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Zap zooie: keeping score

I’ve been reading the recent cancer-treatment-insurance travails of people like Zoe Keating and Eugie Foster, and have been both appalled and glad that my insurance company has been reasonable.

Well, so much for that.

First off, I started radiation a week later than planned, solely because my insurance company took TWO WEEKS to get back to my medical providers. I have federal Blue Cross, by the way, which you’d think would be a good service given the bargaining power of the federal government. Starting a week late means that I’m scheduled for treatments DURING PENNSIC, instead of being done the week before, which makes me more than a bit unhappy. It also pushes back my likely surgery date, making my fall plans less feasible. Thanks, BCBS.

I showed up yesterday afternoon as instructed, having started my scary peach pills that morning. I half-stripped and climbed onto the table. My tattoos were augmented by marker lines covered with clear stickers, images were taken, adjustments were made, I was carefully positioned along laser-marked lines.

The tech came back into the room. “I’m going to lower the table. I’m sorry, but your insurance company has denied IMRT as not medically necessary, although they did authorize regular 3D radiation treatment. The radiation team is making a new plan for you, and they’ll be ready by tomorrow.”

What? My doctors want treatment X because it’s the most effective with the fewest side effects, but my insurance would rather not? At least they’ve approved something, unlike Eugie’s case. The decision is being appealed; the immediate plan is to go with the regular economy-grade radiation treatment, and if FedBCBS relents, to switch over to IMRT.

I discussed all this with both the radiation techs and the nice administrator who’s been dealing with the insurance company for me. (I did contact them to complain about the delay in getting approval, but they never got back to me.) I set up a time for this morning, nice and early (they’re unlikely to be running behind if you show up at 7:45).

So this morning, before coffee even, I was again half-dressed and flat on the table. I mentioned the insurance woes to the new techs, not the ones from yesterday. They… hadn’t heard this, and thought they were doing IMRT as originally planned. So rather than go any farther, they went off to check.

Yep. No change in the insurance status, and the 3D plan wasn’t ready yet, but would be in about an hour. They offered to call me when it was (me being unwilling to wait any longer than absolutely necessary), and so I went out for coffee.

It was just about an hour later, and they managed to squeeze me in shortly after I returned to the hospital. The radiation treatment center is always very busy. This time, ZAP.

Score so far:
Times half-naked on the treatment table: 3.
Actual treatments: 1.
Doses of scary peach pills (Xeloda): 3.
Current side effects: mild queasiness; numb fingertips on my left hand from previous chemo. That will be aggravated by the peach poison, but should fade after I’m done with treatment.

I’ve also lost quite a bit of hair, but it was so thick to start with that you can’t even tell. I need to shave my legs a lot less often now, though.


  1. Mari says:

    ::Hugs:: I have no words. None. That the health care in this nation is rationed out by pencil-pushers is so wrong I can’t even begin. Hang in there. Love ya.

  2. Toni says:

    Insurance companies shouldn’t be able to decide what treatment someone receives, but until the politics change, it won’t change 🙁

    Do we need to start the “Make Sarah a chemo cap” program?

  3. Laura says:

    Oh, just…yuck. I think I will leave the adjectives up to Nick, who will doubtless be much more articulate than I can. Insult to injury, and before coffee, even. 🙁

  4. Sarah says:

    Yeah, if I’m going to be pantsless before coffee, there are better things to be doing.

  5. Sarah says:

    Toni, I still have plenty of hair, though I’m quite enjoying the “not shaving my legs” part.