Saturday, December 28, 2013

Final Bill Tally

I finally got around to catching up on the medical billings.

This is essentially the final tally. I'll have a few ongoing expenses for surveillance, but this covers all of treatment and related expenses such as the IV stand rental for tube feeding, the tube feeding supplies, swallowing therapy, etc.

The Grand Total:

Billed Allowed by Insurance Paid by Insurance Paid by Me
$355,539.08 $128,013.95 $125,319.35 $2,695.00

Thank goodness for insurance, eh?

I have updated the Medical Bills link in the sidebar (only visible in a full browser). Here's the direct link.

This tally doesn't include parking. That ranged from $7-12 per day depending on how long we were at Dana-Farber, and we were there at least 50 days. It also doesn't include prescriptions. We pay a maximum of $10 for any prescription, but I had a lot of them. I'll tally those costs at some point because I'm curious. Together those expenses will add another several hundred dollars at least.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Happy Holidays

Sheesh, it's been a while.

I haven't had too many deep thoughts to share with you, lately.

The photo shows the product of my latest haircut. My scalp hair has really come back. In fact, it seems darker and thicker than before cancer treatment.

And it also looks like if I let it grow more than half an inch it might even have some curl to it!

Up close, my scalp looks to me like the close-up photos of hair transplant results from Bosley.

During and after treatment my hair almost stopped growing. And it thinned out quite a bit. When we would cut it back in August and September the trimmings were minimal.

We've been enjoying the holidays. Mostly laying low and relaxing.

I always have at least a week and a half off at the holidays, sometimes more. I always have ambitious plans during the break. I like to learn something (how to program iPhone apps in 2010) or build something (helium balloon aerial camera in 2011).

This year I also had big plans, but I just don't have energy.

I keep telling myself to chill - that it's OK to just rest.

I think I mentioned before that my body temperature regulation is completely different now than it was before cancer treatment. I used to never feel cold, even in our drafty 113-year-old house in the winter. But now I am cold much of the time. So my favorite Christmas gifts from Wonderful Wife were two pair or fleece pants and an electric blanket for our bed.

Getting into a pre-warmed bed at night is heaven.

We've been sleeping until 9:30, which is pretty unheard of for me.

I'm still feeling slightly depressed. Getting out helps. The Progeny love to just hang out at home during the holiday break and play the new video games they got for Christmas, but I get cabin fever. If no one else is interested, I go out for errands by myself and enjoy it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Neither Here Nor There

I find myself in an emotional limbo.

I am no longer a cancer patient.

I am not yet "normal".

(Although I think I do a decent job of faking it.)

The emotional experience of recovery from treatment is interesting.

One aspect is a widening of focus. During diagnosis my focus narrowed rapidly until we got to the specific thing I had to confront. During treatment and early recovery my focus was extremely narrow: coping with side effects.

In recovery my focus has slowly expanded to let in more and more of the "real world". Returning to work was a big step in that process.

But I still feel fairly distant from normal. Even a little bit distant from "life".

It's a nebulous thing. Many aspects of life are back to normal and good. I'm making breakfast for The Progeny most mornings again. We're partly back to our habit of getting out to new and interesting places on the weekends. I do physical things like vacuum and shovel snow.

Wonderful Wife and I are as in love as ever.

Apparently it's common for new cancer survivors to have emotional difficulty after treatment. One study said 1/3 of cancer patients suffer from PTSD, even as long as 10 years after diagnosis. Up to a quarter of cancer patients experience depression.

Even without serious emotional problems like PTSD or depression, one has been so focused on the goal of living that one can feel lost when that goal doesn't require as much attention. Normal life feels less vivid after the drama of the cancer experience.

Reading the lists of symptoms of PTSD and depression, I don't suffer from either one.

One of the main specific difficulties I am having pertains to concentration. I've never been diagnosed with ADHD but I definitely have it to some degree. When I was a kid it was just called being hyperactive and I was definitely that (I still am!). So I've always had some trouble staying focused on a task (while also having the ability to sometimes hyper-focus). But lately my tendency to get distracted is in overdrive.

Today I had a physical therapy appointment in the early afternoon. I got home about 3:00. I intended to sit at my personal computer for a few minutes and check email, then get on my work computer and work for a couple of hours. I finally got up from my personal computer at about 6:30. During that time I had flitted from one topic to another with no plan or direction. Fortunately at least some of it was work-related; reading about technologies that I can use at work.

When I go to work I feel energized because it feels good to be out in the world and to be social and to have professional intellectual stimulation. I find myself acting more bouyant at work than I actually feel. I worry that my productivity does not match my apparent normalcy.

On days I go to the office I've been going in at normal time lately, but I usually leave by 3:30. I feel pretty tired on the way home and often hit the sofa as soon as I get home. On the weekends I often still feel quite fatigued. This past Sunday, for example, I was extremely tired and spent the entire day on the sofa watching football (something I never do).

I'm curious what the physiological explanation is for that fatigue. It's very common in cancer survivors and can occur sporadically for up to a year. My mom said after her most recent cancer it occurred for two years. It seems like the biological effects of treatment would be gone by now, so why the fatigue?

My sensory issues could definitely be contributing to my sense of disconnectedness. While I'm getting used to the hearing loss, it's still real and it both makes the world sound like it has a blanket over it and also makes it difficult to hear conversations. Sometimes I give up listening. And the taste issues and the conversion of eating from a source of pleasure to an often unpleasant chore impacts a significant way of sensing the world.

None of this is to say that life is terrible. My life is pretty damn good.

It's just a little weird at the moment.