Thursday, December 27, 2007

A birthday...

...and a death.

This wasn't quite what I was thinking about posting here today, but my plans were altered by the news this morning of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. She was fifty-four years old. Today, I enter another decade of life as I find that I've somehow managed to survive sixty turns around the sun. It's my sixtieth birthday.

Like so many of my friends, I don't feel like I'm sixty years old.

Some days, when I'm tired and cranky, I feel like a five-year-old. Some days, when the symptoms of MS are on a rampage, I feel like a ninety-five year old. But most days, I feel like I'm somewhere between thirty-five and forty-five - old enough to have stored up some wisdom, but young enough to laugh like a maniac when I watch an episode of "Family Guy" on TV.

So maybe the reality is that no one really feels their true age? Or that age, as so many people insist, is irrelevant?

When I look in the mirror and see that the gray hair is starting to win the battle with the dark brown hair, or that those once-imperceptible lines under my eyes are suddenly a lot more apparent, it becomes quite clear that I've lived each and every one of those sixty years. But inside, where it counts the most, there's still a young woman with a silly sense of humor and a desire to keep on living life as fully as possible - in spite of the passage of years and the damage to her fragile central nervous system.

As the sad news this morning reminded me, yet again, life is both fragile and miraculous, and never something to be taken for granted.

So on this day of my birth back in 1947, I remind everyone who bothers to read this little blog to take a moment to breathe deeply and be grateful for your life. I'm sure grateful for mine.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Teetering on the edge...

...of the Medicare Abyss.

I just sent this letter to my Senators:

"I am one of the many older or disabled residents of Oregon for whom the 2008 Medicare D coverage changes will cause tremendous hardship.

I have Multiple Sclerosis. In 2001, I suffered a severe, and ultimately disabling, MS exacerbation that abruptly ended my working career. I intended to continue working as long as possible, to continue contributing to my 401(k), and thus be in a position to supplement my Social Security benefit when I retired. So much for plans...

Compared to many others, I’m one of the lucky ones. I had Long Term Disability insurance when I got sick, and my benefit continues for another five years. But now that I find myself facing the dreaded ‘donut hole’ in Medicare D (I’ve started calling it the ‘Medicare Abyss’ – donut hole is too nice a term), I worry that I won’t be able to pay for my medication without great difficulty.

Avonex, the medication that slows the progression of MS, will cost $1,600 a month once I fall into the Medicare Abyss (some time in the first quarter of 2008). I’ll need to come up with $4,090 out-of-pocket if I want to continue this treatment. When I see my neurologist in January, I’ll speak with him about the risks involved in stopping Avonex treatment. I don’t want to take that risk, but I may have no other choice.

I know I’m just one middle-class person, representing just one vote for you. But I’m joined by thousands and thousands of people, many of whom can barely afford to heat their homes in the winter, much less pay exorbitant prices for medication they desperately need.

Please support me and my fellow citizens and do something to fix Medicare D?"

I guess I should be glad that we bought the wheelchair and walker when I was still working and had decent health insurance (my used, portable wheelchair cost over $900 when we bought it in 2002!), and that David's mom gave me his dad's motorized scooter when his dad passed away. We need to get it repaired, since it got screwed up when we moved to Portland, and I'm hoping it's repairable, since those little machines cost several thousand dollars. The thing is, if I do stop Avonex therapy, I may well find myself needing all of those mobility-assistance tools a lot more than I do today.

This is one helluva sixtieth birthday present.