Reliable Review Services and the Shady Doctors They Hire

Reliable Review Services and the Shady Doctors They Hire

I remember when Anne, a representative at Lincoln Financial Group first told me that my disability claim was up for review. She explained that after 24 months of receiving long-term disability benefits, things were changing. I was leaving the “own occupation” period and entering the “any occupation” period.

Or, put another way, instead of proving I could no longer work as a technical writer, I had to prove that I couldn’t work at all. Funny they don’t put that on the brochures, but I figured, Whatever. This changes nothing. I’m not any more abled in 2019 than I was in 2017. Let them do their review. No big deal.

Anne assured me the any-occupation review process would be conducted by an independent medical team. I swear she called it a “team” though I can’t prove it, because she said it in a phone call. (If I had one do-over to spend on this insurance stuff, I’d refuse any and all phone communication and insist they put every last word in writing.)

In reality the “independent” review was conducted by one dude: Brian L. Samuels MD, and he worked for a company called Professional Disability Associates (PDA). Brian’s report was an insult to medical practitioners everywhere. An utter failure to provide an objective, fact-based summary of my abilities. So I looked him up, discovered he didn’t seem to be doing much in the way of clinical work anymore—and that he was paid more than $29,000 from pharmaceutical companies in 2016 alone—and concluded he was probably just collecting some easy money before he completely retired.

I also looked up PDA, to see who in the hell would hire such a careless medical consultant. That’s when I confirmed what I instinctively knew to be true—that there was nothing independent about any of this bullshit.

PDA’s business profile at Inc.com describes it as “a consulting company that provides specialty risk resources including medical and vocational consulting services to disability insurers and self-insured employers.” If you wipe the bullshit spin off that statement, what you’re left with is something like “We sell medical opinions for cheap to help you get out of paying claims.” And it’s not like PDA denies that this is what they do. On their own website they explain: “We are trusted advisors dedicated to providing expert opinions that help companies make better decisions.”

I made sure to point this out in my first letter to Lincoln Financial Group. Not that they cared. In response to my appeal, they paid for another sell-out doctor’s opinion. The new guy, Lee P. Hartner MD, doubled down on the Samuels nonsense. But instead of lazily focusing on errors and omissions in my medical records, Hartner really went for it. He read a disability determination written by my actual doctor and decided—even though she had conducted a complete medical examination and he possessed nothing more than documents—that he knew what was really up. Now, not only was I fit to work full-time, I was also, to my complete surprise, in remission.

A perfunctory online search for Lee indicated he wasn’t any better than Brian. Though he’s reported significantly less money from pharmaceutical companies, he pops up in more court filings. Always the “independent expert” for a big insurance company, though not always in connection with the same review outfit. Whether Lee had to move companies because his opinions always led to lawsuits or whether he was just trying to cash in on every available opportunity is anybody’s guess. But neither scenario paints a particularly noble picture of him. Especially when you remind yourself that his paid opinions are stripping disabled people—stroke, brain cancer, and leukemia patients, for example—of their financial security in a health care system so broken they’re probably already drowning in run-of-the-mill medical debt.

For my appeal review, Lee was contracted by Reliable Review Services out of Boca Raton, FL. Bloomberg’s profile of the business describes them thusly: “The company caters to employers, third party administrators, and disability insurers.” So, yeah, there’s no chance I’m being screwed by any of these guys. No chance at all.

I guess I’m writing all of this for a couple of reasons. Firstly to my fellow disableds out there fighting a similar nightmare perpetuated by unscrupulous doctors who see us as medical records and not people: what’s happening to you is wrong. What they are doing may be legal, but it is not ethical. Don’t let them convince you that you’re a faker or a taker.

Second, to my doctors and to my primary physican in particular: I’m sorry you spent so much time trying to do right by me only to have some pissant sellout halfway across the country deny you the professional courtesy of presuming you know what you’re talking about.

Who You Gonna Believe Chapter 3 Now Available on Patreon

Who You Gonna Believe Chapter 3 Now Available on Patreon

Today I’m saying goodbye to June and hello to another chapter of my serial memoir, Who You Gonna Believe. Chapter 3 is titled “Suicide is Painless,” and though I don’t want to give away spoilers, I will tell you it deals with my mother-in-law’s suicide in 2006. The title may sound flippant, but I assure you it is entirely fitting.

If you’re already a patron, you can read it right away. If you’re not, you’ll need to sign up at patreon.com/EmilySuess.

Not familiar with Patreon? Patreon is a place where writers like me (and artist, musicians, podcasters, etc.) can run a subscription content service. We make things you enjoy; you support those efforts with a monetary pledge of as much or as little as you can afford.

For instance, with just a $1 pledge, you get access to Who You Gonna Believe Chapter 3 as well as all previously published content. (Also, a quick reminder: you can catch a sneak peek her on emilysuess.com if you’d like to try before you buy.)

So hop on over to Patreon to catch the latest installment of my memoir. Don’t forget to share my Patreon page with your friends, because I publish bonus chapters when I hit new goals!

That’s it for now. I’ll have more for in the coming week on the latest developments with my fight against Lincoln Financial Group, for those of you watching to see how that saga is going to unfold.

Until then, have a wonderful Sunday and enjoy Who You Gonna Believe Chapter 3.

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Open Letter to Castle Connolly Medical Regarding “Top Doctor”

Open Letter to Castle Connolly Medical Regarding “Top Doctor”

This is an open letter to Castle Connolly Medical, published at: emilysuess.com/open-letter-castle-connolly-top-doctors

I am writing about a concern I have regarding Lee Hartner, a doctor named in your Top Doctors list at www.phillymag.com. If there is a better place to direct this communication, please let me know whom I should contact, and I will write them directly.

My name is Emily Suess, and I am a disabled brain cancer patient who lives in Urbana, IL. In March of this year, my long-term disability insurance carrier, Lincoln Financial Group, cancelled my disability claim and stopped paying my benefit. Following the cancellation of my benefit, I, as the claim holder, have been forced into a lengthy appeals process while I go unpaid by my insurer. 

During that appeals process, Lincoln Financial Group acquired the services of Reliable Review Services (RRS). In exchange for payment, RRS provided a doctor to support LFG’s denial of benefits. That doctor was Lee Hartner, MD, PA – MD423656. 

That Dr. Hartner accepted money to wrongfully claim my brain tumor is not disabling and I am able to return to work not only has consequences that are devastating to me financially, it calls into question the reputation of Castle Connolly and the “Top Doctors” designation.

In the report Dr. Hartner was paid to provide, he casually dismissed my primary physician’s determination of disability–which is meticulously supported and documented in progress notes–and told the insurer that I am able to return to work.

Dr. Hartner’s report claimed that I am in “remission.” Having never heard this from any of my treating physicians, I was shocked to first see it in a report which attempts to discredit my primary physician’s observations so that Lincoln Financial Group can justify cancelling my claim.

Furthermore, in his report for Lincoln Financial Group, Dr. Hartner noted phone calls he made to my primary physician in relation to my case, presumably to lend credence to the assumption he would complete a thorough review. However, after playing phone tag with my primary physician for a bit, he eventually told her office staff that he “did not need to talk with [her] at this time.” He never spoke with her, and this is documented in written correspondence between me and my primary physician’s office.

There did seem to be conflicting information coming from my oncologist’s office at the time of Dr. Hartner’s report that was contrary to my primary physician’s findings. However, Dr. Hartner made no good-faith attempt to investigate further. When I had a chance to ask my oncologist’s office about it, a written statement deferring to my primary physician’s opinion on the matter (citing the infrequent visits required by medical oncology and my primary physician’s familiarity with my full history as reasons for his statement) was provided.

Even if Dr. Hartner wasn’t sure of my primary physician’s disability determination, and he was too busy to bother looking further, I would have expected a finding of “insufficient documentation” or “conflicting reports.” Certainly nothing so ridiculously biased in favor of Lincoln Financial Group as his report turned out to be. Even my own oncologist had the humility to acknowledge he didn’t have the most informed opinion on the matter.

My purpose in writing this letter is to ask that Castle Connolly be made aware of what has happened to me and that your physician-directed research team thoughtfully review whether it is appropriate for Dr. Lee Hartner to keep the designation of Top Doctor. While what he did appears to be legal, I believe—based on the information you present on your website—that you hold those who make your list to a slightly higher standard.

I also ask that you inform me if and how this matter will be addressed, as I believe patients who use your list for finding physicians should know to what extent they can trust it.

Sincerely,
Emily Suess

Open Letter to Dr. Lee Hartner, Oncologist

Open Letter to Dr. Lee Hartner, Oncologist

Dear Dr. Lee Hartner,

Who hurt you?

It might seem like pure snark to ask you that question, but I am one hundred percent sincere. Ever since I received a copy of the report you wrote to support Lincoln Financial Group’s cancellation of my long term disability claim, I’ve been asking myself, “Why would someone—a doctor no less—do this?” And the thing I keep coming back to is this adage:

Hurt people hurt people.

(It’s trite, for sure. But if you take the time to unpack them, you’ll find sayings like this apply in a lot of circumstances. That’s how clever little baby sayings grow up to be cliches, after all. )

In my ongoing quest to hold Lincoln Financial Group and its “experts” accountable for being greedy, disingenuous shitstains on an otherwise flawless healthcare sys—Bah! I can’t keep a straight face.

Ahem. What I was saying is that a friend graciously offered to help me research the key players in this nightmare of mine, including Lincoln Financial Group, Professional Disability Associates, Reliable Review Services, Dr. Brian Samuels, and you. And so far, your name has turned up in a handful of lawsuits from the last decade where a long-term disability insurer is named as the Defendant and you are their “expert” reviewer. In addition to Reliable Review Services, you have contracted with mcmc, and MES Solutions.

That. We. Know. Of.

There’s this 2011 court filing where a leukemia patient sued Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company.

Then this one from 2010 in which a patient with Multicentric Castleman Disease sues Coventry Healthcare of Nebraska.

And this one from 2016 where MetLife retained you as an “Independent Physician Consultant” in a case against Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services, LLC Long Term Disability Plan.

I literally read this line from that last filing with my mouth gaping open:

“Dr. Hartner, however, again concluded that Mr. Smith is not totally disabled, despite conceding that he is ‘not qualified to assess whether [Mr. Smith’s anxiety] results in any restriction or limitation as that is outside the purview of my specialty.'”

At this point, all I can do is assume that you’re one of those sick fucks that just really likes doing this sort of thing to disabled people.

So I ask again, Dr. Lee Hartner. Who hurt you? Why are you like this?

Sincerely,
Emily Suess

On Being Disabled

On Being Disabled

This list on being disabled was originally published on my Facebook page, but I don’t Facebook anymore and I wanted to preserve and update it.

Inspired by the disability community on Twitter who have compiled similar threads, I wanted something to point to the next time someone says to me “you could work if you wanted to” or “you’re asking for special treatment.”

Okay then. Here we go.

Being disabled is being forced to perform your disability for doubters and then immediately being accused of acting. Abled logic can be summarized as: I can fake being disabled, therefore your disability doesn’t exist.

Being disabled is rationing your asks for help, because you’re scared people will get tired of you and abandon you completely. (Because they have, and they do.)

Being disabled is being charged a surplus (sometimes called a disability tax) on the things you need to survive, by people who don’t need the extra money, and then being accused of being a taker.

Being disabled is being called dramatic when you lash out at people who are doing things that will kill you.

Being disabled is being called rude because talking about your disability makes abled people feel uncomfortable.

Being disabled is being shamed for collecting benefits on an insurance policy you paid for, then having those benefits taken from you, then listening to someone bitch about their car insurance rates going up “just because they made a claim.”

Being disabled is having an insurance company tell you the date you became disabled was the day your doctor diagnosed you, even though you couldn’t get a doctor to listen for more than two years.

Being disabled is hearing, “you just want to be disabled” so ableds can pretend it can’t happen to them.

Being disabled is being called a complainer for mentioning you need accommodations then being asked why you never said anything when you can’t participate.

Being disabled is telling abled people what it’s like to be disabled and then being labeled an attention-seeker.

Being disabled is telling other people they’re harming you, and instead of stopping and apologizing, they come at you with a defensive attack.

Being disabled is operating on a battery that only charges to 30% and then being told that because you emptied your own dishwasher last week you could do dishes at Ponderosa 40 hours a week.

Being disabled is smiling at abled people who say they know what it’s like to not sleep for weeks because sometimes they drink coffee before bed and getting up for work the next day is just the worst.

Being disabled is researching and diagnosing yourself because your care team can’t or won’t and then being scoffed at by a nurse practitioner for using big, fancy words like “seronegative.”

Being disabled is having abled people say these problems are not systemic—that you’ve just encountered a couple of bad doctors or you’re a difficult patient—because they’ve never had a similar experience. Ableds won’t admit it’s because they rarely see a doctor.

Being disabled is saying these things over and over every day and then watching it all unfold again, just like before, day after day after day after day.

Being disabled is understanding completely that you don’t know what it’s like to be somebody else while somebody else pretends they know what it’s *actually* like to be you.

Being disabled is being told how lucky you are to have the ADA now and then being told it’s on you to file a lawsuit to enforce it.

Being disabled is being stuck inside or outside a hospital bathroom labeled “accessible” because the door is too heavy to push.

Being disabled is being bombarded with inspiration porn about how some disabled people have done extraordinary things most abled people can’t do and then being expected to do something similarly monumental or else be ashamed of yourself. (But it’s OK if an abled person claims a mental health day because she wants to go shopping. She can’t be expected to perform all the time.)

Being disabled is contributing to the social safety net for decades, being paid less than a dude who didn’t work as hard as you, having a smaller 401(k) and savings account as a result, receiving less in disability benefits based on past earnings, and then being called lazy by a Young Republican whose parents are currently buying his C-average college education.

Being disabled is taking the time to compile a list like this knowing that the people who need to be educated won’t actually read it.

Open Letter to J. Larry Jameson, Dean, Perelman School of Medicine

Open Letter to J. Larry Jameson, Dean, Perelman School of Medicine

Dear Dr. J. Larry Jameson,

This is an open letter, published at: emilysuess.com/open-letter-j-larry-jameson

I am writing about a concern I have regarding Dr. Lee Hartner, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine. If there is a better place to direct this communication, such as a board or other governing body within the school, please forward this email as you see fit. Alternately, please let me know whom I should contact, and I will write them directly.

My name is Emily Suess, and I am a disabled brain cancer patient who lives in Urbana, IL. In March of this year, my long-term disability insurance carrier, Lincoln Financial Group, cancelled my disability claim and stopped paying my benefit. As you probably know, this is an industry-standard practice designed to save the insurance company money. Following the cancellation of my benefit, I, as the claim holder, have been forced into a lengthy appeals process while I go unpaid by my insurer. 

During that appeals process, which is ongoing, Lincoln Financial Group acquired the services of Reliable Review Services (RRS). In exchange for payment, RRS provided a doctor to support LFG’s denial of benefits. That doctor was Lee Hartner, MD, PA – MD423656. 

That Dr. Hartner has accepted money to wrongfully claim that my brain tumor is not disabling and that I am able to return to work is not only devastating to me financially, it reflects poorly on the reputation of the organizations with which he is associated–including the University of Pennsylvania and the Perelman School of Medicine.

In the report Dr. Hartner was paid to provide, he casually dismisses my primary physician’s determination of disability–which is meticulously supported and documented in progress notes–and instead he leans heavily on a previous report submitted by another reviewer and said reviewer’s interpretation of conversations with my oncologist. (It should be noted that previous review–by a Dr. Brian Samuels–was also purchased by Lincoln Financial Group, although it was via a different firm, Professional Disability Associates. Apologies if this is getting a bit confusing, it was designed to be that way.) Dr. Hartner also seized on a lack of information–a logical fallacy if ever there was one–in earlier reports to prop up a claim that I am not disabled.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of Dr. Hartner’s report is that he claims I am in “remission.” Having never heard this word uttered by any of my treating physicians, I was shocked to first see it in a report written by a complete stranger who has never even met me, had an opportunity to review my complete medical history, hear from me firsthand, or perform an in-person medical examination. While I realize all such doctors called upon to complete an “independent” review would be equally unfamiliar with my case, I would never expect any of them to make such a claim apropos of nothing.

What’s more, in his report for Lincoln Financial Group, Dr. Hartner notes phone calls he made to my primary physician in relation to my case, presumably to lend credence to the assumption he would complete a thorough review. However, after playing phone tag with my primary physician for a bit, he eventually told her office staff that he “did not need to talk with [her] at this time.” He never spoke with her, and this is documented in written correspondence between me and my primary physician’s office.

After conferring with my primary physician, my oncologist provided a written statement deferring to my primary physician’s opinion on the matter, citing the infrequent visits required by medical oncology and my primary physician’s familiarity with my full history as reasons for his statement.

My purpose in writing this letter is to ask that the School of Medicine be made aware of what has happened to me and that they thoughtfully consider whether it is appropriate for Department of Medicine faculty to consult on behalf of the insurance industry–an industry that has proven time and time again its priority is profit, not patients. 

More directly I ask, Dr. J. Larry Jameson, how important to you is public confidence in your doctors? Are the ethical standards for Department of Medicine faculty and students beyond reproach? If you were in my shoes–broke, disabled, and living with an inoperable brain tumor–would you trust the doctors of the world not to cash in on your tragedy?

Sincerely,
Emily Suess

Audio: Lincoln Financial Group Denied Disability Benefits to Brain Cancer Patient

Audio: Lincoln Financial Group Denied Disability Benefits to Brain Cancer Patient

My last post about LFG canceling benefits on a brain cancer patient (me) contains a lot of text buried in an admittedly difficult to read PDF format. I hate how inaccessible that is, so I have uploaded audio of me reading that post to my YouTube channel. (Apologies that’s it a little rough around the edges, I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got.)

In the audio file, I even read the progress notes from my primary doctor and the report from Lincoln Financial’s shady hired gun, Dr. Lee Hartner.

I urge anyone considering purchasing a long term disability policy from Lincoln Financial Group to save themselves the trouble and the heartache. They are dishonest and will deny benefits to anyone—including a patient like me who has an inoperable brain stem tumor. If they don’t cover a patient with brain cancer, then who will they cover? I’m afraid the answer is no one.

If you would prefer reading the original post, click here.

Finally, if you have been denied long term disability benefits by Lincoln Financial Group and would like to share your story on this website, please contact me. This is not an isolated incident. The company, its employees, and the third-party doctors who are paid to submit false claims about patients need to be held accountable for their actions.

Lincoln Financial Group Denies Disability Benefits to  Brain Cancer Patient

Lincoln Financial Group Denies Disability Benefits to Brain Cancer Patient

Turns out being denied disability benefits is a lot like being married to a narcissistic, philandering jerk. Who knew!

***

“It’s not that you aren’t entitled to have multiple partners if that’s what you want. It is your life after all. And I didn’t force you to propose; I wasn’t even the one to bring up marriage. But my beef with you now is that YOU promised to do this whole monogamous thing, and that it was a lie. I never would have consented to this and you knew that.

If you’d have been up front from the start about your unwillingness to keep your dick in your pants, I could have said, ‘Nah, that shit ain’t for me,’ and you’d be someone else’s problem.

Instead, you’re having a mantrumbecause you’re being held to account for your wedding vows.

–Me to my ex-husband, 2008

***

This might be a weird parallel to draw, but I feel much the same way about Lincoln Financial Group today as I did about my ex-husband over a decade ago. I’m not mad that Lincoln Financial Group doesn’t want to pay disability benefits, I’m mad that they got me to buy a policy based on their industry-standard pie-crust promises to provide a modest monthly income if the unimaginable happened.

Well, the unimaginable did happen, but instead of honoring the policy, they hired strangers to gaslight me and stopped paying my claim.

And so now I’m over here like, “Look, LFG, no one’s making you sell disability policies, and no one’s making you call disabled people liars. If what you really want to sell is a junk policy that doesn’t pay, fine. Knock yourself out. Just, you know, present it as the trash it is so that I can say, ‘Nah, that shit ain’t for me,’ and you can be someone else’s problem.”

***

One thing I learned from being married to a compulsive liar for four and a half years is that being gaslit is psychological torture. I mean, sure you hear stories and read about the damage it causes, but when you live it. Jesus H. Christ on a bike. It’s really something.

Survival for me during my marriage to Husband X was only possible by repeatedly and publicly sharing the truth, because people like him count on their marks to be too scared and too ashamed to go public. It’s the same for companies like LFG.

I tell you all this because I’m about to share some very sensitive and very private information in a very public manner. Those of you who have never endured a situation like this might even wonder what in the world is wrong with me. All I can say is this: I’m not doing anything wrong; Lincoln Financial Group is.

I’ve been spinning my wheels trying to explain my story to people for a couple of months now, but I think it would be more effective for you to see exactly what Lincoln Financial Group knows about me. Once you read that, and then read their response, you can make an informed decision about this whole mess. Maybe you have a policy with them, maybe you don’t. Maybe you’ll continue to give them money, or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll look at an insurance plan or investment plan offered through HR at your new employer by Lincoln Financial Group and say, “Nah, that shit ain’t for me.”

Anyway, unlike the folks at LFG, I’m going to be totally up front: There’s only a small part of me that’s doing this to keep you from becoming their next mark. But there’s a HUGE part of me that’s doing this because I want to have even the slightest impact on their earnings report next quarter. (Also, if people started faxing Xeroxes of their hairy butts to 402-361-1460, that’d cheer me up too.)

So here we go, I give you an ever-so-lightly redacted report written by my primary physician and submitted as part of my first appeal to Lincoln Financial Group:

View PDF

Of all the people unfortunate enough to be involved in this clusterfuck of Lincoln Financial Group’s making, my primary physician has known me the longest. She was my doctor back when the men of the medical world still thought I was whiny and just had fibromyalgia, the debilitating condition they pooh-poohed as the self-inflicted curse of the 30-something fat woman.

After I submitted the detailed note above (given to me by my primary physician to use as part of my appeal) Lincoln Financial Group’s claim rep responded* sharing their paid consultant’s report. They’re basically saying my primary is full of shit and that they plan to deny my appeal, but because they’re so kind I get an additional 21 days to submit more stuff they’ll probably just ignore. Here’s that correspondence and report:

View PDF

Finally, an addendum written by my oncologist, which I recently requested in writing because LFG’s consultants claimed my oncologist said things that my oncologist’s office denies saying:

View PDF

It should be noted that I have not yet sent this addendum from my oncologist to LFG, as I’m still composing a letter and waiting on a couple of additional documents to send along with it before the June 19 deadline.

***

Right now it feels like LFG wants to drag this thing out. The way their policies are written, a claimant who is denied disability benefits has to go through a first and second appeal before she can file suit. From my perspective, I can’t see how that’s more cost effective for them than just honoring the damn policy. But who knows. Since it’s all just a numbers game for them, maybe they’re betting on me to die before they ever have to pay another penny.

If I do die before this matter is settled, please know that my last wish was for you to help me spread the truth of their horribleness far and wide.

EDIT 6/9/19: You can send a fax to Lincoln Financial Group for free from your computer using FaxZero.com. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a Xerox of your butt for it to get their attention about my denied disability benefits.


* It should also be noted that aside from basic things like my name, age, and diagnosis, LFG’s consultant is wrong about pretty much everything. He, like their first consultant, has never met me but made money off of my being denied disability benefits.

Urbana Tornado 2019: After the Storm

Urbana Tornado 2019: After the Storm

Dan’s been picking up the pieces of our maple tree following what we’ll call the Urbana Tornado of 2019.

The claims adjuster’s report said the damages we sustained from last month’s tornado didn’t amount to enough for us to receive a payout. (That’s because our deductible is so high. And that’s because we literally can’t afford the premiums on better policies.) I kind of figured that would be the case, but dammit I just couldn’t stop myself from hoping we’d get some financial help from them. But no.

All the bad news is really wearing me down lately.

Every time I hear the word “insurance” these days I practically break out in hives and hyperventilate. I have to force myself not to obsess too much over the math, because the amount of money I’ve paid to insurance companies in my lifetime exceeds the benefit I’ve received from their “services” by about a bajillion to one.

I can hear you all out there. Nodding your heads in agreement.

Anyway, we had to use the money earmarked for the July installment of our property taxes to pay out-of-pocket for the damaged weather head and electrical piping where the power line enters our house. And naturally the tornado hit on a holiday weekend, so we had to pay a premium for the house call and labor.

With no money to hire professional help cleaning up the tree (which is larger in real life than it appears in pictures, I promise) Dan had to do the cleanup mostly by himself. He did get a little help from the neighbors when they had time, but he did the lion’s share. I love him to death for it, but I hate that he had to do it. Honestly, he’s got his own health to protect, and it’s the last thing he should have been doing.

But he chipped away at it day by day over the past week, and you can see that we once again have a beautiful backyard. Even if that maple tree’s stumps are heartbreaking. We’re pretty sure the best course of action is to remove the remainder of the tree, but so far no one we’ve contacted accepts payment in profuse gratitude.

Sigh.

The past couple of days in Urbana have been gorgeous, so we sat outside to enjoy it the other day. I was so verklempt at how lovely it was. I adore this house and I adore our yard and I am so thankful and proud to have it, but I can’t shake this sinking feeling that we’re not going to be able to keep it.

It’s not my nature to be so pessimistic–at least it hasn’t been historically–but I feel cursed these days. Cancer. Poverty. Disability. Tornado. Death. (Not my own, whenever that may be. I don’t want you guys to worry. But recently I lost my grandmother. And just days before that I lost another cousin to cancer.) All of these clouds have just been hovering over me lately, and every time I move out of the shadows and into the light, the universe brings us another cloud.

Poverty is so rarely the fault of the impoverished, yet society generally won’t acknowledge that simple truth. Instead, the poor are blamed for creating their own circumstances. And I’ve been internalizing those lies for close to forty years now. So there’s been this raging fight inside my head.

“You should have made better financial choices! This wouldn’t be happening to you!”

“Bitch! I had to work for employers who pay women less–there isn’t another kind! Cashing out my last 401(k) to pay the mortgage on a condo I couldn’t unload didn’t cause my million-dollar brain tumor! And my Netflix subscription didn’t summon the tornado, even if I did pay extra to stream on multiple devices!”

Whether things get better or they don’t, I’ll be here enduring it. But I don’t promise to be happy, positive, or hopeful about anything, goddammit.

We Survived the Urbana Tornado ICYWW

We Survived the Urbana Tornado ICYWW

So, there was a tornado here in Urbana over Memorial Day weekend (nothing like Mother Nature and Lincoln Financial trying their darndest to make us homeless), and I only recently got a solid WiFi connection again. The twister, more Lincoln Financial bullshit, and the ever-present health problems that complicate my life are why I haven’t been around emilysuess.com or my YouTube channel much lately.

I did manage to post Chapter 2: You’re Wearing That? for patrons last night. So if you sponsor me there, you can read up on my sordid past while I try to sort out my life, upload a video to my channel, and just generally get back to regular updates here on the blog.

(If you’re not a Patreon supporter, you can get access to all my past, present, and future posts for a $1 pledge.)

Who knows, after you read Chapter 2 of my memoir, you just might get an inkling why I had two PTSD-style nightmares last night. Fun times!

Related to publishing my memoir, I’m really struggling to decide how to market this thing. I’ve been scouring the internet to find how other serial memoirists get their work in front of eyeballs, and so far all I’ve learned is that I’m like the only writer out there publishing a memoir this way. There are spaces designated for fiction webserials. But non-fiction? Not so much.

I guess I’ve got my work cut out for me, but that’s pretty much just a perpetual state of being for me.

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