so I thought the continuity with the same practitioner would be beneficial. But they had no beds, so he went to #3.  It was fine, as those kind of places go, but week after week he “failed” the test to be able to become a Medicaid patient. He could put the pills in his mouth and swallow them when they were handed to him. He could dress himself in two hours when the clothes were given to him. He could still manage to shuffle to the bathroom. But the time came when he couldn’t do enough of the things on the checklist and so, became eligible. All bills were sent to Medicaid. The nursing home had a fire three days later and 13 patients died. (The story of that night is for another time.)  Ironically, my husband got transferred to one of the places we wanted.   Once Medicaid took over, I had no more additional costs for him. We stopped taking him for MRIs when it needed to be by ambulance and really, why bother after a while. Hospice got involved and visited him three times a week to provide supplemental care issues.

I stayed at Vanderbilt another 18 months after he died.  By that time I had moved to the university side of Vanderbilt and was voted to the Staff Council. My project was to track the amount we shared in our  paychecks to pay for our medical insurance (and parking) each year (the payroll deduction increased about 10% annually) while noting our raises each year (about 5%). While I appreciated the benefits, I wanted people to realize that we were slipping backwards all the time. I quit the Council when I was told to stop; that the administration did not want that kind of information shared with the staff who could not figure it out themselves.  Meanwhile,  Graham, who I had met online in a chat room about 8 years before, asked me to marry him and have my youngest and me join him. He was teaching at a state university in West Virginia, so had a health insurance plan through the state.  He was able to add my son as a dependent pretty quickly but I paid COBRA until we got married.

copayThe new plan was challenging. It was a more standard system with copays and deductibles that had to be met and  with a cap on lifetime use.  Having been exposed to the world of cancer I knew sometimes patients ran into the lifetime limit and care ended, with death soon after. It was horrific to watch knowing a maintenance dose could keep a person alive longer with a decent quality of life.  I started allergy treatments again as my sinuses and lungs were getting horribly affected with the pollution in the Ohio River Valley.  We had no dental care coverage, minimal eye health coverage, and limited options for specialists because West Virginia is one of those places in the nation that just does not have all the choices other places do.

And then the young one left for college. We had to take out an insurance policy of about $1000 a year on top of all his tuition and fees and room and board for him to access the medical care on campus. Then Graham retired and we made our move to Oregon. Graham had enrolled in Medicare and the first problem we had was there were no primary care doctors in our town who were taking new Medicare patients. I paid $500 a month for a COBRA plan from the State of West Virginia when the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act allowed implementation. I was pleased because the time limit for COBRA was going to run out before I became old enough for Medicare.

ohpWorking with someone trained in all the offerings, I selected a plan that was good and did not cost “much” It was $550 a month just for me. Since our rate was based on the prior year’s income and we had now retired, we resubmitted about 4 months later with our current income. We wanted to find something in the $350 a month range but instead they enrolled me in the Oregon Health Plan, the expanded Medicaid offering.

I was concerned that I would not get adequate care but was extremely surprised and pleased for the most part. The one issue where the specialist decided not to order an MRI when I injured my arthritic knee (“You have arthritis” he said. “I know,” I answered, ” but it feels different and I can’t walk right.”) and told me to go home. Otherwise, the clinic was friendly, competent and ON TIME.

Last September it was time to re-enroll and our joint income was $200 a month too high to qualify for the same plan, so I had to go back out to the Marketplace and found something for $530.  And OHP dropped me in September but I could not pick up the new plan until January 1. I went three months without my breathing meds ($1000 out of pocket per month) and that set me back to a 20% lung function rating. It will take me about three months to climb back to something better. I have copays and a deductible of $2500. I’m partway there….got that MRI for the knee and that cost me over $700 out of picket because I am working down my deductible.

So, the point here was not to bitch and moan. The point is to show that health insurance has ALWAYS been confusing and ALWAYS has been inaccessible to a large group of the American public.  Prices ALWAYS go up. Benefits ALWAYS go down.

But I sure enjoyed the Medicaid plan. I would be willing to pay an affordable monthly fee for a plan that allowed me to get care without any copays or deductibles or lifetime limits.  THAT was a joy.cost-of-healthcare

 


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As I started visiting small farms in West Virginia to market local food to consumers, I learned a lot I didn’t know.  And it got me very alarmed.

My blogs started taking on a urgent tone…you MUST change your ways….until a woman I barely knew and subsequently became a best friend, cautioned me that no one listens to yelling.

So, I think I will let photos tell the story and just give you something to think about each one.

Did you know that the US government permits chickens to be sent to China where labor costs are so much lower? The chickens will be processed and then shipped back, the better for you to continue enjoying chicken at a low price.567372-usda-allows-chicken-processing-in-china

Did you know that a number of food items prepared in China, from dog treats to baby food, have been recalled because of toxic and unhealthy items?  Unless you know your farmer, you will not know where the meat was processed.

Starting in 1994 some crops were genetically modified. Within ten years it has been estimated that over 75% of the average American diet was obtained from genetically enhanced foods….plants and animals that would not occur naturally and are only designed to help with weeds and pests or other environmental annoyances to the producer.  While the jury is still out about the genetic changes in our food affecting the eater, it is already clear that the manufacturers have not obtained one of their goals: to reduce the use of chemical sprays. So, anyone eating GMO food is getting a huge dose of chemicals that are being determined, because of consumer pressure, to be carcinogenic. gmo-awareness-blog-masthead-4

In the past five years there have been efforts made in a number of states to require foods that use genetically modified ingredients to be labeled. The companies that make the chemicals, control the seeds for planting, and the organizations that manufacture and sell the food involved have poured in billions of dollars and persuaded people who are not taking time to read independently that there is no ill effect. However, in each fight the margin is getting closer and closer so now these organizations are fighting in Congress to prohibit labeling. They think the typical American is too stupid to understand and if they see an issue they will not buy the products.

Most meat that is sold in supermarkets are from animals that have spent at least a few months in what is called a animal confinement facility.  Efforts by activists have raised awareness that the automatic use of antibiotics to increase the growth rate and keep the animals from getting sick in the dirty and congested facilities have resulted in antibiotic resistance strains of bacteria that mean people who get sick may not be able to be helped. Some places have eliminated its use and are advertising “antibiotic free.” pig factory farmKS cattle feedlot

 

 

 

 

It has become illegal to obtain and show these photos, as the organizations behind it realize you might get concerned and stop buying their products. Stopping the photos does not mean the practice has stopped.

So, now what?  Well, take a few minutes and think about your own body or your kids.  Does anyone have pretty constant tummy problems?  How about immune system problems, like allergies, eczema,  arthritis, and there even has been some discussion about chemicals in conventional food related to higher rates of ADHD.  If anyone eating out of your kitchen or eating out regularly has any of these symptoms, you may want to switch a pattern of spending.farmacy

You might want to try what we did……we did a 6-month trial. We did not buy organic as our first choice, but from local farmers we got to know and understood they used no sprays and other organic practices to raise their food. We supplemented with organic products only if we could not obtain what we needed. My husband was skeptical but after 6 months my arthritis was more easily managed and my daughter’s gut issues which had bothered her since her teen years improved dramatically.

Local Harvest  is a national organization that provides information near your zip code for farms. No excuse you don’t “know your farmer.”localharvest_logo

We also discovered one more benefit….our food tasted better than what we could buy in the supermarket.  If only for THAT reason, if you ENJOY eating, you might want to run a test.