The Drip Factory, by Leane Roffey Line, PhD

As most of you know by now, I have cancer. The bad kind. I started chemo two weeks ago, it’s the beginning of what few options I have to exercise with this disease. It’s an expensive trip into the land of the non-insured. Like everyone else in the country, money’s been pretty tight to non-existent for us, save this past year, when we thought we were pulling out of the hole.

I call the infusion room “The Drip Factory”. It’s sort of my way of further dehumanizing a therapy that hasn’t got any saving graces except for chemo trees and really sharp needles, designed to stop cancer. The bills are coming in now and as a self-pay, it amazes me the lengths to which some of these companies will go to giving you discounts, if you pay within 30 days. Let’s take a look at some: the CAT scan with all its CPT codes has a balance due of !,746.00. But, for the self payer, you get a 25% discount, so it’s really $1309.50. I made a $50 payment on that one — since my cancer is non-curable, I may be up for disability here, and if so, maybe this one will get paid off… that is, if I qualify. I am disabled, now, of that there is no doubt in my mind. Invasive metastatic lobular breast cancer, complete with tumor and metastises, gets marked “terminal”, gets labeled even by the docs as “we can’t cure you, but we might be able to kick it into remission.” Oh yeah, and my favorite, since the cancer is a metastasis, we had to do a full PET scan. That comes to $6,780.00. No one’s said a thing so far about a self-pay discount on that bill, and its just as well, because the PET was pretty ugly. The cost of the chemicals — not something anyone talks much about but lets just say that a six pack with my self-pay discount comes to a mere $4,400 (double that since there are two main chemicals being served du jour), not to mention the prepacks like Benadryl, Tagamet, etc. they have to give you so you can survive the main course. Another $8,800 plus. The doctor’s fees are on top of all of that of course. So what is that so far? I reckon near $20,000 and I just got this diagnosis 3/30/2009. And it’s just starting. The oncologist is talking about six trips to the drip factory, then two weeks off, and maybe another six? Eventually hormone pills? I’m taking that $20,000 and doubling …it’ll be closer to $50,000 by the end of 2009, assuming I even make it that long. With no cure, just a promise of remission. I never counted on being this sick. I never counted on 2009 being anything other than just another year where we were trying to catch ourselves up in this dismal economy, and we were doing it too. Hubby just got another contract, the bills were met, at least not behind, what we could pay, that is. My relatives all admire my attitude. Actually, I don’t have an attitude at this point, just a macabre sense of graveyard humor behind the hubris. If I’m not dead I must be alive, that sort of thing. All the money the US government has spent over the years, and this is the best we can do. The Drip Factory, with its promise of razors sharper than the razorblades were ever intended to be, and Big Pharma ruling the studies, the research, the chemo combos, god knows what else, and this is our cure for cancer. The best we can do. It’s not good enough.

What do you do for the time in-between chemo treatments if not what you did before? Life spirals down into segments. Chemo and its repercussions, chemo and what happens if you don’t do chemo, and everything else.

My friends overseas are outraged at the way we take care of our health crises for our people. Americans, if they can’t afford health insurance, according to some, must just be drinking their money away. Well, we all know it isn’t true. And we all know, too, that no matter what insurance we could afford, in cases like this, for what has to be done, there is never enough money.

Right now, I’ll just be staying in touch with the vendors, and keeping the bills in a nice nifty notebook my friend from San Antonio sent me. And trying to survive the therapy. I don’t think I’m afraid to die, really. It’s just that with this body you can communicate with everyone. Without it, I really don’t know what’s there. And I’d hate to have to write posts and blog through a medium. Not my style. I’m Starbuck after all. Never thought that would be prophetic.  And this is my Battlestar Galactica.

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