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 Denied Disability Benefits to Brain Cancer Patient

Lincoln Financial Group Denied 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.

How to Help a Cancer Patient

How to Help a Cancer Patient

This list of 35 ways to help a cancer patient started out as an exercise in gratitude, a list of very specific things I’ve been grateful for since my brain cancer diagnosis in 2017.

But I realized it could be useful too. I’ve been asked so many times, “How can I help?” 

Sometimes I’ve known I needed help but was physically so exhausted I just couldn’t think of anything specific.

I have a feeling I’m not the only cancer patient who’s had this experience, though. My hope is that you’ll contribute more ideas or examples in the comments and that this list of ideas helps patients know what to ask for and helps non-patients know what to offer.

Full disclosure: I’m adding referral links to help pay ongoing medical bills.

Ways to Help a Cancer Patient

1. Buy groceries.

We’ve received gifted grocery orders from friends who live out of state via Instacart, and those deliveries were an absolute godsend. Fresh food, produce, prepared meals, hydration powders, protein shakes — it’s as good to have one less thing to do as it is to have full cupboards. Use my Instacart+ link and we both get $10 and/or my Walmart+ link and we both get $20.

2. Mow the lawn.

This is a no-brainer. Even if technically someone in the household can mow, it doesn’t mean they don’t have their hands full.

3. Bake something.

Store bought baked goods have their place, don’t get me wrong. But homemade banana bread and cookies taste like love. People have worried about whether or not I can keep stuff down, but here’s the thing: Dan needs to eat too.

4. Send gift cards.

When I was traveling to St. Louis for radiation and chemo in 2017, restaurant and gas gift cards meant I could focus on treatment.

5. Watch their YouTube videos.

My YouTube Zentangle channel became eligible for monetization a couple of years ago, so when people watch my videos now I actually make a few cents from the ads. Early subscribers who watched because they cared about me, and not my Zentangles are the reason my channel was able to grow.

6. Read their blog.

My site analytics tell me that a few people are interested in reading the (sometimes) mundane stuff I write on my blog. Even when cancer has me feeling down, it’s a little less lonely out here.

7. Send a package.

Not every gift has to be brand new either. Some of the most helpful things I got were second-hand treasures. During lockdown, getting a surprise in the mail always brightened my day.

8. Design a living space.

So this one might be a little too specific to help everyone, I happen to be related to an architect. He came up with plans for a new space so we could be closer to family and I could live in an accessible home. 

9. Share, start, or donate to a fundraiser.

I’ve had a couple of GoFundMe campaigns since 2017. People, some even strangers, have helped by donating and sharing links. Cancer is expensive to treat, and that’s just scratching the surface. If you know, you know.

10. Share a wishlist.

I know Amazon isn’t the most reputable company on the planet, but setting up a wishlist there has made it easy to give and receive. When people have passed my Amazon wishlist link on through social media, it’s been cleared in a matter of hours sometimes. Sometimes I ask for creature comforts, and sometimes necessities.

11. File taxes.

My Dad did our taxes while I was going through radiation. He helped us in so many ways, but this will stick with me, always.

12. Fill out forms.

Being sick and filling out paperwork for, well, anything is not an enjoyable experience. Sometimes I’ve needed help remembering information because of the chemo fog. Other times my neuropathy made it too difficult to wield a pen. 

13. Become a patron.

Assuming, someone has a Patreon account, this can be a wonderful way to show support. This is how my art supplies and video equipment were funded for my YouTube channel, and it’s how my webserial memoir, Who You Gonna Believe got off the ground.

14. Leave a comment.

Doesn’t matter where it’s been—on a blog, a video, or a social media post—reading and responding to comments gets me out of my own head. Sometimes it’s the only thing that does.

15. Visit.

Exercise caution here. The pandemic has complicated this one, I know. But an (occasional, I’m still an introvert and cancer makes me tired) short visit or an overnight stay has reminded me I’m living, not dying. 

16. Share what you create.

Whether you paint, make TikToks, or build furniture, I always want to see it.

17. Offer a warm blanket.

When I have had MRIs or infusions at the hospital, the nurse or tech always offers a warm blanket. Put a throw in the dryer for someone. NOTE: Temperature dysregulation might make an offer of an ice pack a better choice.

18. Complete a chore.

My SIL once patched and repaired tiles and moldy drywall in our bathroom. Stuff that desperately needs to be done but patients and caregivers don’t have time or energy for are what I’m talking about here. If you can’t do it, but you can line up help? Also worth considering.

19. Support a caregiver.

I spend about 50% of my worrying time stressing about Dan. Supporting him is supporting me. Sometimes I put stuff he’d like on my wishlist.

20. Give them weed.

Void where prohibited by law.

21. Get angry or swear.

When I get bad news or have rough day, sometimes all I really want is validation. Dropping an appropriately placed F-bomb can be a lot more helpful than a cliche “at least you don’t have…”

22. Make them a sign.

My mom made me a sign that just said “tumor” when I was first diagnosed. I flashed it anytime a full explanation was too great a burden to bear.

23. Be forgiving.

Some meds make me irritable, and a lack of sleep or the inability to feed myself can make me cry at the slightest provocation. Grace is always appreciated.

24. Wear a mask.

We can make this about Covid if you insist, but I don’t want the flu or the common cold either. When people outside my circle mask up, I feel safer. Like maybe one trip to a public building won’t leave me bedridden for weeks. Like maybe hedonism doesn’t always win.

25. Get vaccinated.

See 24.

26. Schedule a game night.

It’s good for the soul to have some stress-free fun on a regular basis. I’ve enjoyed in-person board games and online video gaming so much. And because it’s just a game, I never felt guilty about backing out because of cancer symptoms or chemo side effects. 

27. Pet sit.

My initial treatment was concurrent radiation and chemo. Not only was it in St. Louis, 3 hours away from my home, but it was very intense because life with cancer was so new to me. Having someone to watch our dog and cat for 2 months was helpful beyond words.

28. Research a major purchase.

Sometimes (okay a lot of times) buying stuff takes research. When people make recommendations for big purchases like a robot vacuum or a refrigerator, it’s a huge load off.

29. Assume the thank you is implied.

I’ve had so much support from friends, family, co-workers, and even total strangers. I always want to send a thank you to acknowledge that support, but sometimes life’s proverbial fires get in the way. When people don’t take offense if I miss something or just plain forget (because, hello chemo fog), that’s helpful.

30. Enable a hobby.

Send art supplies. The coloring book is a cliché that some patients don’t appreciate as much as others. (I personally collect them, so feel free to send me what you don’t want.) But there are loads of hobbies you can help someone explore. That’s how I fell down the Zentangle rabbit hole.

31. Vote.

This is specifically meant for my U.S. audience, but I’m sure it applies elsewhere too. Whether your views are liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between, it doesn’t matter so much. Nothing is more harmful to a patient than apathy. People are bankrupted by a cancer diagnosis when not enough people care care about laws, systems, and policy.

32. Drop them off at the door.

“Take the stairs” and “park farther away from the door” don’t apply to me anymore. Some days and weather conditions require being dropped off. When someone does this for me, I feel seen. On days when I’m up for a few extra steps, I’ll say so.

33. Shop for them.

My mom thinks shopping is enjoyable and returning items is no big deal. When I gained 60 pounds on dexamethasone, she did all the shopping work for me. All I had to do was try stuff on at home and say “keep” or “pass.” It was glorious. 

34. Send them cat photos and funny memes.

Does this need explanation? When you don’t know what to say to cheer up someone with cancer, try this.

35. Advocate.

You could go to an appointment with a patient or run a 5k with the patient’s name on your shirt. It all matters. Whether you know someone who lacks the resources to deal with The System or not, you help today’s patients and everyone who follows.

BONUS! 36. Meet them where they are.

I could write an entire post on brain cancer disability, but too keep this brief let me just say: every person with cancer is disabled. Disability can fluctuate from day to day. It might be permanent, like in my case, or it might be temporary. It might be cognitive or physical or emotional. Learning to recognize it is vital. Always.

See the updated and improved list: Ultimate Guide to Helping a Loved One with Brain Cancer

Evusheld Covid-19 Preventative and More Cancer Stuff

Evusheld Covid-19 Preventative and More Cancer Stuff

I’ve got a lot of cancer things to talk about in today’s episode, including getting the Evusheld Covid-19 preventative, scheduling #AllTheVaccines, scheduling my next MRI, and a pleasant prednisone surprise.

If you’re following along at home, you might remember that I rescheduled last week’s oncology appointment to yesterday afternoon. I thought it was going to be boring and routine, like a meeting that should have been an email. But, clearly, my doctor and I discussed a lot of stuff.

First up: Evusheld. It’s another preventative for Covid-19 that’s available for the immunocompromised. My doc said I qualified for it and recommended it. So I got Evusheld this morning at the cancer center.

My appointment was scheduled for 7:00, but I didn’t get to leave until about 9:00. The stuff has to thaw, and then you have to hang around for an hour for observation in case you have an allergic/adverse reaction.

There are reasons I set early appointments. Empty waiting rooms are one.

I picked out a shirt specifically for getting the two shots in my arms only to be told they were administered in the ass and be asked if it was OK if a new nurse watched.

The more the merrier. When you have cancer, I think you inevitably learn to leave your inhibitions at home. Next to the box of vomit bags probably. I don’t know.

So I came home with two Tweety Bird Band-Aids—one on each cheek. Cute.

As for side effects. I’m really tired now, but I don’t know if it’s the Evusheld, two days in a row getting dressed and leaving the house, or being up this morning at the butt crack of dawn. Maybe all of the above?

Next, my doctor and I discussed vaccines. I need my second Covid booster and my second shingles and pneumonia vaccines. (Apparently I *just* missed getting the new single-dose pneumonia vaccine. Curses!)

It’s a lot of shots, and getting them requires finely orchestrated scheduling. There are requirements for spreading them out, but also? Insurance. God, I hate insurance. 

The shingles vax isn’t covered because I’m too young, and the first one cost me $200 out of pocket because I’m not 50 yet. I expect the next to be at least that much. Literal and figurative gouging. If gas prices concern you, congratulations I guess.

It’s worth $400, though, because I had shingles a few months ago (thanks, cancer!) and I hope I never have them ever, ever again. 

I’d rather have another brain surgery. No lie.

Anyway, that left the perfunctory chemo questions and the MRI questionnaire that takes FOREVER. There was a new nurse observing that too, and when I responded no to whether I was claustrophobic, she looked at me, shocked, and said, “YOU’RE NOT?!”

This’ll be number 22 or 23. I’m over it, folks. Besides the new hospital machines are like Cadillacs compared to the tiny, dark mobile unit I was shoved into for MRI #1. I had to sing Jesus Loves the Little Children to myself to get through that first one without crying.

Brain MRI pro-tip: always ask for the washcloth over your eyes.

That MRI is scheduled for the last part of July. There will be some scanxiety but it has nothing to do with the process and everything to do with wondering about the results.

Lastly, surprise! I officially didn’t gain any weight* while on prednisone. My last three appointments only varied by like a pound. I’m still fat but not fatter, and my dexamethasone clothes from 2017 still fit like a giant garbage bag. (Thanks, chemo?)

That’s all for now. I need a nap.

*I don’t care how much I weigh. I just can’t afford new clothes right now. Did I mention Shingrix is like $200 a pop? 

My Cancer Diet

My Cancer Diet

My cancer diet caveat:
I’m not telling you what to eat. I’m talking about what I eat. If you feel like you need to tell me what I eat is wrong, knock yourself out. But know that I don’t care, particularly if you’re not my doctor.


Before I knew I had brain cancer, I spent A LOT of time with my local gastroenterologist. I was medically tested for ALL the food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies. I have none.

For years, I tried elimination diets hoping to find out what I was doing to cause so much harm to my GI tract. And all the answers were always, “Girl, nothing. It’s not your diet.”

In hindsight, having my brain cancer diagnosis, I’m like, if my diet gave me this rare brain tumor? Well, it wouldn’t be a rare tumor would it? And people all over the Midwest would be breaking out in tumors in their mid-thirties.

Despite what the world would have me believe, my dietary choices were not the cause of my problems.

I mean, the GI distress was very real. But I was not lacking self control. I would have gladly given up anything to feel better–sugar, gluten, dairy, meat. And for different phases of my great dietary experiment, I did.

The problem was that the problem wasn’t food. In all the giving up* though, I accepted that whatever illness I had was not going away simply because I swore off eating food I liked.

That’s not to say I didn’t learn something in all that time. In fact I learned to listen to my gut, literally and figuratively.
Some foods are harder for me to digest and require more energy to process, so I avoid them. I don’t cut them out 100% because 1.) I’m both too laid back and too tired for that, 2.) chemo means craving foods that you only see once (if you know, you know), and 3.) disability and socioeconomic status mean not being hungry gets top priority.

And when I’m taking chemo, I am all about getting through the day without an emesis bag.

Anyway, this post is for two audiences. First, my fellow cancer patients and poors. Your diet doesn’t define you, and it’s healthy to eat what you like. Diet culture is the poison.

Second, internet randos with all the answers. It’s okay for other people to eat differently than you. Let it go. And if you just have to give unsolicited advice, don’t be surprised when we get pissed off.

*The freaking irony of not giving up on giving up. It burns!

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