Thursday, April 17, 2014

Healthcare and me

This post comes at a very good time in my life. I've been very excited to get to this point and I can't wait for what tomorrow brings. In short, I'm just a few hours away from having healthcare. Why am I making such a big stink over this trivial issue? Well, I've not had healthcare for a few years now. Normally, I'm in perfect health and fit as a fiddle, if a fiddle is actually fit. :)

Anyways, this has been a very important issue to me because I have one major hurdle to cross in the, now, not so distant future. As many of my very close knit community very near and dear to me knows, I've been struggling with something that has been affecting my health for the past 12 years. It's not depression, though I've pretty much conquered that. I've had a hernia for a very long time. It's been very painful trying to deal with it. The pain on a regular basis is not fun at all. I know writing a blog about this makes a not so secret medical condition very well known to those who read this, but if I'm going to help people though my blog, then my journey, struggles, hardships, celebrations, and triumphs need to be told.

Let's take a step into the wayback machine and push the button for 2002.
There! Did everybody arrive safe and sound? :)

Life for me at this point was pretty good. My day to day life was interesting. Just getting the feel for my new job as assistant manager for a local theater in Greensboro, North Carolina. My health was great. Feeling like I could go anywhere and do anything. One day, I started noticing a lump right where my leg connects to my body. I was at first pretty concerned, being that my family has a history of cancer. I lost both my grandparents on my mom's side due to cancer and with me being only 22 at the time, I was pretty scared that I was next on the list. I've heard the stories of how it skips generations but I didn't really believe all of that.

I went to the local "Urgent Care" and had them check it out. Being that I didn't have insurance at that point, they were somewhat vague with me and kind of indicated it was a hernia, but, in the very early stages and they couldn't be sure. That's all the farther I got.

As time drew on, I noticed the lump getting larger and I knew there was nothing I could do about it. The pain really started increasing too. Many times I was on the ground crying my eyes out because it hurt so much.

When I left the theater I started needing a job and Walmart was willing to hire me. I know, don't scream and shout at me. It's all that was available to me at the time and it had insurance. In 2003, I got my footing in the new job and started working my way up and to different departments. Finally my insurance kicked in and I could see what needed to be done with this condition I had now. Finally got it truly diagnosed and did some research into how to get it taken care of. Sadly, the urgent care facility never referred me to a surgeon. I had been saving up the needed sick time so that I could take the time off work to have the surgery done. That date never came. Missed opportunity #1.

Another change of job meant that I would lose insurance, sick time, and any chance of getting this fixed any time soon. When the opportunity arose to do construction work for a wonderful guy that I went to church with, I jumped on it. Being very depressed in the job in retail, this is what my life needed, even if it meant it would be a long time before I could get the hernia fixed. 2.5 years of working somewhere that you don't like is a long time to spend doing something that makes you depressed. I spent 5 years doing construction in North Carolina and I loved every minute of it. Exciting getting to build something from nothing. I lifted plenty of heavy objects, but always took great care in what I did to protect my "condition". I never had healthcare at any time during my construction job. Quite honestly, I couldn't afford it. Money was extremely tight and there was barley enough to get all the bills paid and make sure my truck had gas for the next day and that there was food on the table.

Fast forward 5 years to 2010. The money ran out and the bills were catching up. Time for another move, back home to Kansas City. After arriving, I was able to find work at an auto parts store being a delivery driver. This came with an added bonus, health insurance. I was able to sign up quickly and I went to the doctor straight away. After going through all the proper channels and speaking with the doctor, we understood what had to be done and was making a plan for the surgery to fix it. I even met with a proper surgeon this time. One little problem loomed, "pre-existing condition". It seems that since I had this before I had insurance, I had to wait, yet again. This was fine with me because I saw the end of my problem in sight and the wait would be well worth it. Had everything planned out to have it done around my birthday later that year. Well, that never came to be due to my lawn care business taking off.

I was starting work on many people's yards and realizing that there was no way I could do all the work on the weekends. I took the plunge and decided to work for myself full time. You might ask why but the reason is simple. Would you rather get up, go to a job you hate, work with people that don't respect you, and deal with customers that yell at you? I think not. Things were very slow to start off with and business eventually picked up. When I left the auto parts store, I once again, lost insurance, sick time and any chance of having the surgery. Missed opportunity #2.

Both of my missed opportunities are very valid given the fact that I was very depressed each time being stuck in dead end jobs that didn't pay well. At the time each change happened, a change was very much needed.

Step back in the wayback machine for the last jump.
There! Everybody alright? :)

Present day is here and I'm 3 years into my lawn care business. The first 2 years were a struggle. 2 years ago was the bad drought and last year was much better but still not where it should have been. As I begin my 3rd year, I look back and reflect on all that's brought me this far. All the hardships were worth it. I'm a much stronger person and I have full control over my life and it's direction. I love what I do and I love being able to make my own schedule and I only have to worry about me. I get the be the real, true me, every single day, and more than anything, that puts the biggest smile on my face. No more hiding behind the fake person that I was. My depression is gone thanks to my transition and being true to myself and those around me.

After learning that the new healthcare law meant that I was forced into getting health insurance, I saw this as a bad thing. High priced plans that I couldn't afford just yet with a high deductible that would take me years to pay off. Then I learned that I was not discriminated against for having a pre-existing condition. My hernia could finally get fixed and I wouldn't have to wait a really long time for the coverage to kick in. So here I am today. After completing the long process of getting my ID verified, mainly because my gender marker was not changed on my social security card, I'm able to find and sign up for a plan that will fit my budget. My deductible will also be much lower, making the surgery to get the hernia fixed just that much closer.

Through all of my doctor visits, I learned that I would need about 2 weeks to recover, which could vary depending on how fast I heal. The whole procedure is outpatient and would only take about 45 minutes. Figuring that I would have to pay for everything out of pocket, I was looking at around $5,000. Money that would take me a life time to save up. The time off work can be easily managed. I'll have to wait til around Christmas, during the off season for mowing, and assuming we don't get one blizzard after another. If that's the case, I'll hire out some help to get all the driveways shoveled. That's a long ways down the road and I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Just the excitement of having my ID finally verified is huge tonight. My legal name has been changed, along with my driver's license, and social security card. Gender marker has been changed everywhere it needs to be, driver's license included, all except for the social security card. I was told that could not be changed until after I've "had the surgery" and "completed transition" is the way the person at the SS administration told me. A load of total bunk in my mind being that right there on his desk was a signed original document from my doctor with all of the correct information that he would ever need to make the change. The driver's license chief examiner in Topeka had allowed all the changes to happen with that exact document.

After some consideration, I didn't think it would matter too much since I didn't use my SS number too often. Hmmmm, I was wrong. Little did I know that when I would go to sign up for healthcare, they would need that information and it didn't match. Legally, mentally, physically, and now medically I'm female. One stupid letter of our alphabet that had not been changed when it should have been now caused me problems. It kept causing errors when it came time to check ID. I applied for healthcare as female, because, well, I am. That's not what the SS administration said. After sending in the proper required paperwork, which was a copy of legal name change court order, doctor's letter, and a copy of my new driver's license, they confirmed that I am who I say I am. I know that, and you know that, but they didn't know that. Oh well.

So after speaking with an agent on the phone, I finally got the resolve that I needed tonight. Much stress has been relieved. Now to move on with the next step of choosing a plan and getting the date set when to finally go get my hernia fixed. You could say this has been a lifetime in the waiting, just as my transition is. I'll be contacting a local healthcare navigator to help me make my plan decision. I'm doing this because I've learned that there are plans available that help cover transition. I want to make sure I get on the right plan that works for me.

Such huge steps take much time. The future holds great things if your willing to wait for them.

So why do I have a hernia in the first place? Was it all the heavy film containers at the theater? TVs and boxes at Walmart? Heavy objects in construction? None of that. Simple genetics. Seems I was doomed to this from birth, it just didn't show up until that point in my life. Just like some could say that the Titanic was doomed to the bottom of the ocean long before the keel was laid or the first rivet ever hammered in. I'm also not just concerned about getting the hernia taken care of, due to health reasons, but the healthcare plan will help with HRT prescriptions and many other things that come about due to transition and just life in general. It's nice to know that if a rogue blade of grass decides that my leg needs to be cut wide open, or a rock tries to bump me off, then I'll be covered.

I hope my little story can be a good resource for somebody who has possibly walked a similar path as me. I try to lift people up and help them whenever I can. Thank you so much for reading this and I hope I've inspired you to believe in yourself and reach for the impossible. :)