Archive for June, 2010

Seeking Sponsors

Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund WalkI am walking 26.2 miles (on the same route as the Boston Marathon) to support cancer research on September 12, 2010.

This is a fundraising event  for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, an organization that provided me with the utmost care and support over the last year. In addition to treating patients, the institute conducts research to improve its care and develop alternative treatments that are less invasive and poised for greater outcomes for all types of cancer.

The folks at Dana-Farber, particularly the nursing staff on the infusion floor, are genuinely good people, fulfilling a role that I couldn’t bear on a daily basis. For this reason, I am pleased to support their fundraising efforts, and will soon learn what it feels like to walk 26 miles! I’m pretty sure that I have never walked or hiked more than 13 miles in one day- I think it will take about seven hours, unless I miraculously turn into a conditioned runner!

If you are interested in sponsoring me, please visit my donation page:
http://www.jimmyfundwalk.org/2010/stetson

Steroids & Chemo

Someone asked me the other day what I thought about the alleged performance-enhancing steroids use by Lance Armstrong. Of course I, nor any of you know if there is any real truth behind the allegations. What I can tell you, is that I was on steroids throughout my chemotherapy. It is my understanding that this is quite common and a necessity to make it through treatment. I joked with my oncologist when she first wrote the prescription; saying that I should head to the gym and lift weights. Although steroids might be able to stay in your body for quite some time, I was in no condition to ever take advantage of the situation. This simply leads me to believe that Lance Armstrong should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Life & Disability Insurance

When I finished my undergraduate degree in 2005, my first company offered me both life and disability insurance. Both seemed unnecessary at the time, but I was compelled by what I believed to be a good deal: pay just five dollars or so per month for life insurance coverage worth 5x my annual salary. There were no physicals or medical questions to answer. The premium was based solely on age.

The disability insurance was too expensive I thought, at probably ten dollars per month, so I opted out of that nonsense. That would have provided me with an income at ~60% of my salary in the event that a medical condition kept me out of work.

I was happy to have life insurance when Jess and I purchased our house in 2007. This meant our mortgage would be taken care of in the event something happened to me.

In 2009, when I moved to a new company, I was given the option to take the life insurance policy with me. The premiums would remain the same, but there would be a little bit more paperwork sent to my mailbox at home. I accepted.

Fast forward to 2010, after my cancer diagnosis, treatment, and oncologist’s determination that my cancer is in remission, I’m unable to secure life insurance. SBLI initially offered me a $9,000+/year premium, then eventually outright denied me after I spent hours answering questions, and giving them both urine and blood samples. At $9,000 a year, I’d be much happier owning a Mercedes than an insurance policy!

My cancer diagnosis puts me at too high of a risk to insure even if the term ends in my mid-thirties. Why is this a problem if I already have a policy? It wouldn’t be enough to support a family (e.g. kids) very long, should my income disappear.

Thankfully, my new company has grown quite a bit since my start. This has included the addition of life and disability benefits negotiated for all employees. Again, these are the policies without physicals or medical questions. I jumped at the chance to add both.

The life insurance policy is by no means “set for life” money, but it would provide some time for my family to get long-term financials in order without me.

The disability insurance is a huge addition for me. While undergoing chemotherapy, I missed between 3-4 weeks of work, spread out over a few months. My company was supportive about this, but it helps when you already have three weeks of paid vacation annually. Toward the end of my treatment, I felt ineffective at work. My oncologist and nurses at Dana-Farber thought I should be on medical leave. At many companies, this is unpaid medical leave. Good luck with that if you’re paying a mortgage! This would have been a feasible option had I purchased disability insurance. Looking back, I probably would have gone on medical leave if I had known income would still be coming in. That would have alleviated some of the burden during chemotherapy.

I highly recommend that every young working person grab both life & disability insurance policies from your employers when offered. It is unbelievably cheap, and if you wait until a life changing moment occurs to trigger the purchase, it could be too late and coverage will be denied. It’s worth the five bucks!

Remission

My appointment at Dana-Farber came with positive news today. The CT scan results and blood work continue to be cancer-free. I’m now on a 6-month schedule for appointments, with the next one in December. I spoke with my oncologist about my presumed problem with blood circulation, which causes my hands to always be cold. This has been annoying during outdoor activities (e.g. riding my motorcycle). Even when it is 90 degrees outside, I need to have chemical heat packs- the kind skiers use- inside my leather gloves. That makes it bearable, but my finger tips still become cold within about 30 minutes. It turns out that this has nothing to do with my blood circulation. One of the chemo drugs, Bleomycin, causes this side effect. I was told that this is likely permanent.