A few of you who are reading this have been in the military/are in the military/have dealt with the VA system. In spite of all the bad press (most of it related to administrative problems and not actual quality of care) I am certainly a fan of having a VA Medical System. Yes, admittedly it is more easily used by those who are in the larger cities and more challenging for those in remote locations. No, it is not military sick call, nor can you dictate a list of what you want and expect to just be handed a bag of medications.
The price for most of us is certainly right. The system does means test those coming in with non-service related medical problems. At least that is what I have read. Considering that the VA considered me 100% I haven’t had to worry about any paperwork other than to keep repeating “I don’t have any other medical insurance.
In the back of my mind, I had the occasional feeling of guilt about being considered “disabled.” After all, the non-Hodgkins lymphoma on which they rated me (plus secondary resultant medical conditions which certainly are valid) was back in 1995. Since I never received chemo or rads, I was considered in remission rather than cured. Remission implies disease could possibly come back. Almost unheard of after 15 years, but the possibility always exists. Meanwhile, an amount lands in my savings account every month
Some of this moved to the front of my mind when I flew home from the UK rather than take the Navigator. Something just wasn’t right. The ER doc at the SF VA wasn’t impressed with my concerns. He ordered some routine stuff and told me to follow up with primary care. This was a Friday night. On Monday I went over to the Oakland Outpatient VA Clinic who did take me seriously. Labs were ok, exam wasn’t normal and most certainly my ultrasound wasn’t. Had the pleasure of getting my first CT in almost two decades on an urgent basis. Huh – what the ???? is that where my right kidney should be. Since I’m not exactly fat, a mass in my abdomen takes talent to miss.
Since then I have met some lovely providers and talked to several more on the phone. The extremely knowledgeable and kind urology staff of the Sacramento VA called and said that I needed to have a biopsy soonest but she didn’t think it was going to be diagnosed as renal. The interventional radiologist (same place) was amazing; pathology came to do on the spot touch preps as well as take samples for further diagnostics. Their assessment? You had it before and it is baaaackkk… (Fenton – Death Sheep from Hell kept running through my mind – the Tom Smith song from 1992/4). Following that starts the rounds of “get this lab, see that person, you need a couple more tests, there is this thing called a port……”
I’m neither amused nor dancing with joy. I had a lot of travel planned for after the first of the year:
- Lapland for wildlife and Aurora photography in Jan
- Amazon cruise and Machu Pichu with George in Feb
- The final two cruises of the Legend in March
- April starts the As home game season
- End of April through mid-may on the Rhapsody followed by a meeting in Barcelona
- and then potentially an OAT trip lasting till mid-June.
Obviously my schedule has had to undergo a bit of an adjustment. I’m still talking with SAS about being able to move my airfare to next year (rather than lose it completely). The lovely guys in Sweden were able to fill my slot and gave me a complete refund. Transfer to something else for Feb is being worked on. I’ll swap the Rhapsody TA for 8-11 in Munich for a NATO meeting followed by ISTM in Barcelona the following week. OAT has been slid.
My oncologist is willing to work with me on a treatment schedule that is not going to leave me weak and hairless. Unless something amazing comes up on the last rads test I have a chronic and indolent lymphoma. It has probably been growing for a long time. You control it; cure is not really feasible (without taking me out in the process).
Next week I get to go over to the SF VA (again) for a confirmatory opinion and hopefully the first round of treatment since my tumor size dictates that in-patient would be really, really smart. I’ll keep up the commentary here. Since for the next few months there isn’t going to be much travel going on, I won’t be offended if you don’t chose to drop by. Other than my whining, anything else is likely to be about knitting, sewing and reading.
Oh, and sleeping. Sleeping is really good!