My Disability Appeal Against Lincoln Financial  Group

My Disability Appeal Against Lincoln Financial Group

Just popping in briefly to share some good news with you all. Though I shared already on Facebook and Twitter a couple of days ago, I just realized I forgot to make an announcement on my blog! I won my long-term disability appeal against Lincoln Financial Group!

My attorney called me last week to let me know that after a full year without paying my benefit, Lincoln Financial Group finally reinstated claim. Of course, with all that’s going on right now, that news was VERY welcome.

Over the course of…well, however long it takes me, I will be endeavoring to post and compile resources for everyone else out there still fighting or about to fight an unjust cancellation of benefits. The best way I can think to help others is to share what I’ve learned. To keep telling my story.

In that vein, I have posted a couple of resources already—12 Tips for Long-Term Disability Insurance Recipients and Long-Term Disability Appeal Timeline. But this is just the start. As you can probably imagine, I have quite a bit to say on the matter.

In the meantime though, I hope you will reach out to me if you have questions. DM me on Twitter, use my contact form, whatever.

I know I can’t realistically fix this system that was designed to rip off of vulnerable people, but by empowering individuals, perhaps I can help shorten the long arc of justice and make it bend a little more sharply toward justice.

So, help me celebrate the fact I won my long-term disability appeal against Lincoln Financial Group by telling someone you know that sometimes the bad guys are actually forced to suck it. Sometimes the good guys win. If you know someone right now that could use a friend who’s been through it, point them in my direction. If you don’t know anyone fighting this batter, tuck my info away in the back of your mind for later. Because you never know when you or a friend or a family member might end up fighting a similar battle one day.

Wash your hands, stay home, and please don’t take medical advice from Trump. Even if I don’t like you, I don’t want you to die.

For my posts on this topic, see the category Lincoln Financial Group.

12 Long-Term Disability Appeal Tips

12 Long-Term Disability Appeal Tips

I’m not a disability lawyer, and I’m not giving legal advice. I’m just a woman with brain cancer who’s got battle scars from fighting an LTD insurance company and some disability appeal tips.

I created this list of tips for disability insurance recipients by asking what I wish I’d known from the beginning.

Because, from what I’ve learned, cancellation is inevitable.

Don’t talk over the phone.

There are a couple of reasons I suggest this. First, it’s stressful to be put on the spot during an unscheduled phone call when your livelihood is at stake. Avoid phone conversations just for your own peace of mind.

Second, the call is likely to be summarized by the disability insurance claim specialist you talk to rather than transcribed verbatim. That leaves a lot of room for someone to “accidentally” leave out important information or conveniently interpret information in a way that can be used to weasel out of paying your claim.

(Ask me how I know.)

So how do you get your insurer to stop making periodic “check-in” calls and email or write you instead? Just tell them to. I emailed the claims specialist handling my case the following message after she tried to get me to switch back to phone communication:

I will not be speaking with any Lincoln Financial Group representative by phone at this time. All answers can be provided in writing via email and/or hardcopy on company letterhead.

February, 2020

Naturally, she wanted to respond to questions I had over the phone, presumably so there wouldn’t be a written record of her answers. Fortunately, I saw the maneuver for what it was and refused phone calls from that point forward, but I wish now that I would have set this boundary from day one.

Know disability policy terms.

Although I had the foresight to buy a long-term disability insurance policy, I didn’t seriously consider what I’d do if I needed it. So I never read the entire policy while I was still healthy.

(Honestly, I don’t even recall if my employer provided full-text of the policy when I signed up during new-hire orientation. I probably would have had to specifically request it.)

No shame if you haven’t read it closely yet either. Life’s short. But do read it now. If you’re not able, have your spouse or someone else close to you give you the Cliff’s Notes so you’ll know what your responsibilities are when it’s time to file the disability insurance appeal.

For instance, with Lincoln Financial Group policies, you’ll probably be required to complete two administrative appeals before you can sue them.

Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds. My disability insurance company, Lincoln Financial, itself decided two more times if they were wrong about me.

Request your file.

My long-term disability (LTD) policy stipulated that my case would be up for re-evaluation after two years. At that time, I’d have to show that I couldn’t perform ANY occupation in order to continue receiving benefits instead of just my OWN occupation at the time I became disabled.

I wish I’d thought to ask for my file before Lincoln Financial Group started their review process.

By the time they cancelled my long-term disability insurance benefits, the file Lincoln Financial Group had on me was more than 700 pages long.

Trying to pin down errors and omissions in that clunker was a nightmare—all complicated by the stress of not knowing how I was going to pay the mortgage.

POV: Waiting at the doctor’s office. Still disabled.

The file your disability insurance carrier keeps is an unwieldy thing that can easily reach thousands of pages in a couple years’ time. (Not everything is relevant. They want it to be confusing.)

If you can identify even a couple of omissions in your record before you’re in financial crisis, you’ll be several steps ahead of where I was when the clock started ticking on my appeal.

In my case, Lincoln Financial Group didn’t even mail my file the first time I requested it. I had to email a claims specialist several times and finally demand she overnight the file and prove she did it by giving me a tracking number. By that time, almost two weeks had passed.

Important note: By law, we policyholders have a deadline for filing our appeal(s). This should go without saying, but always know what your deadlines are and ALWAYS submit on time! By not mailing my file, LFG was eating into my deadline, likely hoping they’d get me to miss it completely.

Review your file.

Once you get the file, dig in. Inaccuracies weren’t frequent, but there were some. The big thing was learning how much my oncologist’s office had left out.

Because I signed a medical records release, LFG requested documents directly from my doctor. And the doctor’s office sent them directly to LFG without my having a chance to give them a once over.

And that’s exactly want your insurer wants to happen. You can insist your doctor’s office provide you copies of the info they send, but you can’t count on them to follow through.

The incomplete records your doctor keeps will help the insurance company paint a picture that works to their advantage. I imagine there are a lot of cases where a patient’s disabilities are not noted in medical records.

A personal example: I suffer from disabling vertigo and am at a high risk of falling. I can’t walk more than a couple of steps without using a mobility device or grabbing something to stabilize me. I also suffer from extreme cancer-related fatigue and can’t walk or stand for extended periods.

But my doctor and the NP never documented this. They never even ask if I could. In fact, the doctor never saw me walk. He only ever saw me seated in an exam room chair.

There was so much information missing from my medical records that the forms he sent to the insurance company made it look like my tumor hardly affected me.

My primary physician’s records were significantly more thorough, so naturally the doctors hired to conduct a review of my case avoided talking to her and downplayed their relevance. The insurance company either didn’t request records from her as frequently or they didn’t include them in my file.

Request documentation from your doctors.

The remedy to the previously mentioned problem was for me to spell it all out for my physicians. And, I’ll be blunt, my oncologist was pretty good at treating cancer and reading lab results, but he was horrible when it came to the softer science of cancer treatment—identifying and documenting his patient’s needs. I’m not saying he’s entirely to blame for that; it’s just a fact.

When you find a physician can’t be bothered to do a thorough job, stop wasting your time on them. Focus on making it as easy as possible for the good ones to document your case.

The more thorough your file before disability appeal starts, the better. When you get an updated file, check to verify the supporting documents you and your doctors send are being added.

Selfie of a woman in a car with a dog behind her in the back seat
Me with my emotional support doggo, Boomer.

Hire an attorney.

The appeals process is essentially legalized torture. If you can find an attorney to mange your claim for a percentage of your benefit check AND you can afford it, it’s probably worth having one on retainer immediately.

Why? Because when the insurance company hires doctors halfway across the country to “independently review” your file and gaslight you, dealing with that additional stress while not having money will wreck your mental health. Trust me.

If you have an attorney intercepting all communication, you can keep the stress to a minimum. And, who knows, maybe even prevent cancellation in the first place.

Research the appeals process.

This tip is most relevant for people who are going to manage an appeal on their own, without any legal representation or guidance, like I did for my first administrative appeal.

The point is to learn as much as you can about how an administrative appeal works BEFORE the clock starts ticking. Forty-five days to write and submit your appeal might seem like plenty of time, but I promise you it’s not.

Not only will you be trying to gather documents, requesting supplemental records from your doctors, and making requests for information from a hostile insurance company, you will also still be living with whatever sickness or injury disabled you in the first place and the inherent barriers and obstacles associated with it.

Create a hard copy file.

Save everything, not just the stuff your LTD insurer sends you. You are likely going to need your most recent year’s taxes, your initial award letter and your amount of benefit letter from SSDI (if applicable) in addition to all the strictly medical stuff.

If your doctor filled out the form for you to get an accessible parking placard, keep that too. You get the idea.

These things will be asked for frequently as part of your appeal, but also? If you need to apply for food assistance or other financial support while your claim is going unpaid, you’ll have everything handy already.

If you have access to a scanner, scan your hard copies. Scan the envelope the documents came in (for a record of the postmark) and the documents themselves in the same file.

Article: Ultimate Guide to Helping a Loved One with Brain Cancer

Save files as a PDF and choose a detailed file name like “Lincoln Financial Group Notice of Cancellation 20JAN2019,” and consider it a gift to your future self.

Mark the date you receive documents.

If your disability insurance company is diabolical enough (ha ha—“if”), they will intentionally delay getting vital information to you, as Lincoln Financial Group did to me on several occasions.

Every physical letter they ever sent was dated about 5-7 days earlier than it was postmarked and 7-10 days earlier than I actually received it. They were either backdating correspondence or holding it before putting it in the mail.

If you should need to prove bad faith on the part of your disability insurance company, having this information will come in handy. Of course, if you’ve already scanned the postmarked envelope, you should be covered.

But in my house at least, empty envelopes have a way of getting separated from the documents they once contained. Writing the date received on the document itself just gives you a little extra insurance. Pardon the pun.

Create an electronic folder.

Again, being organized now will save you time and heartache later. If the documents you download from your web browser save to one folder and the documents you scan save to another folder, and the documents you view on mobile save to an entirely different device, finding what you need when you need it won’t be easy.

Create one central folder where everything goes, and create descriptive subfolders if (okay, when) things start to get unwieldy.

BONUS TIP: Apply labels or use folders in your email application to easily find messages again later. Gmail, for example, will automatically apply labels to messages received from specific email addresses.  

Create a digital back-up.

You know the drill. Make a backup of your files regularly and save them to Dropbox or Google Drive or whatever cloud storage account you have and/or save them to an external thumb or hard drive.

Devices fail, and you don’t want to risk losing all your documentation to a computer that dies on you at the worst possible moment. Even if you can recover the data on your device, you don’t want to lose precious time while the appeals clock is ticking.

Expect doctors you have never met to lie.

Even though I’ve had some harrowing experiences with doctors in years leading to my diagnosis, I still was not emotionally prepared for Lincoln Financial Group hiring “experts” to lie about my condition.

Title image for post "My New Primary Doctor" featuring faceless doctor holding a medical chart.

Doctors who take on this kind of work have cranked up their clinical detachment to 11—to the point they are no longer helpfully objective but harmfully biased.

They don’t think of you as a person when they’re writing up these opinions for the insurance overlords. At best they see you as an interesting set of diagnoses and vital statistics.

The impartial truth is secondary to their bank account balance and ability to land similar contract work in the future. Don’t let the bastards get you. Hell, if you’ve got the fight in you, name them.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Just remember that the overarching theme here is to anticipate filing an appeal. Unwarranted cancellations are the rule, not the exception. Your disability insurance company will always try to get out of making payments. Follow these disability appeal tips and be prepared.

Give Me Hope, Help Me Cope

Give Me Hope, Help Me Cope

So many people, sensing something profound and historical is afoot, are blogging and journaling and tweeting their way through the stress and confusion. “Isolation: Day 12” someone writes, and you know what? It kinda throws me. And it kinda throws me that it throws me.

How long have I been doing this isolation thing, now? I mean, yes, I can go look up when Governor Pritzker directed social distancing and when he gave the shelter in place order, but the dates don’t stick out to me the way they do for others. Instead, I’m realizing how isolating life with cancer—disabled life—has always been. I haven’t driven since 2015. I haven’t been to a movie theater since…I don’t know…definitely before that.

So the social distancing things setting this time of crisis apart from Before for so many people don’t stand in all that much contrast for me. I haven’t started working solely from home this month, wondering if I’ll lose my wits. I did that in 2016. I haven’t lost my job and signed up for social benefits this week or panicked about how I’ll get health insurance. I did that four different times between 2017 and 2019.

I haven’t even just recently started viewing contact with others as a potential threat to my own life; I’ve been doing that since cancer and chemo tanked my immune system.

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not that I am not as stressed as everyone else about coronavirus. It’s just that I have been this stressed for a relatively long time already.

I see people fretting about the $1200 stimulus payment, shouting loudly, “That’s not enough!” and think to myself: It’s not. But people on SSI and SSDI are forced to make do with so much less for years at a time, their entire adult lives sometimes.

I know people are scared, like I was scared. But a new way will emerge. It’ll be hard, but in time what doesn’t get easier will eventually be accepted. Maybe the new way will be a beautiful one where the majority of people finally understand that universe healthcare isn’t such a bad idea after all. Where we realize if we stop handing trillions over to artificially prop up corporations and the stock market, we can instead ensure a universal basic income for real people with real families who need to eat real food and get real medicine for real illnesses.

Anyway, I think my message to the scared, able-bodied, unemployed right now would be: hang in there. The future might not be unfolding they way you pictured, but you’ll adapt. Ask a disabled person how they do it. We’re bursting at the seams with coping mechanisms.

It’s funny. I used to not-so-jokingly joke that nobody would pick a broken-ass me on their Zombie Apocalypse team. I can’t run. I can’t hunt. I can’t amputate limbs. I can’t drive the getaway car. But I am starting to realize now, that I can teach people what I know about how to cope.

To start, might I suggest everyone who needs a distraction start Zentangling? If you knit or play video games or garden or cook. Keep doing those things at ground you and make you calm. But if you need something like that, try meditative drawing. Pairing it with written journaling in the same notebook can be really, REALLY helpful. Ask me how I know.

Someone on the Internet Told Me Not to Get Political

Someone on the Internet Told Me Not to Get Political

Welp. It happened. I got my first YouTube comment asking me not to “get political” today.  I wish people understood what an awful request this is to make of a fellow human being. It’s not appropriate to ask of your favorite celebrity, much less a small-time YouTuber.

Asking me not to get political loosely translates to “make ME more comfortable whatever the personal cost is to you.” Yeah, no. If I’m going to make all my videos accommodate one specific person, it’s going to be me. Just FYI. Not because I want to pick a fight with internet randos, mind you (I don’t have energy for that on a normal day) but because I don’t accept that it’s my job to polish someone else’s bubble.

And it doesn’t really matter whether familyrich 77 is politically opposed to what I said (that Trump bungled the coronavirus response) or is just burned out and needing a break from it all. The onus is theirs.

Consider two scenarios. In the first one, a YouTube creator has posted a video in which she says the sky is blue. You believe the sky is purple. Which is the most reasonable response?

  1. Ask the creator not to talk about the sky.
  2. Stop watching.

In the second, a YouTube creator has posted a video in which she says the sky is blue. You are tired of people talking about the sky all the time. Which is the most reasonable response?

  1. Ask the creator not to talk about the sky.
  2. Stop watching.

It’s especially damaging to ask someone whose life has been ripped to shreds by health, disability, and poverty politics (me) to not talk about it. Period. But also? My comments were made in a Tangled Talk episode. In case you’re reading this but haven’t seen one, Tangled Talk videos are a hybrid between a personal vlog and a Zentangle tutorial.

Suggesting I not mention anything political in a video I clearly labeled a Tangled Talk episode—in the title AND with in-video graphics—is like suggesting the child you made fifteen years ago not talk about drama at school.

I’m not mad at familyrich 77, but I am more annoyed today than I might otherwise be. Because I received that “don’t get political” crap after my high-risk husband and I found out we couldn’t place an online grocery order due to “extremely high demand.”

Also, Trump is still bungling the coronavirus response. And that is the nicest thing I can say about him.

Take care of yourselves out there, people.

Relaxing Zentangle Art for Beginners

Relaxing Zentangle Art for Beginners

About This Zentangle

This video shows you the relaxing Zentangle art for beginners that I created using materials from Project Pack 08. The two-tile setup was taught in the official Day 2 video. I changed up the pattern, as usual, because for whatever reason I am always drawn to spirals. I think it’s the simplicity of spiral patterns that makes them so relaxing to draw—I just draw without having to think too much. Some days that’s exactly what I need.

There’s no voiceover for this video, but there will be in the future! I am excited to record again soon because I got a microphone for my birthday from my sister-in-law and brother. (In addition to using it for Zentangle videos, I am also preparing to offer audio versions of Who You Gonna Believe read by yours truly—I just need to reach my Patreon goal, but I am past the halfway mark!)

Screenshot shows I am 65% of the way to my second pledge goal to record an audio version of Who You Gonna Believe.

Anyway, it was a rainy, dreary day in Urbana today, which made lighting the video a little trickier than usual and resulted in harsher shadows. I also struggled gripping the pens today—the tips of my fingers kept going numb because I was holding them so tightly. I attribute a lot of that to being absolutely strung out on stress the last couple of days, but crazy Spring temperature changes always play a part too. (It warmed up to almost 70 °F, but is now dropping again, which means the aches and pains are going to settle in 5, 4, 3….

Still, my mood was much better after completing my tangle practice than it was before I started. I hope this beginner Zentangle video gives you a little inspiration to create your own doodle art today. As always, tag me on Twitter or Instagram if you share your Zentangles so I can follow you!

Materials Used

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Outbreaks and Breakouts: A Survivor’s Log

Outbreaks and Breakouts: A Survivor’s Log

Whew! Is it just me or is this week like a thousand years long? Lately I’ve been thinking about outbreaks and breakouts.

I don’t want to talk too much about THE THING that has Twitter wound tighter than a Jack Russel Terrier these days, but because this blog is, among other things, an accounting of my life, I don’t want to not mention it either. So, I’ll just throw down a quick update to keep people from worrying about us before delighting you with a fun little something for Throwback Thursday.

Yes, Dan and I are both high-risk when it comes to this coronavirus junk, but for now we are doing fine. I’m a little miffed I couldn’t buy a single box of fucking Kleenex or a roll of paper towels this week, but we have plenty of everything that isn’t a paper product at the moment. And a friend is sending us some tissues to get us through. [Waves at Jenn]. As you can probably imagine, we couldn’t stockpile goods on an SSDI income even if we wanted to. So it was inevitable and unfortunate that we’d run out as the pandemic reaches us.

Thankfully, we had sunshine and temps in the fifties Tuesday. We sat on the patio for a bit and soaked up some sun. Boomer chewed on a stick, and Izzy perched herself on the bird bath pedestal. (Can’t wait to set the basin on it again. C’mon, Spring!) The neighbor was out with her Yorkie. It was a comfort to hear Sammy barking incessantly at us through the privacy fence for ten minutes straight. No sarcasm. When things get too quiet, you can hear the apocalypse ringing in your ears.

But onto other things. Yesterday, for some reason, I decided to look up my husband’s old blog. It’s still sitting there on Blogger even though he hasn’t touched it in years. I thought I’d reminisce for a while. That’s when I came across this unflattering photo of me from July 2010:

When Dan took this picture, we’d been doing the long-distance thing for about a year. He was still living in Milwaukee, and I was in Indianapolis. I had time off from my job at the synagogue for the 4th, and so my dog and I took a road trip.

We did typical Fourth things—grilling out, getting frozen custard at Kopp’s, and hanging out at various points of interest along the lake shore. At one point, we were walking through an overgrown section of trail near Grant Park in South Milwaukee. It was the hottest of hot summer days. It was the humidest, swampiest, overgrownest swath of land. Dan was leading the way, and Taubensee (2000-2013) and I were lagging behind him. Everything was so just humid and swampy and overgrown with foliage. I think it must have also been the first day of MoquitoCon or something too.

Have you been to Wisconsin? The mosquitoes in that state, y’all—MOTHER OF GAWD!

Anyway, I prayed out loud for the trail to end, like someone or something could help me, remove me from that god-forsaken place. “It’s just a little bit farther,” Dan said. He wasn’t mad, but you could hear the “I don’t understand what the big deal is” in his voice. I smacked my forearm, smearing bug guts all over me. My face was so itchy. Overcome with frustration, I yelled, “AAARRRGH!”

It was just too much. Relinquishing what dignity I had left, I impulsively smacked myself in the face just as we were approaching the end of the trail. The pain was a welcome distraction from the itching, from the tickle of insect feet on my skin, and from the high-pitched buzz of tiny flapping wings in my ears.

When we reached the end of the trail we no longer had to walk single file. There, Dan turned around, glimpsing me for the first time since we’d started down the path.


“I’ve been saying!” I all but screamed. The itching was unbearable; the longer I went without antihistamines, the nearer I was to delirium.

“Yeah, but—” He just couldn’t find the words.

“How bad do I look?” I asked.

“Umm,” he hesitated. “You’re beautiful, but let’s skip Pick ‘N Save and just get you home. OK?”

LOL. I showed him this picture just now while writing this post, and he apologized to me again. “I still feel really bad about that.”

Don’t forget: Who You Gonna Believe is unlocked for everyone to read through March 31! Check it out.

Weekend Update: Nobody Knows Anything

Weekend Update: Nobody Knows Anything

I saw my primary doctor yesterday. It was supposed to be just a med check to note how I was doing on nortriptyline for my chronic pain. And while we did discuss that briefly, we talked mostly about Pal, the off-the-charts fatigue that has overwhelmed me since Thursday, and a newly discovered lump on the back of my neck.

If you’re in a hurry or just don’t care about the minutia of my visit, here’s your TL;DR: nobody knows what’s going on yet.

After today’s visit, I do have more information to share, though. The lumps in my armpits are apparently not swollen lymph nodes but some kind of skin issue below the surface. Cysts, I guess? However, the new lump in my neck is almost certainly a swollen lymph node.

Dr. A said I should not freak out about going back for additional mammograms on the 30th. She sees patients get called back a lot for asymmetry in breast tissue that turns out to be nothing consequential once doctors get a more detailed look. They want more pictures to investigate the asymmetry, not the lumps.

That does make it a little easier for me to wait on answers.

Taking my extreme fatigue and the neck lump into consideration, I asked Dr. A about the possibility of mono. I don’t know how I would end up with mono—I was self-isolating before self-isolation was cool—I just remember tales of big lymph nodes and crazy fatigue when other people I knew came down with it.

Dr. A did a physical examination of all the bumps and wasn’t sure what to tell me. She didn’t order any kind of bloodwork; I think mostly because I don’t have a sore throat, a cough, a fever, or a history of contact with sick people to point toward anything viral.

 “Refresh my memory,” she said. “Your brain tumor was cancerous, or…?” (Dr. A is my primary doctor but this is only the second time I’ve ever seen her.)

“It’s cancer.”

“And they couldn’t remove all of it right?”

“They couldn’t remove any of it.”

“OK. I’m going to consult with your oncologist. If you develop any other symptoms that would explain things—like you’ve got a bug of some sort and symptoms are still developing—call the office and let me know. In the meantime, I’ll see what Dr. P suggests.”

She explained that she’d tell most patients not to sweat it, just keep an eye on things and let her know if it gets worse. But with my history that approach felt a little too hands-off for her I think.

With a few glaring exceptions, my entire medical history can pretty much be summed up as “we have more information for you, but no answers” so today’s visit definitely tracks. If I ever do find out anything conclusive, I’ll be sure to let you guys know.

For now, I’m going back to bed. Maybe if I rest a few more hours I’ll have enough energy to brush a tooth or something.

Peace, love, and stop hoarding all the damn toilet paper, people.

My First Mammogram: A Story About Pal, the Lump in My Armpit

My First Mammogram: A Story About Pal, the Lump in My Armpit

So, where did we leave off with the present-day health updates? Oh yeah, my mental health and the mammogram for that lump in my armpit.

Last Monday, I had an appointment with my oncologist. Dr. P is the local Carle oncologist I entrust with monitoring my brain cancer; it just so happens she also specializes in breast cancer. In fact, her office is in the Mills Breast Cancer Institute.

At the brain MRI follow-up appointment with Dr. P Monday, I told her, and the resident shadowing her, about the palpable lump in my right armpit. Let’s call the lump Pal for short.

Pal tends to fluctuate in size. The first time I thought about bringing up Pal at a future doctor’s appointment was late November or December. But then Pal went away, so I didn’t say anything. But then Pal came back. Frankly, Pal was starting to piss me off. So last Monday, even though Pal was small again, I brought him up—first to the resident and then my doctor after she joined the conversation. They asked if they could jab their bony fingers into my armpit, and I was like, “Yes, please. This will be fun.”

However-comma, just like when you go to the mechanic for intermittent clunking under the hood, Pal decided to be a little chicken shit and hide. Been talking to my veins, no doubt. The jerks. Anyway, I presumed Pal went underground precisely because I was in a room with people who might be able to do something about him.

“You have some fullness,” the resident said, “but I don’t detect a lump.” I could still feel Pal in his miniature form, but I was not surprised he could not.

“When was your last period?” the resident asked. “Hormonal changes can sometimes—“

“Chemotherapy fried all that,” I said. “I don’t have periods.”

He actually looked surprised, which surprised me because chemopause or cancerpause (or whatever you want to call it) is not actually an uncommon thing. If you make it as far as your oncology residency, haven’t you learned this already? I’m genuinely asking. Maybe you don’t. Maybe the curriculum should be updated.

Dr. P said in her German accent, “You should come back when it is big again. Yes?”

I had a breakdown in the car on the way home. Thankfully Dan was very understanding. “I’m not making things up!” I said, rubbing my eyes punishingly for leaking. “You felt it? Remember? I am not crazy! Why is this happening again? What if they think I’m looking for attention?”

“Yeah, I felt it. You’re not nuts.”

A couple hours later, at home, Pal puffed up again. And he hurt like hell. “OF-FUCKING-COURSE,” I spat into the void.

That essentially brings us to today. My first mammogram. Pal was still pretty colossal this morning, but I was concerned that he was too far away from my boob to show up in a mammogram, and that I’d still be indefinitely floundering in self-doubt and what-ifs.

In a very tiny room, a nurse asked me the routine screening questions:

How old were you when you had your first period?
When was your last period?
Do you have kids?
Are you wearing deodorant?

When I told the nurse about my chemopause, she asked me what cancer I already had. And from there we got into how I was concerned about Pal… but the doctor couldn’t feel it last week… but I still wanted someone to make a note.

“Oh,” she was a brilliant nurse who didn’t make me ask a single question after that. “Well,” she explained, “you’re only scheduled for a routine screening mammogram today because of your age, but I’m writing all of this down. With your history, I’m just going to tell you now to expect a call back for more imaging. We can’t do everything you need during this 30-minute appointment today. A diagnostic mammogram can take up to two hours.”

Seemed reasonable to me. I was invited to the mammogram room by the tech. After going over what I’d told the nurse, she put a circular sticker with a teeny little metal ball on it over the area where I felt Pal, and we proceeded with the 3D screening mammogram for first-timers.

The results of my baseline are already in my patient portal, and I’ve already tweeted about what it contains. They can see Pal, and apparently he has a friend in my left armpit.

My primary physician has been given this information, and that’s all I know right now. I have more waiting to do, but from the sound of things I will have the follow-up imaging done fairly quickly. Unlike my mental health consultation, WHICH I COULD REALLY USE RIGHT NOW. JUST SAYIN’!

*long, defeated sigh*

Who You Gonna Believe? Not a Gaslighter, Bitch!

Who You Gonna Believe? Not a Gaslighter, Bitch!

Have you seen the video for the new Dixie Chicks song Gaslighter? Here, watch.

I’ve been listening to the song on a loop since its premiere yesterday. ON. MY. BIRTHDAY. It was preordained this song drop right now—while I’m running a promo for my serial memoir and still firmly entrenched in the Rodney chapters.               

I don’t consider myself a country music enthusiast, but I’ve been a Dixie Chicks fan since coming of age in a smothering small town while “Wide Open Spaces” topped the charts. Natalie cemented my adoration for the trio in 2003, though, when she took a whole lot of shit for her anti-war, anti-Bush comments at that concert in London.

In addition to placing “Gaslighter” at the top of my feminist anthem playlist, I’m writing it into my will that I want it used in the soundtrack for Who You Gonna Believe when I become famous for dying of brain cancer and they make a movie based on my memoir.

You’re sorry but WHERE’S MY APOLOGY

Damn, that is some fucking relatable-ass shit, but it is also so empowering. I’m just like, get all the 15-year-old girls in a room right fucking now and play them this song so they know what we want them to know: One day a woman WILL be president and the patriarchy is going to have its little excuse-making lips sewn shut with a backstitch. Put a pamphlet in my pocket and pay me what I’m worth, because gaslighters can’t eat the sandwiches NO ONE MAKES FOR THEM.

Sorry. Getting a little carried away.

Of course, the-you-can’t-touch-us-with-your-feminazi-bullshit-because-we’re-in-V-formation aesthetic is glorious too. Taken as a whole, this video reminds me that when my story ends one day, it will not end with me being a victim.

Of anything.

Friendly reminder that my memoir is unlocked for everyone (even Rodney, lolz) the entire month of March. However, if you want to be a rebel and support me JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN, new patrons are always welcome at

Dixie Chicks Gaslighter Lyrics

Gaslighter, denier
Doin’ anything to get your ass farther
Gaslight, big timer
Repeating all of the mistakes of your father

We moved to California and followed your dreams
I believed the promises you made to me
Swore that night ’till death do us part
But you lie-lie-lie-lie-lied
Hollywood welcomed you with open doors
No matter what they gave you, you still wanted more
Acting all above it when our friends divorced
What a lie-lie-lie-lie-lie
You’re such a-

Gaslighter, denier
Doin’ anything to get your ass farther
Gaslight, big timer
Repeating all of the mistakes of your father
Gaslighter, you broke me
You’re sorry, but where’s my apology?
Gaslighter, you liar

You thought I wouldn’t see it if you put it in my face
Give you all my money, you’ll gladly walk away
You think it’s justifiable, I think it’s pretty cruel
And you know you lie best when you lie to you
‘Cause, boy, you know exactly what you did on my boat
And, boy, that’s exactly why you ain’t comin’ home
Save your tried story for someone else
‘Cause their lie-lie-lie-lie-lies
Look out, you little-

Gaslighter, denier
Doin’ anything to get your ass farther
Gaslight, big timer
Repeating all of the mistakes of your father
Gaslighter, you broke me
You’re sorry, but where’s my apology?
Gaslighter, you liar

You just had to start a fire, had to start a fire
Couldn’t take yourself on a road a little higher
Had to burn it up, had to tear it down
Tried to say I’m crazy
Babe, we know I’m not crazy, that’s you
You’re a lie-lie-lie-liar
Oh, honey, that’s you
You made your bed and then your bed caught fire
Gaslighter, I’m the mirror
Standin’ right here until you can see how you broke me
Yeah, I’m broken
You’re still sorry, and there’s still no apology

Gaslighter, denier
Doin’ anything to get your ass farther
Gaslight, big timer
Repeating all of the mistakes of your father
Gaslighter, you broke me
You’re sorry, but where’s my apology?
Gaslighter, you liar

Help Me Celebrate My 40th Birthday

Help Me Celebrate My 40th Birthday

I turn 40 Wednesday!

To celebrate, I’m taking my webserial memoir out from behind the paywall (Pay-treon wall?) for the month of March. So, not only can you read all 12 chapters of Who You Gonna Believe through the 31st, BUT you get to read chapter 13 in real time when I publish it at the end of the month!

Scroll down to start reading.

Or bookmark the Table of Contents if you want to read later.

I think turning 40 would be a pretty big deal for me anyway, but it’s monumental reaching this kind of milestone while toting a brain tumor around every day. I’m glad I’m here, and I’m thankful for all the people here with me—both virtually and IRL—and I wanted to give you all something to show my appreciation. Having cancer means there isn’t always a whole lot I can do to give back. Money’s tight, energy is low, and anxiety is high. But that won’t stop me from trying to say thanks.

Whether you’re a long-timer follower of this blog or you’re visiting for the first time, I hope you enjoy!

And of course, I’m so grateful for the support of my patrons who help keep me, this website, and the WYGB project going. If you enjoy reading WYGB this month (completely ad-free, I might add!) please leave a comment thanking these lovely people for making it possible.

Amiee S.
Angela R.
Becky Y.
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Beth R.
Chris P.
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Geoff O.
Heather G.
Heidi D.

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Jeff G.
Jennifer G.
John P.
Judy L.
Karen D.
Kenneth R.
Kimberly C.
Kristin D.
Len B.
Mahesh M.

Melanie S.
Rachael U.
Rick K.
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