Saturday, November 28, 2009

The best treatment

I've been living in a whirlwind of doctor appointments, medications, advice, daily routines, work, self-education, wondering, lab tests, work, and symptoms that are as random as they are transient.

My life as it is currently takes a toll on me--part physical, part emotional. It's one thing to be sick, but to know you're sick without knowing what you're sick with creates a constant low-level frustration and anxiety. It also becomes exhausting.

Awhile back, Dr. G suggested that I cut back at work. I told her that sounded like a great idea, except there aren't many things I'm qualified to do, and certainly almost none that would bring in my current pay. Besides, I told her, doing nothing, laying low, having no real action in my day would kill me faster than any illness.

It has been interesting to note that I'm getting better at doing nothing--or my version of nothing. I've been working on my sleep. The inability to sleep continues to make me miserable. I've been trying to be more disciplined about maintaining a routine and a set bedtime. I've been sleeping better this week, a week, I should point out, when I only had to work two days.

This morning my husband was talking to me and he said, "You look better." I was a little confused.
"Better than what?"
"Better than usual. You don't look so tired. You look more relaxed. Your color's better."

Oh. No, no, no, no. I cannot accept that a lack of rest is the thing that
is making me so unwell. I am not that person who is so delicate that she must not encounter stress.

Absolutely not. I am made of tougher stuff.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Not so much as a yawn.

Why am I always unable to sleep?

Tired most of the day, then wide awake at 3:00 in the afternoon. If I didn't take meds, I would stay up until 4:00 a.m. or so.

If I get six hours of sleep, I consider this an accomplishment.

This can't be healthy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Obesity is going to kill us

A new report was released this week that concludes that the number one health threat to the U.S. population is obesity. Americans are getting fatter by the day, and the associated health toll is showing up in medical dollar signs.

The medical insurance companies claim they don't want to insure people who are obese. Let's face it, they don't want to insure anyone who isn't a specimen of perfect health and fitness living a risk-free life.

The thing is, my insurance company, Great West/Cigna, doesn't pay for anything except illness. The policy clearly outlines the many tools for wellness that are not covered including:
--Using the services of a dietitian or nutritionist
--Attending a university diet program (usually at a school's Center for Human --Nutrition)
--Personal trainer
--Gym membership
--Exercise education (classes)
--Fitness incentives

If you want to quit smoking, my insurance company, like so many others, will provide telephone counseling support 24/7, nicotine patches, literature, and if need be, consultations with a doctor. These tools will continue to be available over and over again, until the patient succeeds in quitting smoking or gives up trying.

My insurance will not provide any assistance toward my weight loss; however, it will pay for Lap Band surgery or traditional gastric bypass surgery, should I get to that point. In other words, if I gain another 30 pounds, I can have surgery, but at my current weight, Cigna is uninterested in my wellness.

I am not unique. The point here is that if obesity--which is expected to rise dramatically in the next few years--is such a serious and expensive health threat, wouldn't it make sense for health insurance companies to invest in just that--health?

I have taken a slightly different approach to getting what I need. For the most part, I have watched my weight spiral upward despite my many attempts to make it go the other way. I eventually stopped trying, and my weight, surprisingly, didn't change much at all. It hit a set point at 195 and seems to have found a home there.

This doesn't mean I'm content with that or resigned to it. Not at all. I recently made an appointment with a systemic wellness specialist who does a lot of endocrinology work. She's also a bariatric specialist, but I found that out after I got there.

I told her my story of frustration and fruitless attempts at getting skinny. I told her that being fit didn't matter to me. Being healthier didn't matter to me. I wanted one thing and one thing only and that was to look like an auburn-haired, purse-toting human toothpick.

She smiled. I was not the first to say this. She said something that took me by surprise. She said, "I believe you. I am sure you've tried. Before you can address the weight you're carrying, though, we need to figure out how it got there and we need to understand what your body is doing with its hormone and chemical processes. I suspect you have a lot of things out of whack, and a GP will tell you everything is normal, but as I'm scanning these lab reports you brought, I can tell you it's not."

Here's the thing. My insurance paid for this visit, but it won't pay for the nutrition plan and supplements needed to begin the repairs. Hormones, yes. Nutrition therapy, no. I'll be able to get some of that, but only because the doctor bills this kind of work as something that she knows will be covered. In other words, the only way to get it paid for is to lie.

Where I live, there is a large university with a hospital that does important research. One area they're known for is bariatric medicine. Several years ago, they launched a program to help very overweight (not morbidly obese) people reach a healthy weight through lifestyle changes, customized diet, group therapy, education, and behavior modification. The program has outrageously successful outcome statistics,but there is always a need for more participants. According to an article read, the biggest deterrent for participants is the price. No insurance company will pay for it.

I rest my case.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

my moment

I'm going to be on TV Monday evening. The story will run nationally. I hope I don't come off as the total dork I am.

Later in the week, NPR. Seriously. I have faith I'll sound more intelligent in that interview.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


And before I knew it, I was seated in front of a television camera, giving an interview to a national network. It had been a matter of days since the tragedy, and in an almost surreal turn of events, I had inadvertently helped produce the story.

Sitting in the darkened room, I was aware of my lipstick drying out under the lights, the slight quiver in my voice, and the voice in my head worrying that I would say something stupid or forget something important.

A reporter from the local public radio station then contacted me about doing a different angle on the same story. I found myself sitting, oddly enough, in the basement of my house giving an interview along with three of the other women who also work on the nonprofit. We ended up in the basement after the reporter had inquired on the phone, "And where is your project headquartered?" I blurted out the first funny thought that came to mind, "In the basement of my house." For some reason, the reporter thought this would add a certain authenticity to the meeting. What it really led to was me spending an entire day cleaning up the space. Although you can't see the room on radio, I feared the reporter would reveal the truth in a description along the lines of, "In a dusty, cluttered, pigsty of a basement..."

The interview went well, although the four of us felt a little bit bad when our stories made the reporter cry.

The fruit of a strange whim
In a moment of boredom or distraction today, I decided to google the name of someone I knew as a teenager. This is an oversimplification. In 1975, I participated in a program that matched American teenagers with kids overseas for short-term summer exchange visits. My group was matched with a group in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Patty came to my home in 1975, and I visited her family in 1976.

The trip to Brazil while educational, was akin to a visit to another planet. It wasn't a cultural issue; this was all about class and status. I came from a highly dysfunctional blue-collar family. My parents were chronically deep in debt, and the financial stress of always being broke influenced everything about our lives.

Patty's family wasn't just well-off; they were affluent. Their lifestyle was beyond my comprehension. They lived a palatial house and had live-in staff, including two cooks, a driver, and a handyman. At night, the house was protected by three German Shepherds that were trained not just to attack, but to kill. During the day, the dogs were kept in gated kennels where they snarled at anyone who passed by. I was fascinated that the dogs had been trained only to respond to commands issued in German.

At 15 years old, it is still possible to let curiosity overcome self-consciousness. I enjoyed my time with Patty and her sister Silvia. We kept in touch for a few years, but once college started, we stopped putting in the effort needed to write letters by hand and send them via airmail.

For the past couple of years, I did attempt the occasional Google search to locate Patty, but I was always unsuccessful. Until today. Today it occurred to me to search for only part of Patty's last name, and there it was at the third hit: Her father. It was a professional biography, and although the name left me 50 percent sure I had the right person, the details of the biography erased any doubts about who this was.

I sent an email. I knew the message was going to a public relations mailbox, so I kept it brief and formal. It seemed prudent not to come off as a possible stalker or total wahoo, given the circumstances.

Two hours later, I received a response from Patty's father. It was that easy. Thirty-three years had passed, and in a matter of hours we were back in touch and getting up to date.

Just one more reason to love the Internet.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I stand corrected. Sometimes troubling things do come to light.