Felt a Lump, Blamed Cancer

Cancer’s only redeeming value is that it comes in handy for blaming anything that goes haywire.  I have blamed cancer for everything from aging to zhingles.  I know, but shingles spelled correctly won’t cover the whole alphabet spectrum.

My most recent addition to the blame-cancer game is a lump on my left arm near the shoulder.  I noticed it one day while soaking in my five-minute vitamin D quota from the toasty Southern California sun while seating on the only patio chair in front of my privacy-walled minimalist manor.  At first I stared admiringly at the lump, delighted that I was getting some muscle definition.  But when I looked at the same area on my right arm and saw nothing there to balance it,  the lump raised my suspicion.  I didn’t think it suddenly appeared but I didn’t know how long the lump has been there.  I had been too busy taking selfies.

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At first sight of the lump, the author celebrated her new muscle definition, or so she thought!

I immediately blamed cancer, returned to my alma mater, Google University (GU) and revisited my mentor, the founder himself, Dr Google.  I asked about “lump in my left arm near the shoulder.” Sure enough, other alumni had already inquired about it.  How dare them debunk the myth that the Senior String-Bikini Babe is an original!

Dr Google had a few things to say about the lump. Its location, appearance and texture based on what I saw and felt, describe LIPOMA, a slow growing usually harmless, painless fatty lump that is most often situated between the skin and the muscle layer and located in the neck, shoulders, arms, and other areas that did not matter anymore after reading the shoulders and arms.  Any one can get Lipoma at any age.  It requires medical diagnosis because the lump may be LIPOSARCOMA, which looks similar but is bad news. I threw some more questions. Dr Google’s answer:  Enough already!  Stop self-diagnosis. See your doctor.

Grudgingly, I contacted my Primary Care Physician (PCP), a gerontologist who makes a living looking for as much wrong as he can find in me. Of course he has his RN for his first line of defense.  I described to her my GU findings.  She said she would ask PCP.  After conferring with him, she connected me with a surgeon, another young handsome Southern Orange County doctor.

Three days later,  I faced the good doctor, Dr Han Sahm.  The name sounds fictitious because it is, to protect his privacy.    Obviously he had already heard from RN everything about the lump.  He jabbed the lump with his forefinger, pushed it around and declared it 99.99999% not cancer. I said, So there is that 0.00001% it is cancer.  He said, I have operated on thousands of this over five years and the results have been 100%.  You have two options: (1) Remove it, or (2) Do nothing but watch it for some time and if it starts to bother you, we’ll remove it.  It will take only minutes.  My decision came swiftly: Let’s wait until it becomes the size of a cantaloupe then do the liposuction.  He laughed, We don’t want to wait that long. We want the procedure to last only minutes.

So there’s my lump story.

Tell me your own lump story, if you have any.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serious Blogging 101

 

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Work in progress under the two lemon trees in front of the author’s minimalist manor Seriousness needed here,  too
Ignorance is bliss. Not knowing is a blessing. Those are my crutch, being the new kid exploring the SEO block. Okay, SEO is Search Engine Optimization. I love my new capability to flaunt little blogging knowledge.  I am getting dangerous now.

I noticed on the first day of publication of the post “Ever Wondered How it Feels to Wear String Bikini,” a Victoria’s Secret ad appeared immediately after the article and photo.  I related this to a friend, an SEO genius. He said the Google bots –  short for robots – did that. Bots are developed to sense in a blog what sells, what ever.  Obviously, string bikini suggested sex.  I seriously was not thinking sex ads, especially ones that don’t add cents to the balance of my bank checking account.  Then I notice the ads change daily and they are all suggestive of something, not just sex.  Sometimes no ad appears.  Who knows what the bots have in mind. Or in their metal heads.

Now I know.  A little.

HealthWell Foundation Ran Out of Funds (conclusion)

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Okay, so the Onc’s RN said all I needed to do was drop by their office and sign the document and she’d FAX it right back to Astra Zeneca (AZ), manufacturer of Tagrisso. It sounded so easy. But as it turned out, my “drop by” would be fraught with difficulties, most of them my own doing.  Difficulties are good. They sure make my accomplishment seem more epic.

True to my minimalist lifestyle, I have been without vehicle now for 10 months. I’ve mastered the retirement resort community’s bus system. I took my maiden solo 15-minute trip to Laguna Beach using the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) bus and it worked. I found the way back to my manor on the same day! Buoyed by my initial success, I decided to use OCTA to drop by the Onc’s office, which is in another city. The other option was by taxi. The big difference in the cost of the round trip drop-by: $50 by cab vs $1.50 by 24-hour OCTA bus pass.  I could definitely use the savings to buy me a new string bikini swimsuit.  Priorities, priorities.

I planned the trip.  Actually the OCTA website did the planning complete with maps and instructions.  I packed cut-up apples, cashews, and cheese cubes for snack in case my blood glucose ran low while I was in the middle of nowhere. And of course water. All set with my roommate the backpack carrying the goodies, off we went to the expedition.

It seemed like I was hopelessly lost. I did a lot – and I mean A LOT – of walking to correct my navigation errors.  Finally I made it to the Onc’s office, signed the paper, and headed for the bus to go home. Got lost some more. If I straightened out the path that I had walked, I probably would have reached Canada. But it was so worth the experience and the mission accomplished.  Always in awe of the bright side – that’s me.

The following day, AZ phoned and let me know the application FAXed from my Onc’s office was incomplete. Oh no! Over the phone she and I completed it. The next day, she phoned me again this time for the good news: I am officially in the co-pay assistance program: no need to wait for the IRS document, no need to file my application, no need to call for my refills which AZ – not the specialty pharmacy – will ship directly.  How awesome is that! As I wrote this post, I had exactly 5 Tagrisso pills left. The shipment was supposed to arrive any day.

Saved by the bell!

Please feel free to share your drug co-pay story, if you have any.

 

 

 

 

 

Then HealthWell Foundation Ran Out of Funds for my Tagrisso Co-Pay

I never thought cancer drug crisis would be knocking on my door. In my five-year journey, everything had been rosy. I received charitable foundation funding for Tarceva straight away, got admitted in a clinical trial on first attempt, and was offered another foundation funding for Tagrisso without any effort on my part. Awesome things just kept falling on my lap.

Then crisis struck. I had just completed my fourth month on Tagrisso and called the pharmacy for the fifth month refill when the boom fell. We have a problem, said the specialty pharmacy employee (SP) over the phone. She continued, The HealthWell Foundation ran out of money to help you with your co-pay.

What? I recently recently donated to the HealthWell fund-raising campaign. Obviously the campaign did not raise enough money.  My pittance of a donation did not  not make a difference.

I asked SP, Will you ship my Tagrisso pills without receiving payment first?  I promise to pay as soon as I decide which bank provides the most conducive robbery escape route.  Of course not, she said.  You need to pay $101.85 in advance to cover your co-pay for the month supply.  The amount shocked me.  I could have used that to pay my smartphone bill.  I got to thinking, How much would it have been if HealthWell totally did not contribute? I asked SP.  She replied, $653.24 for a month’s supply.  My shock increased sixfold! I immediately paid the lower amount just in case the worse has yet to come.  UPS delivered Tagrisso pills to my home two days later.

To give me hope for the immediate future, SP told me she got financial assistance request forms from Astra Zeneca (AZ), the manufacturer of Tagrisso.  She gave the forms directly to my Onc.  He had to fill out a part and I had to do the rest.  To complete my portion, I had to request documents from the IRS to prove that I did not have to file income tax returns for 2016, the year my husband Octo died.  I qualified for filing exemption as a newly-widowed taxpayer.  According to the IRS website, most requests take 10 days processing time.

With exactly 13 pills left (of the 30 pills for which I had sprung $101.85) and a ten-day wait for the IRS response,  the co-pay subsidy situation seemed bleak.  Where would I get $7,800 a year for my co-pay?  I twiddled my thumbs then glanced at the mirror to see how my hair, which I’m letting grow longer, looked.

I kept wishing the IRS would reply faster so I could put its document in the envelop along with my financial assistance application and mail it to AZ before my Tagrisso supply dwindled to zero.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, my Onc Dr Smiley’s RN phoned and told me Dr Smiley received authorization to prescribe Tagrisso for me.  AZ will fill it for free! She added, All you need to do is drop by and sign a document.  I will fax it back to AZ immediately.

What?!!  Is another awesome thing fixing to fall on my lap?

I will keep you posted of the developments.  I have a very few Tagrisso pills left.

Do you have a similar situation? Let’s talk about it.

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The Author,  Celia Ruiz Tomlinson, just figured out how to do a caption. Hah!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Success in Posting Photo….Almost!

First, I’d like to thank those who offered to help me with the posting of photos in the pages of my blog. I really appreciate the responses that I got through the post, email, and Facebook.

So based on my understanding of the process, I posted the first blog update that would contain a photo: Ever Wondered How it Feels to Wear String Bikini?  As soon as I opened the published post, color drained from my face.  It was embarrassing!  I saw a paragraph giving a warning about what might be an offensive photo at the end of the story and the photo itself near the warning!  It happens when a former hot shot is determined to tackle modern technology.

Anyway, being the self-proclaimed “la gran senora” of positive thinking, I declare that it can only get better from that post forward.

Tell me what you think.  I can handle it.

 

 

 

Ever Wondered How it Feels to Wear a String Bikini?

WARNING: A photograph that may be offensive to some people appears at the end of the story.

After years of blogging about cancer, the latest update being My Fifth Cancerversary, I suddenly felt extra-energized. I decided to post weekly again, except this time I’ll include topics  on “LIVING LIFE”, true to my mantra, which is a line from my favorite song.  It goes, “…Before my number’s up, I’m gonna fill my cup, I’m gonna live, live, live until I die…” Yes! I’m talking about a life without hang-ups and apologies, the go-for-it kind of life.

You know you’re alive when long-held thoughts still occupy your head. In my case it is about the string bikini. I decided to transform the thought into action and go for it!

Here’s the back story.

As soon as the original song Itsy Bitsy Teenie Winnie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini came out in 1960, I rushed to a seamstress and ordered a bikini swimsuit custom-made for me based on my own design. I was a sophomore civil engineering student then – a young starry-eyed chick pioneering in the male-dominated profession, hell-bent to break with the status quo.

My first bikini swimsuit was more like a two-piece bathing suit, the bottom piece similar to today’s hipster.  It was very tame, but at that time it belonged in the bold category.  I remember wearing it, strutting my 34″-22″-34″ figure, and sashaying to the YMCA swimming pool when the guard shouted at me, Miss, we only allow one-piece bathing suits here!  My swift response surprised even me. I asked, Which piece do you want me to leave on?  Laughter exploded.

I bought a succession of many swimsuits over the years, most of them bikinis. The top seam of the bottom piece kept going father down from the bellybutton but never got as low as that of the string bikini. I kept wondering how I would feel in a string bikini.  It’s strange what sense of security one-inch wide fabric had given me.

Fast forward to the present.

One day, a youngish Anglo man who goes to the same resort swimming pool that I wade in frequently, happily told me: I bought a couple of bikini swimsuits for you to take home and try on.

What? Who is this dude? I knew he had been eyeballing me.  In greater Los Angeles area, because of Hollywood, talent scouts abound, some of them up to no good.  But this man was not the talent scout who, in my fantasy, would propel me to stardom.  In addition to his professional achievements that make his resume glow, he is a loving dad who can buy at wholesale cost several bikini swimsuits at a time for his 18-year-old daughter.  By his estimate, she and I wear the same size.

The man’s generous offer, which I took as a compliment, sent me.  My loss for words made me confess to him:  I don’t know what to say!  He suggested a solution to my problem:  Say THANK YOU.  Oh yeah!  What was I thinking?  THANK YOU, I said and followed it with a flattening blast of a laugh.

I tried the two black string bikinis at home, one at a time.  It works better that way.  One style was labeled “cheeky,” which is self-explanatory.  I settled for the non-cheeky style.  Thus my first string bikini swimsuit and I connected.  Thanks to an opportunity that fell on my lap.

Conclusion!

During that dry-run moment,  I so  belonged in the black string bikini. I felt awesome, comfortable and liberated.  I was even motivated to vacuum the carpet while prancing on tiptoes.

How I’d feel in a string bikini is no longer a mystery.  It is so here and now.

Let me know what you think.