Saturday, September 14, 2013

Approved for VA Healthcare - traded up to a Corvette for the upcoming fundraising.

=)    I was approved for VA healthcare yesterday (Priority Group 5) via a hardship request. I first applied for VA Healthcare last September, so it took a year to accomplish this. What I have to find out now, is if I keep "Illinois Vetcare" which is essentially "Medicaid". I must say, there are literally no specialists accepting Medicaid (no Rheumatologists or Urologists at least) so this is a positive step in the right direction. What I need to find out now is, how extensive VA Healthcare actually is. I will be going to my first evaluation on Friday, so at least I am able to get in there pretty quickly.    =)

Given the shock of how much the 2006 Chevy Uplander was actually "worth" in the market place and the general lack of interest in that particular model for the past month, I shifted my focus onto "trading up" for a vehicle which would normally sell decent no matter the time of year. I had the opportunity first for a 1971 Pontiac Lemans T-37..... but ultimately, that person just could not bear to part with his car (and couldn't pull the trigger). So then the opportunity came to trade for a 1984 Chevy Corvette..... a red one with 68,400 miles. After 2 days of correspondence, we both pulled the trigger and in my driveway is sitting a beautiful Corvette. How I managed to slide into the car, I haven't a clue..... but I did it and drove it home much to our son's enjoyment (he went with to pick up the car). Here is a pic of both of them.   =)

It just needs minor cleaning plus a buff wax. Travis enjoyed hearing the engine being "goosed" and feeling the pulling power of the 5.7 V8 (and he is very proud of the fact this was pulled off). He know the car won't be around long (it is after all, to be used to fundraise to help us survive my unemployment, but he will be going to a show with it at least once where he can show it off with his approving father looking on as he describes the vehicle to others.  =)

In the interim, I am sure it is weird for our neighbors to see the cars slowly change in our driveway, but to be sure.... not a dime has been spent in the trading up process (one does not sit idle when unemployed, one has to do what they can to ensure continued financial viability). My ability to "horse trade / barter" is serving us well during this extended unemployment, and ultimately.... we will survive partly due to that effort. We have made it this far also thanks to the generosity of friends and family (and that cannot be understated plus they cannot be thanked enough). With the fundraiser plus the combination of "Illinois Hardest Hit" and my unemployment benefits, we have made it a year on unemployment and Penny has had quite a bit of her medical costs covered during that time. Penny has also made it to the point of possible "remission" (4 Cystoscopies, BCG treatment, and Chemo treatment) during that time and I have been blessed to have the opportunity to be there for her 100% with no distractions. She still has all of her organs and the cancer has been kept at bay (so she can still live a somewhat normal life at this point). Also, I have been able to start "working" on my own medical issues and I am finally dealing with the stress of the chaos that I have been surrounded by over the past 30 years, all of these things are good things.

God has made all of this possible, and ultimately... to HIM the glory. Without God in our lives, we would be unable to weather this storm.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Ephesians 6:16

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The possibility of Remission???? Prayers answered plus our 22nd wedding anniversary.

It's been a whirlwind week, so I apologize for not updating the blog for those who are waiting to hear from us regarding Penny's condition.

We went into the cystoscopy on Friday not knowing what the outcome would be (except for my wife as she fully believed she was healed). My faith not being as strong as hers, I worried for the both of us.

We went through the process and the doc came out with GREAT NEWS, no tumors. He did find necrotic tissue where the previous tumors were, but he took that out and sent it for a biopsy.  Penny was in the hospital for 24 hours and we were allowed to go home. WOW!!!!

Let me explain how I feel about all of this. On February 17th of 2012, I took my wife to the hospital for a Cystoscopy due to her having a UTI for more than a few months. The wind was knocked out of our sails in less than 2 hours after I left the prep room where I told Penny "not to worry, this will be ok". I then have had to face her 6 times from then after a Cystoscopy and had to tell her during 5 of those that she had cancer tumors removed. This time around, we were facing the real possibility that if the cancer was back... that we would be planning major surgery to remove her symptomatic bladder and then take a section of her colon to reconstruct that section into a "neo-bladder" with the possibility of her using a "bag" to catch her urine for the rest of her life. So the "relief" I felt in that moment Dr. Khan sat down with me was so palpable, that people could hear my relief and in that moment (as I was surrounded by very sick cancer patients and their families), I actually felt guilty that my wife had beaten the odds and was afraid to scream out in happiness (a very weird feeling to have, but there were so many around me in obvious distress and much further in their battle than Penny and I were). So I stifled my euphoria and when Penny was in recovery.... I went to her and we were like little kids grinning from ear to ear. I was able to share with her that wonderful news that she was now essentially in remission and was a cancer survivor who didn't lose the very organ that was symptomatic (a VERY rare successful outcome).

Penny told me that she isn't a survivor, but that God healed her (and I can tell you, in my mind.... going to CTCA and her undergoing chemo after her last Cystoscopy played an important role, but her faith is every part of that healing also). So we were able to (for the first time in 18 months) talk about our future in positive long term conversation instead of in limited terms due to the previous uncertainty of her health. To be able to talk about the future without the specter of the possibility of our journey together being cut short by major illness was (in a word) "liberating". The future is so bright, we gotta wear shades.

We then went to the Fox Valley Church - Pingree Grove "soft launch" on Sunday despite Penny's weakness and my joint pain... so we could share the wonderful news with our church friends and reaffirm the power of prayer (and so we could partake in the start of a new church home for the first time in our lives). THAT was very cool and to see such genuine emotion from those who we owe so much to was both touching and invigorating.

I then went to the unemployment office on Monday and straightened out the suspend status on my unemployment so the funds would be released so we can pay our bills this week (and that eased our minds even more).

Yesterday was our 22nd wedding anniversary. Penny had a coupon and decided to get her hair cut. Incredibly, her hair was long enough that she could have 9 inches cut off (so she could donate the hair for wig making for other cancer patients). She then dyed/colored her hair with product she bought last year with coupons before my unemployment became a major concern (and she still has some left for next time).

We then went to the LITH AMC Theatre and saw a matinee movie (so we went and enjoyed a first run film for $5 each). We brought in bottle water and fruit so we wouldn't  be tempted to go for Soda and Popcorn. We also had a coupon for Crystal Lake Rib-house (two meals for the price of one) so after the movie... we enjoyed Baby Back ribs in a very laid back intimate setting (and we brought home half of our meals for Travis to enjoy when we brought them home as he LOVES baby back ribs and it has been a long time since he had some given our limited funds). During the meal, I shared with Penny that I looked up the biopsy report from CTCA earlier yesterday and that the necrotic material they biopsied were definitely necrotic cells (dead cells) and what was there was LOW grade, not high grade). The best news possible and Penny just cried tears of joy (what a wonderful gift to have, one's health). =)

I then took her to Springhill Mall and had her "Hello Kitty" Anniversary Watch (that I bought at a thrift store) fixed so it would have 2 additional links added to the watch band so it would fit her arm perfectly (the watch band was too small before the repair). Yes, it wasn't brand spanking new, but it was bling.... it was what we could "afford", and it put a smile on her face which was priceless.

We then went home and had a piece of cake (that was donated to us) along with Ice Cream to cap off the perfect day.

Now, we can begin to piece together our lives instead of living day to day with the black cloud of cancer being over our heads. To be sure, she isn't out of the woods yet (and she will be getting Cystoscopies every 3 months for the next 2 years), but at this point..... she has a fighting chance to stay "whole" as a person and not have to live with the indignity of using a bag to collect her urine and the constant accidents that usually result from losing one's bladder (and the fact the cancer stayed confined to the bladder is incredible. =)

Also, I can continue my effort at finding our what my medical problems are (I am waiting to see a Urologist and Rheumatologist... which is difficult while on Medicaid) and we are praying we can get a handle on it very soon as my joint difficulties are getting worse.... not a good thing for me considering my job hunt.

In the interim, we have so many to thank regarding their prayers and Penny is completely convinced she is healed. In that regards, I will repeat a quote from the Bible that Penny has taken to heart:

"Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace." Luke 8:48