yours, tiramisu

medicine's unwanted child

For the third year running, my family has hit our health insurance plan's out of pocket maximum, after which point all covered procedures are essentially free. As you might imagine, the vast majority of our healthcare costs are spent on me and the treatment for my rare illness (and other ailments). Health insurance is a constant source of stress for us these days, especially now that I'm unemployed, since on the horizon looms the very real possibility that I won't be able to afford my medications this time next year if I can't find a job with decent benefits.

My mom takes advantage of this small window of "free" healthcare by booking us for every available appointment under the sun before the calendar year ends. While I find setting the world record for specialists seen in a month a rather bothersome exercise, I have a begrudging admiration for the lengths that woman will go to to save a dollar. She tries to reschedule every appointment we have booked next year to sometime before December 31st, even forcing me to drive an hour or two for an open slot. If there's no availability she calls the scheduling offices every day (and sometimes multiple times a day) inquiring if anyone has canceled an appointment just so we can slip in yet another expense this year. If she doesn't get her way, she won't hesitate to cancel appointments, and if I protest she'll threaten to make me pay for the cost out of my pocket. My dermatologist is out for the last week of December and simply cannot reschedule my January appointment to this year, and for whatever reason my mom doesn't seem to understand or care that procedures I do now might need follow-up appointments that require weeks of recovery, whether to get steroids injected or stitches removed. Her determination to get everything done this year instead of the next doesn't really make sense to me. We hit the out of pocket max every year, and spending more next year simply means we'll hit the limit earlier in the year. But I don't say anything; I learned a long time ago I'll never see eye to eye with my mom on most things in life.

Today I went to the opthalmologist to check for a medical issue my rare illness predisposes me to (as a preventative measure). I've never been to the opthalmologist, but their title reminds me uncomfortably of my mortal enemy: the optometrist. I despise every part of getting my eyes checked: squinting at blurry figures, being told how blind I am, getting my eyes numbed (feeling like your eyeballs are swelling out of their sockets), and fighting desperately to keep my eyes open in spite of eyewateringly bright lights (and inevitably failing and having my eyelids forced open by cold fingers). And since today they dilated my pupils, I'll have to deal with blurry vision and a headache for the next few hours. A lot gets made of how unpleasant dentist appointments are, but I'd rather get my teeth washed by a chatty dentist twice than go to the optometrist.

While I was free of the medical issue I was referred for, the opthalmologist spotted something else wrong with my retina and referred me to a retina specialist, since he'd never seen it before in another patient and didn't know what to make of it. I could scarcely believe my luck. Another specialist not knowing what's the matter with me? At this point I feel cursed to live on the fringes of medical knowledge, passed around like a hot potato from one specialist to another. I'm tired of it all: of being a mystery; of being medicine's unwanted child; of being poked, prodded, injected, tested, bled. I am an ostrich with its head buried in the sand1, ignoring new lab results and important phone calls, and if it weren't for my mom keeping me in line I'm sure I would have given up on my health a long time ago.

Last week when my friend told me to make a birthday wish, for the first time I wished not for love or for fortune, but for good health.

  1. Yes, I am aware they don't actually do that. But please, humor me.

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