The eighteen month long treatment phase had finally started to wind down after 16 rounds of chemo and 30 rounds of Herceptin. This was the final surgery that included constructing and grafting nipples, getting my chemo port removed and liposuctioning the excess fat that had migrated from my chest to my armpits (sounds sexy, doesn’t it). I was more than ready to get over this last surgery hurdle but dreaded another recovery time, which turned out to be minimal compared to some of the previous procedures. David Ray always lectured the doctors and nurses to take extra special care of me. They had heard it all before and were very kind to both of us, realizing how hard it was for him to see me rolled into surgery once again.
On a related note, though I had reached my deductible and was fully insured, my insurance carrier, using separate medical codes for the same surgery, paid 100% of the primary procedure, then 50% of the next and only 25% of the third procedure, although it was all done during the same surgery. The bill for the entire surgery was $18,395. Insurance paid only $2,814.50, although they still send me form letters saying that they comply with the federal Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 that requires insurance companies to pay for reconstructive surgeries related to breast cancer. My family will be paying well over $100,000 when it is all said and done. I do not fault the Mayo Clinic who has given me superb medical care. I fault the insurance company, who I won’t name, for continuing to deny and manipulate claims after we have paid into the benefit program for over 20 years. This ongoing struggle with the insurance industry has been one of the most exhausting and frustrating complications of the disease.
Author Note: A Stroll Down Mammary Lane is an illustrated journal chronicling eighteen months of our experience with breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and cure. During the long convalescence, I spent most of my time horizontal healing from multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and other treatments. I was unable to work in my pottery studio and my career as a full time ceramic sculptor was put on hold while I focused on getting through one procedure at a time. I wasn’t able to do much but I did draw and it resulted in about 90 illustrations of my process of fighting breast cancer.
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