Mold Issues at the Condo (part 3) Insurance and Cleanup

After I cleaned up a bit I called our insurance company and made a claim.

I had to throw out our bedroom comforter and pillows.  Also the dining room table and chairs, as well as rugs.

Then I went to work on the mirrors.  These pictures were AFTER using Windex:

 Made a couple of trips to the dry cleaners.  At the condo, washed about 8 loads of sheets, towels, etc.

Much to my delight, our insurance covered the new a/c and furnace, the mold cleanup and the destroyed mirrors, table, chairs, rugs, comforter, pillows, lampshades, etc.

I’m tickled to say the condo is like NEW.  Sparkling! 

But, what a pain in the arse!

I returned home on Monday.  Got a phone call yesterday that Dom’s cancer is GONE!  Zero M-Spike! Remission-Boy is BACK!  

What a Christmas present!

To be sure

I just got my car insurance renewal bill, a happy notification my insurer gleefully sends me twice a year. I noticed in passing that it had managed to rise slightly since the last renewal, in spite of removing a vehicle from the list. Of course, I added one as well; my new and sparkling Honda Odyssey all modified for gimp convenience. Since I have it fully insured, it didn’t surprise me that the bill had risen, what took me off guard was that it had almost doubled in price. That’s what you get when you spend so much on a car.

After a whole lot of fanning and words of encouragement, my wife got me off the floor and back into my wheelchair where I regaled her with a full concert of philharmonic whining. “It’s not fair!” I screeched. “I’m a cripple on fixed income. They should be more generous in their pricing for people like me.”  My wife nodded dutifully and let me get it out of my system. After a while, I sighed deeply and hit the PAY NOW button on the website and heard the strong sucking sounds of a newly unplugged drain coming from my bank account.

“Maybe this is a good time for us to consider quitting smoking.” offered my wife. She was trying to suggest money saving plans.  I pawed through my closet looking for my shotgun.

“Stay right where you are, sweetie. I’ll be with you in a minute.” Where the hell is my gun when I need it? 

“I was just trying to help.” she pouted, quickly stepping from the room. I heard her break into a run and then the sounds of her car starting and leaving a patch of rubber on departure. I found the shotgun hiding behind a stack of autonomous robots I’d built in a desperate effort to pass time while in the midst of chemotherapy. None of them worked and all had the look of something built by a drugged psychotic, a remarkably accurate description of me in those dark days of brain cell serial murder. I’d put it there after a five day siege when my mechanical wonders took me hostage, demanding a ransom of fifty gallons of Marvel Mystery Oil, a favorite intoxicant for robots. It’s kind of the robotic equivalent of Mad Dog 50-50. I managed to escape by tossing a fully charged LiPo battery into the bathroom and locked them in when they all charged after it. Charged. Get it? Never mind. Anyway, I managed to disable the Hannibal immitating hoarde of robots with a couple of boxes of number 4 buckshot, thus their current lack of functionality. With my victim having fled the premises, I simply made a mental note as to the guns location in case of future need. Like maybe the insurance people might stop by.

I’m not a big fan of insurance, that is, unless I have it and something catastrophic happens to something covered in the policy. I’d be thrilled as a coyote invited to Kentucky Fried Chicken if my car was run over by a cement truck and I had a new vehicle replacement policy. That particular example comes to mind because I did have a car run over by a cement truck once. I had a little Fiat 850 Spider two seater that I traded a $30 Zildjen cymball for. It was parked in front of a Safeway down in Portland, Oregon while I was getting some groceries. I came out to find the rear wheels of a cement truck sitting neat as you please in the cockpit, the front all crushed so you could see where the truck backed up onto it. I didn’t have any kind of insurance and so I was feeling pretty bummed until the driver of the cement truck suggested I take $500 for my car and we’d keep the whole oops thing just between us guys. I made it a point to look like I was hemming and hawing about it while the Halleluja Chorus from Handel’s Messiah played in my head. I said okay, but it was up to him to get his newly purchased Fiat out of the parking lot. He didn’t hem and haw at all, he just pulled out a wallet he had chained to his belt and counted five hundred dollar bills into my hand. Seems just the week before he’d run over an Austin Healy and his boss was pretty unhappy with him. This has nothing to do with insurance, but it’s an interesting story.

I never had any car insurance until the states started to make it mandatory. Even though I’m covered I’ve made it a point to try and avoid collisions. My insurance company appreciates this and my ticketless driving record, and gives me some great discounts. For reasons I don’t understand, my low income level puts me in a higher cost premium than, say, someone making a quarter million a year has to pay. So, a really rich person who owns a half-million dollar Bentley pays less than I do for my Ford Taurus. It seems that whoever came up with this idea for the insurance industry probably advised the IRS on taxes. Whenever I’ve tried to ask how that works, the insurance agent I’m talking to starts explaining how great my discounts are for being a responsible and cautious driver. Hrmmm.

At least this doesn’t happen every month. I make it a point to save up and pay my insurance bill all at once when they bill me twice a year. I don’t think I could stand it if I had to be reminded how much insurance costs me every single month. Thing is, when you get insurance, people call it being responsible. But when you do the same thing at a casino, they call it gambling.

Sick Policy

“So, what brings you to us today?” asked the pleasant gentleman seated before me. We were in one of those tiny little offices that ought to be a cube, but the walls go floor to ceiling. It was painted a creamy buttercup yellow and had a large poster on each wall depicting a kitten facing a problem. I was looking at kitty gripping a screen door as it opened.

“I wanted to look into consolidating my insurance needs.” I answered, swinging my scooter around to get a better look at kitty with a jar stuck on its head. I bumped into the formed plastic visitors chair in the tight quarters. “Sorry about that.”

“No problem. So tell me what insurance you have now.” he said. I liked him, he was relaxed. I went through my three life insurance policies; all of them term policies. I told him I had insurance on three cars, varying between full coverage and liability only. I said I was considering renters insurance, which would lead to homeowner insurance at some point. He listened, nodding occasionally. When I was done he leaned forward on his forearms and asked me why I had three minimal life policies, and wondered if I might be better off to convert to whole life. “I can bundle the products you need in any case, though.” he said.

“Well, I’m medically retired.” I said, rotating myself to face him. “My money comes from disability payments and my condition makes it difficult to get life insurance.”

He nodded again. “So, what’s wrong with you? I mean, what is your condition?” I told him I had Multiple Myeloma, which brought another nod. “What’s that?”

“It’s a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow.”

“Is there treatment for that? Is it one of the cancers they can control?”

“It depends. There are therapies, chemotherapy, stem cell transplants, radiation… it just depends.” I said. He didn’t nod.

“So, tell me about you. I can see that you’re in a chair and you mentioned that you live on disability.”

“Well, we tried Doxorubicin, Velcade and Revlimid. They weren’t effective for me, and I was not a candidate for stem cell transplants. I had certain sensitivities to steroids that were necessary to the process not being fatal. At any rate, the unusual form of the cancer I have, it’s called being a non-secretor, doesn’t manifest many of the attributes that Myeloma is known for. In most cases there are proteins in the blood that cause problems with the renal system among other things, and I don’t have that. Instead, my bones are slowly disintegrating. If you look at an xray of one of the affected areas, it looks like the bone is made of lace, or cheesecloth. There are places where the bone is entirely missing, and areas where the bone has developed a hard and brittle shell where the insides are kind of a mush. Like an M&M you’ve held in your hand too long. Anyway, except for radiation, nothing helped. Radiation works to kill off the bone and its activity in locations of tumors, called plasmacytomas. But it does kill the bone and so it has to be used sparingly. The chemical treatments caused severe peripheral neuropathy, a pretty painful condition. It’s been quite a while since I was treated and the majority of the symptoms have finally, slowly worn off. ”

“So, why the wheelchair? If the peripheral thing went away, what makes you need the chair?”

“It’s because of the damage to the skeleton. For the most part my skeleton won’t bear my weight. If I stand, then it puts great pressure on my lumbar area and hips. The doctors believe that my pelvis will collapse and start a cascade of damage. I guess you can see why I have the little insurance policies I do. The only reason I have those is because of the VFW and American Legion, and Uncle Sam. Three agencies and three policies.”

He was nodding again. Then he shook his head with the same metronome rate as his nod. “I don’t think I can come up with competitive products for those policies.” he said. “It sounds to me like you understand your situation and have already found the insurance products available for greater risk individuals.”  It was my turn to nod. I told him that I was looking to bundle the services, giving me a single place to pay for my premiums and possibly offering me opportunities I might not qualify for but for service bundling. Kind of like I get with Comcast for television and Internet. He was shaking his head again now. “No, I can’t think of a way we can create a composite that includes life insurance.”

He went on to quote me rates for rental insurance and car insurance, and I was a bit surprised at the premiums. His quote for car insurance was a full thousand dollars above what I currently pay Geico. I opted to stick with the little green lizard. As to his renters insurance, that was going to give me a maximum payoff of twenty-five grand for only $300 per month. I took a pass on that as well, deciding that putting away $300 a month into a special savings account made a lot more sense.

The thing is, there aren’t a lot of opportunities out there for those of us with profound illness. If it weren’t for the subsidies of the government and benevolent organizations like the VFW and American Legion, there wouldn’t be any at all. Then again, there is a lot more to these organizations than meets the eye. Membership is a smart move for disabled or chronically ill veterans. And, it is with them that I will be staying, not that I was looking to replace them so much as combine them into a package that was easier to keep track of and manage. But they aren’t all that hard to monitor anyway, what with the organizations always sending notices and information updates.

Ferarro was concerned that only some can afford cancer treatment

This was done in 2007, when Ms. Ferarro was in remission. She expressed concern in this video about the fact that drugs that allowed her to stay alive were not available for all. This continues to be the case. Unless you have a lot of money or good insurance, you may not be able to get the treatment many of us count on to keep us among the living. In this video, she’s getting Velcade and talks about research and funding.

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The World of MM

Ok, so I FINALLY figured out how to find all the e-mails I flagged on my phone, which I had meant to relay onto the blog. They’re all basically messages that I thought would be of interest and importance in the Myeloma community.

1. First off, Mike Katz, the moderator of the ACOR ListServ, messaged all the members not too long ago on the issue of myeloma stem cells. It’s a very hot and heated issue in the MM world, as there are many on both sides of the fence in this argument. Basically, what this is referring to is the debate that there exists stem cells with a myeloma blueprint, allowing it to “resurface” or relapse following a transplant or chemotherapy. The argument goes on to state that we’re basically hitting the bulls-eye on the wrong target. Yes, these drugs may be very effective against current existing myeloma cells in some people, but instead, our focus should be on developing treatments to cut off the myeloma at its root, in the stem cells, to prevent myeloma cells from ever coming back. The trick is HOW we’d be able to discriminate between normal, healthy stem cells and myeloma stem cells, and ensure that these two would be clearly and concisely separated from each other. It’s a very important issue, as stem cells are not an unlimited resource for patients. From what I have read and seen, most patients will be able to harvest enough stem-cells for about two transplants. So. When and how to utilize these stem cells is a critical matter, and literally, makes the difference between life and death. I’m all for the research. Not that I am anywhere CLOSE to being a scientist by any means, but the theory behind all this seems to make sense. It’s uncharted territory. Who knows, maybe this’ll be the holy grail of what the Myeloma community finally needs to find a cure? So, provided are two videos from the IMF (International Myeloma Foundation) on the matter.

2. A fellow ListServ member posted this a while ago (Nancy!) The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) posted their guidelines on for patients on treatment strategies for Multiple Myeloma. From the looks of it, it looks pretty comprehensive. But, a very resourceful tool for patients to use. You can find the site HERE. NOW. With all that being said, I just want to reiterate something that I believe is very important for patients, especially new ones, to know. When you’re first diagnosed, often times the first question you’ll ask is in regards to the prognosis, how long you have to live. Well, i’m sure some have their reasons for doing so, and I respect that. But in my opinion, I think it’s a huge waste of time and energy. The thing is, with the extremely rapid pace that science is moving, any statistics on prognostics are constantly becoming outdated because of how fast research is going. So don’t listen to any of it. Nothing good comes out of it. And honestly, do you REALLY want to know? It’s a GINORMOUS ball of stress and pressure to live each and every single day out of however many years you may or may not have left to the fullest. Prognostics are bad news bears, in my opinion. 

3. I can’t offer too much advice on this matter because my Dad is the one that handles all the finances of this stuff. But you don’t have to be affected by cancer to know that financing treatment on your own, without any assistance whatsoever, is not an option. A ListServ member (Dianne!) mentioned a website that I think many will be able to utilize. Laurie Todd is a cancer survivor and has a site titled “The Insurance Warrior” that deals with a lot of insurance issues and money matters. Take a look. 

4. Lastly, it’s been reported (again, thanks Dianne!) that Bortezomib (Velcade) can cause severe irreversibe bilateral hearing loss. I haven’t had the chance to read it over just yet, but the link is HERE if you would like to check it out. 

That’s all i’ve got for now!
Hope it helps