It’s Not Another Tumor

It’s Not Another Tumor

Why is a cat the featured image on a post titled “It’s not a tumor”? Because I do what I want. Say hi to Oliver.

I’m here to write my obligatory “it’s been a while” post. Not wanting to bury the lede, I’ll let you know I’m still here. Just miserably so.

I’ve had a LOT of doctor appointments the last few months trying to figure out why one of my jaw lymph nodes is inflamed to 3.5 cm.

It started maybe two years ago. There were antibiotics, a biopsy, more antibiotics. Nothing helped long term, and nothing was diagnosably wrong.

Over time I have become fatigued to the point I have to calculate if I can do a thing and still get myself to the toilet in time. (Sometimes I can’t.) I spend most of my time in bed. 

My pain is off the charts too. Weed is my one respite, but I only take it before bed because it tends to dehydrate me–even with all the Gatorade and Liquid IV and DripDrop SSDI can buy.

Anyway, with the first biopsy saying it wasn’t more cancer, my oncologist referred me to an ENT who suggested removing it surgically was an option, but I had time to think about it. If it was still bothering me in the Fall, I would call to schedule the procedure.

Well, Fall arrived and I was so fatigued and the pain was worse and I went from reluctant to be cut open again to “get this fucking thing out of me” overnight.

But, naturally, the worsening of symptoms concerned people who know more about such things. I’ve had a CT, a PET scan, and a biopsy in the last month or so. It’s no longer a single lymph node. There was some mention of lymphoma, but it’s not that.

Of course, I got that information long after the anxiety had taken over. Last night the oncologist’s office called after hours and I spiraled again. It was just an appointment reminder for January 2nd. My mind was reasonable, but my gut was not.

It’s my opinion that I have some kind of infection or a bunch of reactive lymph nodes, but I guess I’ll see what the doctor says after the first of the year. Doctor Google didn’t have anything conclusive to say about the lab and biopsy results, which is why I’m “like this.” Some deep, dark part of me remembers what happens to the undiagnosed.

(I have better doctors now than the Rheumatologist from Hell and an attorney to keep Lincoln Financial in line, but still. Try telling that to my colon.)

The good news is I got a stair lift out of the deal. Lol. It really has helped me so much, now that I have to leave for medical appointments all the damned time. 

I’ve also been listening repeatedly to Tara Brach‘s podcasts, especially the episode titled “Awakening from Trance – Embracing Unlived Life.” It hits home enough that listening is a good distraction and it has given me tools to cope when I can’t listen. I’m not without anxiety, but my more intense episodes don’t last as long as they used to. I’ll take it.

I’m going to leave off with an ask that you visit my YouTube channel and share a video with someone. (I’ve got bills, they’re multiplyin’.) I’ve also got an updated Amazon wishlist. Know that things are not dire now. I’m just financially anxious about what’s ahead.

I hope you have a celebratory December, what’s left of it now, and a wonderful New Year.

Today was OK

Today was OK

I hesitate to say today was OK, because what counts as OK for me requires a lot of expectation management on the part of everyone else. But you know what? That’s not my problem. I don’t know why I continue to feel like I need to be understood by people. It’s definitely a fault of mine, because even the people I interact with IRL daily don’t—can’t—know what it’s like to be me.

So I’m letting that shit go. Think whatever you want about me living my life with brain cancer; it’s not my job to make sure your estimation of my disability is accurate. That’s a habit I picked up from back in the day when Lincoln Financial Group was pretending I was in remission. And fuck them all the way to Jupiter. Gaslighting motherfuckers.

I’m not mad right now. I just really don’t like people who are willing to work for them.

Today was OK for me because I feel somewhat accomplished. First thing this morning, Dan and I had our labs done together. And both of us had to remember to fast, so that’s kind of a big deal. Also? One stick! Welcome back from the brink of chemo hell, junky veins!

Then Dan got me some Tim Horton’s decaf coffee pods from Dierberg’s AND I got my favorite breakfast on the way home.

For lunch, I made some pizza rolls in the air fryer—ALL BY MYSELF. And then I took a shower.

Getting all of this done in a single day (and then blogging about it) is freaking huge. Huge!

Mom is helping me get some pictures of Dan and his family framed, so we went through some boxes of old photos. I might be slightly biased, but Dan was one of the cutest triangle-mouthed babies to ever exist. Here he is at 6 months with his twin brother.

There are more pictures to come, but not in this blog post. Happy Thursday, y’all.

I WON MY LONG-TERM DISABILITY APPEAL AGAINST LINCOLN FINANCIAL Group!

I WON MY LONG-TERM 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.

About My Disability Case Against Lincoln Financial Group

About My Disability Case Against Lincoln Financial Group

The legal assistant assigned to my disability case against Lincoln Financial Group called me at the end of last week. She said they just needed a couple of signatures from Dan and me and a copy of my SSDI award letter. Then they’d be ready to ship off the entire appeal. This month is the deadline.

She gave me a quick rundown of everything they are submitting with my file, and—whatever LFG decides on this second appeal—I feel better just knowing there are people out there to push back against the insurance company’s lies and the lies of the doctors, like Samuels and Hartner, who shill for them.

It’s also been really nice not getting any emails or phone calls from the claims specialists that work for LFG since I found legal representation. I don’t know how employees like Ann and Sherry can do what they do to people in my situation. HR at Lincoln Financial must offer certified empathy extraction benefits along with vision and dental.

One thing the disability attorney managed to nail down was a sworn statement from my neuro-oncologist at Barnes-Jewish. “It’s going to be submitted as additional documentation after the deadline,” the legal assistant explained. “But he’s been out of the country for a while, so our hands were kind of tied.”

I’m stunned. Absolutely stunned that they are getting this from Dr. A. He’s good at the cancer stuff, but kind of impossible to pin down. I’d say 95% of my interactions with his office, including treatment and follow-up visits, at the cancer center have been with his NP, his nurses, and his office coordinator. I know that’s normal, but it’s far from ideal—even when you’re not fighting insurance.

Anyway, I asked the legal assistant how much time Lincoln Financial had to reach a decision on the appeal. I couldn’t remember. The answer is 45 days from the date of submission, but with a caveat. Since the sworn statement from Dr. A will be arriving later, LFG may request more time to review the additional evidence and it could be up to 90 days before I hear anything.

“Lincoln isn’t bad for missing deadlines—some other companies we deal with are terrible—but we’ll file a formal ERISA complaint if we don’t hear from them by their deadline,” the legal assistant said.

Do I think LFG will take another 45 days just to review one statement from my doctor? Yes. Yes, I do. Every day they don’t pay a claimant is another day they can earn interest on the stockpiles of cash they make from hoarding money that is supposed to be disbursed to disabled policyholders but isn’t.

My dad, who has always been really good at money, doesn’t pay his bills too soon before the due date for this same reason. “It’s silly to pay the bill as soon as I get it when that money could be making me more money,” he says.

The huge difference of course being that Dad isn’t holding someone else’s money. If he were doing what LFG is doing, we’d all be calling it theft.

Something to keep in mind, because the process for appealing cancelled disability claims is so stinking confusing, is that the appeals process is not anything at all like an actual lawsuit. There’s no independent third party, like a judge, weighing the evidence yet.

Both of my appeals of LFG’s egregious decision (the first one I made on my own, and now this one with my attorney) are appeals to the company itself. It’s nothing more than me saying, “Hey, you guys are wrong. Here’s why. Change your mind or be sued.”

LFG’s employees use language to try and make us all think the appeals process is about reviewing facts and making the right call. They’re spraying Febreeze on a pile of bullshit, guys. Being disabled as defined by your policy isn’t enough to win a disability appeal. You also have to convince them it’ll cost them more in the long run not to pay you.

I knew this in my gut from the day LFG cancelled on me, but I was so blinded by rage in the early stages that it was hard for me to wrap my brain around it. With a little more mental clarity, I see the appeals process for what it really is. Me saying, “Hey, bitches. Look at all this stuff I’ll be taking to the judge when it’s time to sue. Sure will cost a lot of money for you to prepare your defense and then lose anyway.”

Knowing Lincoln Financial will be holding my money hostage for at least another three months, seems like a good time to plug my serial memoir, Who You Gonna Believe.

Don’t Be Like Bob

Don’t Be Like Bob

Last Saturday there was another writeup on my continuing saga with Lincoln Financial Group. This time the article was published on Relation State, a blog run by a good, progressive-leaning friend of mine who wanted to assist me in my mission to warn people away from LFG and its products.

READ: Lincoln Financial Group Scams Cancer Patient

In a goodwill effort to reach a larger crowd, my friend shared the post on the Relation State Facebook page. For the most part, people were sympathetic. But there’s always that one guy, isn’t there? This time, the guy’s name was Bob.

Bob, bless his heart, seems to think he’s immune to the havoc a billion-dollar company like Lincoln Financial can wreak. He commented, probably without knowing I was in the audience, that whatever the insurance company had done, the fault was with me. “I got what I paid for,” and “I should’ve read the fine print,” he said.

It’s almost cute how Bob believes Lincoln Financial discloses their misdeeds in writing at all, let alone before a customer pays her premiums.

But some people, and I think it’s safe to assume Bob is one of them, cling to an oversimplified, conservative notion of capital-P, capital-R Personal Responsibility. They prefer believing they’re better and smarter than the rest of us over acknowledging that shit can happen to them too. Lincoln Financial Group counts on people like Bob to keep their secrets safe.

Bob’s comments reveal the crux of his personal philosophy: his fortune isn’t fortune at all—it’s superior intelligence. By his logic, I’m just gullible or stupid or both, and that’s the real crime here.

Despite the insults we attract from people who don’t get it, it’s important for me and people like me to keep telling our stories. Why? Because when we talk in generalities, the information doesn’t stick. The world stays complacent. Someone else gets brain cancer and instead of accessing the safety net she paid for, an insurance company records an immorally large profit, profiteering doctors like Brian Samuels and Lee Hartner line their wallets, and a disabled woman with a brain tumor forgoes medicine and racks up additional debt just to keep the lights on.

We can throw a wrench in the works, slow—maybe even halt—the conveyor belt carrying our money to liars and racketeers.

But not if we’re content to be like Bob.

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