It's the most wonderful time of the year . . . .
And it's time to be thankful for the things we have.
In case you didn't notice, I make a huge deal out of my birthday every year. I often say that I have gotten better as I have gotten older; that I look forward to my 40s now that I've realized how great my 30s are. But it's also because my best friend's birthday is November 9th and mine is the 29th; so, for years we have just sprinkled our mutual celebrations across the month.
And then Thanksgiving comes, with inevitable feasts and family gatherings, and we just continue celebrating We have taken impromptu road trips, planned Mexican beach vacations and held day-after-Thanksgiving-Christmas-tree-decoration-parties.
We call it the International Month of Fabulousness.
But this year, I have a confession to make.
I'm not feeling fabulous.
I'm going to warn you:this is a bit bitter, and more than a bit angry, but it is also a bit overdue.
I found out today, after 2 years of contributing hundreds of dollars to my Cigna Flexible Spending Account, that the type of account I have doesn't cover anything but vision and dental. Well, this year I didn't have to buy new glasses or contacts because my eyeglass prescription didn't change. I did, however, spend thousands on medical expenses and desperately needed that money in order to be able to do basic things like buy makeup, pay my cell phone bill, etc.
However, they will keep every penny of that because I did not spend it on glasses or dental, and did not understand that this was all the account was good for.
Now, I am nothing if not resourceful. I also have a Health Savings Account with them, and I asked to transfer that money to my HSA.
That's not allowed.
So Cigna will keep my hundreds. And I will be left scrambling to make up for that loss for the next few months.
In a typical year, I rack up anywhere from 10-15% of my income in medical expenses - thousands - between tests, doctor visits, and treatments. I make more than poverty level but way less than a middle class income. Yes, my cancer is a big part of my medical expenses, but I also struggle with handfuls of other medical issues, and I have not even GONE to the doctor for two of my latest problems because the nearly-$100-a-doctor copay, plus medications, potential tests, treatments, etc. are so daunting.
I've been losing weight nonstop since my thyroid medication was tweaked, but I can't afford to buy myself much to replace the decaying proper-sized clothing I have had for the past 10 years (since I was last at my normal size several years ago) and my few pieces of newer, grossly oversized clothing can't be replaced, either. I am already trying my best to recover financially by budgeting carefully and scrounging to put every penny I can in a savings, health savings, retirement, or some sort of conservative investment. I already need to replace things I use daily. I save for weeks or months to replace them. And then this happens.
And moreover, I try to do good for myself and others. I eat well. I exercise. I raise money for charities and contribute to my community. I vote. I really, really try to pay my medical bills, although some of them are so high I don't know how I ever will. I am trying to go to grad school. I do nice things for others. I work 50-70 hours a week.
It just doesn't seem fair.
Racing and training for races, I have said many times, is all that keeps me fit and sane. It is also a big part of being able to lose weight without a thyroid. Yet it is often difficult for me.
I train alongside people who make 2 and 3 times what I make and, I have to be honest: I struggle not to feel like a fraud as I ride along on my 4-year-old bargain bike chatting about the usual things - how to improve, not bonk, etc. - and then the inevitable suggestions that all require me to spend money (get this special kind of coach/bike/wheel/shoe/shirt/headphone/etc.) While many of them are easily shelling out $50 here, even $1000 there, on new equipment, the light at the end of the tunnel comes for me only when I have that few extra, non-saved, non-bill-related pennies that I can scrape together for used equipment that I have needed for months or years, when I can afford a race entry fee, or a relative or the B buys me one as a gift.
It takes a lot of emotional energy to pretend this isn't hard. And yet, somehow, I get up with a smile on my face every day and love my life, with its tattered clothes and nearly-empty bank account and virtually no hope for relief anywhere in the future.
Then something like this comes along and sets me back further.
Thanks to my own misunderstanding, and their ridiculously strict policies, I won't even be able to afford to buy Christmas gifts this year, or replace my barely-functioning phone.
I know lots of people with cancer. I know lots of their families lost jobs when they were diagnosed. Groups of their friends, accquaintances, even people who didn't even KNOW them banded together to raise THOUSANDS of dollars for them, take them to doctor's appointments, bake them cookies, give their husbands odd jobs to make the family extra cash. Yet when I had cancer, all in the same 2 years that I got divorced, had severe medical complications, lost my job, lost my house, lost my car (I even made a mistake on my taxes because of my severe psycholgical distress and the IRS took back every penny of the unemployment I'd earned that year because of it) - there were no benefits held in my name. While 1 or 2 of my closest friends were sympathetic with texts and phone calls, no one rushed to my aid.
My only option was complete financial ruin.
Cigna, and our nation's lovely government, I'd like to thank you both from the bottom of my improperly-beating heart for supplementing the continuation of that ruin, bit by bit, every day.
Thanks for the vent. I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.