First Time Gate Guarding – Day 16

Day 16

Healthcare has been on my mind lately, and since this blog is meant to be in no way political, I only want to talk about how it impacts us and the lifestyle. This year we joined ACA and purchased an EPO Blue Cross program which is subsidized based on our estimated income.  This is allowing us to pay $361 a month (versus the $900 a month it would cost un-subsidized).  The plan has high deductibles, but does cover wellness care, and this is a big deal for me since I just turned 50.  Right before we hit the road I had a physical, a mammogram, and because I am high risk for breast cancer, an MRI.  At the time I had really great corporate insurance and those tests cost me nothing. Since going on the road, we kept that coverage for the first year, then bought a gap plan with a high deductible but no wellness care, and now ACA.  It’s been two plus years since I had a mammogram and a pap smear and I am also due for a colonoscopy because I am 50.

This is where it gets complicated.  I don’t have a primary care physician anymore because my doctor (who I loved) is in New Hampshire and I haven’t been back their since we left. We also are not wintering in Florida because the costs are too high for us, and there aren’t jobs there that will offset the costs.  Instead we wintered in Arizona last year and this year in Texas and who knows about next year, although gate guarding may definitely be a viable winter option.  So I feel like I should find a primary care doctor here in Texas and try to get these tests done.  Since it is an EPO I don’t have to be referred by a primary care physician and I have been able to verify that any doctor in the Blue Cross/Blue Shield network who takes my insurance will do, but it’s intimidating.  I went online and looked up female OB/GYN’s  in the San Antonio area and there were of course tons.  I found a group of doctors in New Braunfels that looked promising but when I called to absolutely verify that both the doctors and their associated hospitals took my insurance I had a hard time getting an answer and frankly was met with some ambivalence.  My old doctor worked out of the local hospital and they always worked with me to schedule the exam and then the mammogram back to back so I only had to take off one days work, but I definitely didn’t get the vibe that they would work with me when I called.

Plus, even if I can get both the tests run before we leave, what are the odds I can get the colonoscopy in that time frame as well?  And if I could schedule it, who would drive me home? Lee can’t leave the gate when I am gone.  These are the things that can make me crazy about moving around so much.  Something relatively simple in my old life becomes super complicated.  Yes, it was challenging to schedule these appointments in the past because of my work travel schedule, but once I was locked in I could almost always work around that. Now I am facing whether to do it here (not knowing when this job will be done) or do it in Portland, Oregon where I think we will have more time.  (Personally I vote for Portland. Much less complicated on all fronts. I was going to make a joke here about colonoscopies and everything being bigger in Texas, but I decided against it. – Lee)  Either way, the challenges make me want to say “screw it” and leave it for another day.  But I’ve never been a person who does that.  I’ve faithfully had all of my wellness care checks done my entire adult life.  I might get sick at some point, but not because I didn’t do what I was supposed to do.  Now though it is very hard to keep doing that, and ironically when I am at an age when the tests probably matter more.It’s also a little complicated by the fact that we have to get physicals for our summer job.  They will contact us and help us schedule them “wherever we are” and the company pays for it, but I am guessing those physicals will be pretty basic.  Should I try to piggyback onto those exams?  Could I at least use that exam for our new life insurance policies also?  Where the heck will we even be when they call?  See? It’s complicated!

So it’s been on my mind, and I’m trying to figure it out when I went to a blog I read and saw exactly why it’s so important.  Winnie Views is a blog written by a solo full timer who is a cancer survivor.  I find her thoughtful, fun, and I absolutely adore her pictures.  She recently went to Mexico to RV with some friends and then I sort of lost track of what she was doing.  Her latest blog post caught me up.  While in Mexico she was having some serious back pain and went to a local doctor.  They ordered an MRI ($300 versus the $3K we spend here) and found a large tumor wrapped around her vertebrate.  They immediately put her in the hospital and scheduled surgery because she was at risk of becoming paralyzed. Her write-up is thoughtful and very interesting, because in Mexico a member of the patient’s family stays with them and helps with meals and bathing.  She didn’t have family with her so she ended up hiring a nurse’s aide who did a wonderful job taking care of her.  The surgery, which was extremely complicated, went very well but only 90% of the tumor was removed.  Now she has a prognosis of 12-18 months unless chemotherapy can kill the remaining 10%.  What struck me the most was how early detection could have saved her life.  When she was declared cancer free, a full body scan MRI was not done in the US because insurance wouldn’t pay for it.  This cancer could have been with her this entire time or it could be something totally new, she will never know. Her post about her experience is absolutely amazing and reminded me why I get these tests done.  Obviously they don’t 100% guarantee that an issue will be found in time, but it’s certainly better than doing nothing.  So I am going to start again, and see if I can find a doctor who can help me schedule these tests I need in a timely manner and takes my insurance. I’ll let you know as I go along how it turns out.  And Winnie, I am praying for you.

Update:  After writing this post, I looked for a medical center that provided mammograms, OB-GYN services, and Colonoscopies.  I found one in San Antonio where the respective services are on Floors 3, 5, and 4 of the same building.  That along with the fact that several female doctors were listed in their directories is a good sign.  I’ll definitely give them a call tomorrow and see if I get more help.  2nd update.  Lee made the very good point that since I don’t get a day off here at all I may not want to get a colonoscopy when I would need to work that night.  That’s an excellent point and didn’t really occur to me.  So Portland it is.  Lee has a good friend who has lived there for many years so maybe she can make some recommendations.  – Trace

Back to the gate guarding.  I was feeling a little antsy today so left to go to the grocery store and get bread.  I got a little lost and took the long way around and I have to say that Dilley is a very depressed little community.  It’s somewhat surprising to me since the oil is flowing here, but with a few exceptions it is pretty rundown.  It was good to get out though, and the only other exciting thing that happened was they changed the water pump.  The first one kept stopping and was leaking water like crazy, so they replaced it with a smaller version that’s actually a little louder.  This one leaks pretty bad as well, and we have a bit of a mud bog developing behind our rig.  The good news though is they think it will be gone in a couple of days.  Thank heavens, as the extra noise is definitely not welcome.  

The second one leaks as bad as the first but it keeps running

The second one leaks as bad as the first but it keeps running

I also tried to make a cake and have decided I am definitely not a baker.  I love to cook and think I am getting pretty good at it, but baking is just not my thing. And what’s really unfair about it is my sister and my daughter both have out of the home baking businesses.  How in the heck did that gene skip me???   Seriously, do not look for any baked deserts in this recipe book that are not extremely forgiving! I am going to try to make Grandma Murray’s carrot cake though, and I really hope that turns out.  Bill makes the best carrot cake I have ever had, and I simply have to give it a try.  But just in case you think I am being melodramatic, here are the pictures to prove it. 

Cake in a bowl started out very promising

Cake in a bowl started out very promising


Flipped it out...not so much. I am going to try this again though with another recipe

Flipped it out…not so much. I am going to try this again though with another recipe

This is the cranberry upside down cake after I flipped it. Maybe I need to stop making things that need flipped!

This is the cranberry upside down cake after I flipped it. Maybe I need to stop making things that need flipped!  Lee, God love him, ate it.

I also received a comment from a reader, and since it may be a question other people are also wondering I thought I would answer it here him and everyone else as well. Here is the main portion of his question:

I have been reading your blog for a while now, we also read several others … and frankly we have come to realize that unless you have a steady source of income ( retirement, SS, Pension etc) this idea of just having the time of our lives is a crock. … So the question really is: Why would you want to subject yourself to this monthly financial worry?  Compared to waiting until retirement age when you do receive additional income, Medicare etc. If I travel I want to enjoy it, not be constantly worrying about the next dollar.” 

The short answer is that I had financial worry before.  Here’s the long answer.  In our heyday, Lee and I made over $150K a year and I still worried about money.  Mainly I worried about losing my job, which would lead to us not having enough money.  I worked for the same company for 15 years, in a job I really liked,  and had never been fired in my life, but I watched person after person I knew reach their early 50’s and get “downsized”.  I personally survived 4 major lay-offs, and too many minor ones to count, which I think would lead any rationale person to never feel safe.  Two years before I left the company I worked on a small 5 person team with a combined 100 years of company/industry experience.  In that year, three of the five people were laid off and they were all good friends of mine.  You start to develop survivor’s guilt in a situation like that and it’s really hard to not fall prey to doing “whatever is necessary” to keep your job.  You work longer hours, you work almost all of your vacations, you become cutthroat in that environment and it’s either move up, or move on.

I knew exactly what I needed to do to move up and frankly I didn’t have it in me. I spent the last two years of my time at the company completing efficiency studies that ultimately resulted in at least 75 people being fired.  Everything in me rebelled against that, but I needed to feed my family, I needed to pay my mortgage, and I needed to keep my job.  When I raised my concerns early on the message was loud and clear.  “Get with the program or else.”  So I got with the program, and did the best I could to live with it. Finally I was lucky enough to be moved to another project where I actually got to spend the bulk of my time building something instead of tearing things apart, but the damage had been done.  So when the opportunity came along I took it, and not 2 months later there was another huge merger and another round of layoffs. When I heard, all I could feel was relief.  Changing my life has not been easy and it certainly is not completely stress-free, but when I think about this pressure versus that pressure, it is no contest.  Plus, this time around Lee and I are in it together.  We succeed or fail as a unit, versus me feeling (as the primary breadwinner) that the pressure is all on me. Working as a couple has definitely come with its own share of challenges, but has its rewards as well.

I have no idea how this is all going to turn out.  It may end tomorrow, or may go the next 10 years.  I do know I wouldn’t trade one second of it (not even selling  Christmas Trees) for more of my old life.  I really feel like I am living, instead of just going through the motions of the same old grind. And God forbid, if I died tomorrow, I would have done this. I saw those places, I took those pictures, I lived those moments.  Me, the person who spent a whole lot of time sitting on her couch.  I stood 40 feet from a grizzly bear, I had a bonfire on the beach explode on me and my friends, I watched a moon rise over the ocean, and  I saw Mt. Denali in all it’s glory.  I seriously doubt any of those things would have happened in my old life, because even though I had 4 weeks vacation a year, I had very little time.

That being said, I appreciate very much what you are saying about travel. But who says you get to travel after you retire?
One of our best friends died at 45 from esophageal cancer.
A former boss at work died from liver cancer 3 months after retirement .
The president of my old company died from stomach cancer one year after retirement .
My grandfather discovered he had Alzheimer’s a short time after he retired, and there was precious little travel in the ten years before he died.
The husband of a friend died of a heart attack at 47 right in front of her.
A friend from high school died in his sleep of a brain aneurysm.

These are just a few examples just of people I personally know. There are others (the latest being Lynne’s story above) and they all that have taught me one thing: There are no guarantees.  If my choice is to live now and not have things exactly the way I want, or to wait and maybe never get it at all, then I choose now.  It’s OK with me that others choose differently.  But more than anything else that’s why I made my choice.

This decision was never just about travel for me.  This isn’t a travel blog (my friend Deb writes an excellent one if that’s what you are looking for).  It isn’t even  a blog about living in an RV, although that certainly is a central theme around many of our posts.  It’s a blog about how a pretty normal couple after 27 years of marriage and raising three kids quit their jobs, moved into an RV,  and changed their lives.  I wish I could express to you how much of a gift this journey has been.  Just the fact that I actually have something this interesting to write about is amazing to me. So the short answer to your question is, I “subject” myself to this life, because it is better than my old life.  That may change, and it may not. I really have no idea what is going to happen, and that in itself is a wonderful thing.  I always had a pretty good idea what was going to happen in my old life.  This is better.

Thanks for asking, it really was a fair question and I hope I answered it.  Take care and thanks for reading! Trace

(I would have said everything Trace said, but, you know, funnier. – Lee)

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