“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls others build windmills”- Chinese Proverb
Lately, I have been a bit distant from my social media sites and blogs and I must ask for forgiveness. After a month of joyful celebration on the occasion of my birthday, I have discovered that even the good times can end up in flames and the best things can go up –up-up into the stratosphere in a split of a second. At that time, we stop and try as best we can to reach and hold on to the good times and fond memories before they are completely out of our reach till the wind changes once again bringing us back the things we love.
So, at present the winds of my sail have slightly shifted into some rough waters and I am struggling to hold onto the elusive butterfly of good health ( as much as one can have good health in the midst of a chronic illness like PD) waiting for a favorable wind once more.
Funny thing is that as we all live with a chronic illness, we tend to worry about things that will most likely never happen; yet the things we never see coming can take us for a loop and blindside us especially when they come unexpectedly on a Tuesday afternoon as most unexpected things do.
After a month of pancreatitis followed by a wonderful month of birthday celebrations, reuniting with old friends and working on the things I love writing, speaking, sharing stories over coffee with other fellow Parkinson’s friends, I got a most unexpected call. You have a “mass” in an unexpected place- my liver.
As my life came to a scratching halt, I have come to realize a few things.
First, how lucky I am to have a wonderful husband, daughter, family as well as wonderful friends such as you guys.
Second, despite the fact that in this country we are experiencing a terrible health crisis, we are still very lucky to be able to have choices regarding what doctors to see, multiple treatment options even for those of us with low socioeconomic means due to many charitable organizations which help many individuals and families pay for costly treatments. Recently while at the medical center in Houston, I happened to run into a patient who told me she had traveled alone from Australia after selling a great deal of possessions just to be able to make the trip to this country. She said she came here because ‘the US has the best doctors and medicines in the world!’ She was visibly desperate to find answers and new forms of treatments for her cancer. She told me that in her native country although medicine is socialized and free for all, the waits are long and they don’t have many choices …it is first come first serve and one treatment type for all. In her case for her type of cancer. I felt so sorry for her and wished that I could help somehow. After all we know, prognosis and treatment plans really need to be individualized because not a single one among us is the same as the other. Even when we have the same disease or cancer our responses to treatment are entirely unique partly due to our genetics, our sex, as well as our cultural imprinting and belief system.
I referred her to several programs which typically help people with cancer not knowing if they could help her since she was not from this country. All the while hoping and praying they could offer her the assistance she needed to help her chances of recovery and fight her cancer with the best treatment options available.
Little that I know that a few months later I would find myself in a similar situation trying to find the best doctors and treatment options for my own disease. Unlike her, I do have insurance in this country but if it turns out to be a malignancy I will also need some form of assistance from some charitable organization since according to my healthcare provider I am already in the catastrophic range for this year. I thought I was doing great!
Thus my worries at this time are concentrated only on finding the best team of physicians to help me get back to doing what I love; spending time with family and taking care of people with PD. Thank God for the fact that although out healthcare system is in desperate need for an overhaul, we have many entrepreneurs who are willing to help fill in some of the gaps. Nevertheless, we still need our government to step up their efforts so that we don’t end up in a country such as Mexico where medicine like the rest of the country is ruled by the have’s and have –nots creating a sense of laissez-faire attitude in most of the population- why seek care if won’t be able to afford treatment?
Third, dealing with my doctors over the last few weeks, I have once again confirmed the need for self-advocacy. This seems particularly true in this day and age of high physician burn -out and demands within the practice of medicine. This undue stress is imposed especially on those who treat chronically ill patients. That is because the patients with the most medical problems like myself eventually become Medicare recipients. As with any government agency there are always more regulations, restrictions, and demands on the physician. These demands have in turn left physicians stretched so thin that more things are apt to fall through the cracks then previously over the last 2 decades. Abnormal tests can be over looked easily at times…
Hence, when dealing with chronic illnesses have a voice that can advocate on your behalf if you are unable to. It takes time and effort particularly if you are already feeling bad to keep up with doctors’ appointments, insurance bill’s, tests, medications, and so on. Keep a diary, ask specific questions, keep problem issues to no more than 3, make more frequent appointments (don’t settle for I will see you in 6 months if you have ongoing problems), when getting tests done ask specifically what this test will show or help with and during follow up ask again by name the results of that test (e.g. what did my MRI brain show?). If you know you are waiting on test results make sure you schedule to follow up also if you have gotten a new treatment. Always call if in doubt or with questions. Remember to practice patience, which is the most difficult thing to have in the midst of bad news or new procedures. All things in medicine take time especially the more complicated the procedure, the history of the patient, or the findings – which is always my case. Most likely you will have to wait weeks for an answer even when all things are running smoothly – keep your cool, rest, eat well and follow up until you get the desired answer.
This too shall pass and the wind will once again blow in our favor!
when the wind blows don’t be the one fighting it rather be the one to harness it and find a new direction…
All rights reserved by Maria De Leon