As I wrote last week in, Burning Bridges, I have zero patience for being needlessly frustrated.  After being told I couldn’t have my preferred and necessary prescription to breathe, and after being told that my pulmonologist, an expert on my breathing situation, was no longer allowed to treat me, I booted the HMO to the curb.

Then, I ran into car trouble and money trouble, compounding the tight budget issue, but I wasn’t worried about it as I can go without my meds if I’m careful.   I also choose to have an extra month’s supply on hand in the event of an emergency, as I know how often things hit the fan in my vicinity.  So, I’m using my emergency supply this month instead of refilling my medications, saving me at least $400 in out of pocket expenses.

Today, we’re 33,000 feet in the air when my VoIP internet based phone rings, freaking me out, as well as the woman beside me.

We all know we’re supposed to have our phones and devices in “airplane” mode for safety.  Mine was.  The problem, instead, is one of manners versus safety.  Because I was signed on to the airplane wifi, my VoIP phone was working as it should and ringing.  But, I couldn’t stop it ringing by declining the call to send it to voicemail – my only option was to answer it or let it ring.


There wasn’t a “decline” button anywhere to be seen, so I had to endure panicked and angry looks from the woman next to me who knew darned well that no one should be getting calls, as the phone kept ringing and ringing…  Guilty.

I knew we were safe and I wasn’t doing anything to endanger lives or interfere with the safe operation of our aircraft, but how do I explain that to the folks around me?

Luckily, the call eventually went to voicemail, where an Ernestine-like woman from my now terminated health plan was calling me to ask if I was ok?  If I needed help in ordering my medications?  If I needed financial assistance in affording my medications?

It was all I could do to leave her a polite vmail later in the day, after arriving in Tampa, to explain that I was no longer a member due to their program denying my prescriptions, ignoring my written complaints, and that I found it ludicrous that she’d try and help me find a way to afford my medications when they denied me the long-established drug benefits in the first place.  Heck, I’d still be a member if they hadn’t tried to rework and deny all my long standing medical care choices and requirements.

Mimi and her team of pharmacy compliance specialists may be good at their jobs, but if they hadn’t debated my doctor’s prescriptions in the first place, Mimi and company wouldn’t need their roles in the second place.

Hoping that I won’t get anymore unwanted calls while traveling, I still swear by the VoIP phone service via the ipad as the best way to save money on telephone and messaging costs.



I’ve been going to game night the last few Friday nights, and with every blessing, I truly feel one also receives a few slaps.

Mine is a very trying woman I’ve written about before, who has decided she likes me, but who drives me up the wall due to her narcissistic tendencies.

Let’s call her “Bette” in recognition of my particular favorite crazy, Bette Davis, in “Who’s Afraid of Baby Jane?”


Bette is the 82 year old mother of 9 who has the will to be friendly, but has an overtly narcissistic personality which makes any attempt at friendship reciprocation challenging if not exhausting.

I get it.  Making friends is hard.  She’s trying.  We’re all trying.  But Bette is an emotional succubus that leaves you feeling exhausted and running for the hills.  Then, she gets her feelings hurt because she’s truly clueless about how to interact with people.

(Been there.  Done that.  I think I feel her pain).

Anyway, we have a Saint in our park who looks just like Katheryn Grayson, the 1950’s songstress in some of my favorite musicals.  Kathryn is Bette’s chief enabler.


I say “enabler” because Bette wasn’t leaving her house without help and prodding, and Kathryn has now decided that she’s bringing Bette to Game Night on Fridays.

Now, I have nothing against anyone coming to game night, if they are going to GAME !

My manifesto:  I’m not here to be your personal servant (more about that later), I’m not here to look at 102 pictures of your life when we’re supposed to be playing, and I’m not here to wait on you while you wander off in the middle of a game.

In particular (my pet peeve), I don’t want you putting tiles down on the word game board unless you’re ready to play.

None of this putting various tiles in various spots, deciding you need popcorn refilled, wandering off to find your rosewood cane (that you don’t need right that minute!), and leaving the other 3 players in the game waiting for you to finish taking your turn and clueless about where you left off.

No !

One of our newer Park residents wanted to play “upwords”, which is a variation on Scrabble, and which I’d agreed to play the week before.


I’d managed to avoid Bette and her killer perfume by changing tables the prior week, so our Kathryn kept her busy at the Yahtzee table while I slid away from her clouds of scent by moving to the Ski-Bo card table.

This time, I wasn’t so lucky.  I had to hear (again) about the husband who has been dead two (2) years as of Valentines Day.  (I swear, Bette can turn any topic into a reason why you should feel pity for Bette or feel you must rescue her).  I had to hear about yet another bipolar episode which left her stuck in the house for the last 3 months.  I had to hear how her kids never visit.  And, did I know she’s a mother of 9???  Her manipulative, self-centered focus is truly an art form.

I had to listen to Bette yelling for Kathryn Grayson to wait on her (Kathryn, by the way, has her own walker and mobility issues and was sitting 2 tables away), I had to switch seats with Bette as she claimed to have hearing only in her right ear, I had to jump up and get her food (anything to stop the yelling), and then I had to listen to muttered accusations against Kathryn for stealing her husbands “very valuable” 100 year old rosewood cane. The cane which was later found resting on a table top.

Drama, drama, drama !

I know we’re supposed to be kind to each other and help everyone from feeling ignored, but I’m putting my foot down over “upwards” or any slow-moving game at these kinds of evenings when I’m there.

The Bette’s of the world have no mute switch, and can’t tolerate a slow-moving game.  I’m trying to be reasonable, but I have my limits, too.  We’ve got to make sure that Bette sticks to fast moving games, or make sure that she sits at other tables where such games are being played as it’s just too frustrating for the rest of us to be stuck waiting on her.

Yes, my living situation is just like high school or Summer camp.  Games night is about all of us finding fun and friendship, and no one person derailing the intent of the gathering.  I do feel a private speech coming on, aimed squarely at Bette, again, and am glad I could control myself for this round.

Getting old isn’t for sissies !


Burning Bridges


Medicare as a whole is supposed to be something I paid into during my 42 years of working.

First, they whittled back the benefits to “parts”, then then began limiting what “parts” Medicare would cover.  Currently, Medicare only covers Parts A (hospital) and B (medical services and supplies deemed medically necessary to treat a health condition) insurance.

Because they next spent time limiting what Medicare would cover (only 80% of any approved bill), and how long it would cover you (limiting your days of treatment, regardless of what your medical practitioner says), one then needed to figure out a whole alphabet soup of coverage for things that they won’t cover.

They scare you to death that you’re not going to get your necessary medical care if you don’t have a medi-gap or some sort of secondary to medicare “supplemental” policy.

C – covers at least the same health care services as Original Medicare, but they may also pay for services that are not covered by original medicare such as vision and dental care.  These are called “Medicare Advantage” plans – but, nowhere in the coverage do they inform you that if you have an “Advantage” plan you give up access to your original medicare coverages, AND that the new policy “manages” your care and can say “no” to provision of services even though the Original Medicare allowed full access to the coverage.  Maddening.

D – Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit which is an optional benefit to help you pay for self-administered prescription drugs.  But, fine print! – the cost of most drugs are already supposed to be covered by Original Medicare part B.  Confused yet?

E – To quote the government, “There is no official part E of Medicare, but there is an additional piece that deserves consideration.  The missing link is called Medi-gap insurance or may be referred to as a Medicare Supplement.  This type of insurance is used to provide coverage for some of the things that Original Medicare doesn’t cover such as:  coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles.”  (A pretty good support blanket for a part of Medicare that doesn’t really exist).

F – A Medi-gap plan, or Medicare Supplement, pays after Medicare to help cover your deductibles, copays and coinsurance that you would otherwise be responsible for.  When you add a Medicare Supplement Plan F or E to your Original Medicare benefits, your coverage will be quite comprehensive.  Wait… wasn’t that supposed to be E?  Why do we need an E and an F?

Clear as mud, right?

G – Medicare Supplement (Medi-gap) Plan G may help cover the full cost of out-of-pocket Medicare expenses such as co-payments, coinsurance, and excess charges.

Wait…  I thought E and F took care of all of that.  Are you telling me that F only covers parts of the otherwise not covered expenses?  Seriously?  Why doesn’t F say that clearly?  Why do I need E or F or G or all ????

H – Medicare Supplement Plan H is a lot like plan C.  It covers the basic benefits that include hospital co-insurance, generally the 20%  of outpatient expenses, 365 additional days of hospitalization coverage, and additional blood coverage, but it will NOT cover Medicare Part B deductible.  WTF ?

I – there is no “I” plan or part.

J – it’s a special plan for certain states only to ensure that the excess when you see a provider that does not accept Medicare is paid, after you have been billed $155 of Medicare-approved amounts for covered services.

K – Medi-gap Plan K offers partial coverage for a variety of Original Medicare costs that you’d normally have to pay out of pocket.  This plan covers 50% of the cost for Medicare Part B copayments or coinsurance.  (Thus, reducing your out of pocket from 20% down to 10%.  Got it?).

L – includes a percentage of Medicare Part B expenses as listed, plus supplements Medicare Part A for hospice coinsurance or copayment (generally 20% of the otherwise not covered amounts).

M – generally is a middle of the road medi-gap policy for covering some of the costs that Medicare A and B don’t cover to help you with your out of pocket costs.  But… it’s very unclear as to what percentage of the 20% of uncovered costs or services it will cover.  Surprised?

N – Medicare Supplement Insurance plan which covers 100% of the Medicare Part B coinsurance costs, with the exception being that it requires a $20 co-payment for office visits and $50 for emergency room visits.


So, knowing how confusing all this is, and now being informed that my primary care breathing Doc is UNABLE to see me because it’s now ILLEGAL for him to do so when Medicare is my main insurance, I tried to get help from various medicare insurance policies for most of this month to change my supplemental policy (now that I am informed that EVERYONE can change their policy in the first 3 months of any calendar year if they are unhappy with their coverage).

Lots of phone tag, but no real progress.

So, today I bit the bullet and cancelled the Supplement outright knowing that I will be responsible for my medications and 20% of uncovered services.

Yes, I was burning bridges.  But, at a certain point I have zero willingness to figure this mess out.  It’s needlessly confusing, and it’s easier to figure out what drugs I will or will not take based on my out of pocket expenses than it is to figure out how to sign up for the appropriate coverage that won’t limit my choices and won’t make me feel like I’m trying to figure out something as complicated as my taxes (which we already know I procrastinate for completing) every time I have to deal with the coverage allowances.


So, it may be foolish, but the problem is solved for today.

Toxic Dynamics and Hope

HK Dog Blog

Talked to someone today, and found out that the baby’s situation is much worse than first disclosed.  I’m trying to wrap my head around the fact that she is absolutely confirmed as deaf, and that the jury is still out about being blind.

The powers-that-be are also trying to figure out if a calcification on her brain is cancer or part of her skull, and the hits keep on coming for this precious peanut struggling to survive.

Helen Keller & Shakespeare Blog

Getting my information all 2nd or third hand is also frustrating and distracting.  I so want to reach out to my Baby Sis, but being unable to get her to answer the phone for the last 3 years, I don’t want to be a stalker in her hour of need.  Either way I move – to reach out or to remain silent – I’m damned.

I realize that it’s not all about me, and I don’t want to be a distraction or cause anxiety in the breasts of my loved ones because I’m somehow labeled as “toxic” within my family.

Just a reminder – I don’t know why anyone isn’t talking to me.  I know I’m too cerebral for my Baby Sis, and that I talk too much due to our years of trying to get along and watching her roll her eyes at me.  So, I’m very much trying to be sensitive that this drama involves her son and her grandchild and stay out of it – all while knowing that patience will serve me best as I will be in town in the Fall, and can invite myself into the situation at that time.  Between now and then, though, my only goal is to not to anything to get anyone pissed off at me so that I can’t visit in person.

But, as I get new information about the baby and what may be going on with her health, I think about Helen Keller and all that she did to grow and prosper despite her disabilities.  While vulnerable, she made it to a healthy old age and appeared to be happy with her life despite its challenges.


However, I’m stumped by the difference in their origins.  To quote Wikipedia: “Helen Keller was a normal child until about 19 months, when she contracted scarlet fever that left her deaf and blind”.  Since that won’t be the same start that Baby G has, it’s not helpful other than as a way to know that it’s possible for our warrior girl to be all that she can be if she has the will and the cognitive ability to overcome her challenges.

So, I keep on looking and come across someone, finally!, who was born deaf and blind and in current times who has been able to overcome her handicaps:  Haben Girma.


However, even Haben’s story isn’t likely to have the same origins – Haben has some vision and hearing – and we know that the baby is likely to be profoundly deaf, and aren’t yet sure about her vision.

So, back to the drawing board.  More thoughts about Helen Keller, educating someone who cannot see or hear, and now positive info about Perkins School for the Blind – still in operation in Watertown, MA – and now offering expanded services to blind and deaf students in a very big way, as evidenced by the quick tour of their website with a birth to toddler age-focused program.


We still don’t know the depth of her challenges as this peanut fights to be all that she can be in this world.  But, regardless of what the challenges may be, if she’s able to learn and she’s able to be helped, I am confident that my #1 Nephew and his wife will do everything in their power to give Baby G every opportunity to prosper.

Having a world-famous school in their back yard, too, doesn’t hurt for ensuring that their baby will be given every opportunity possible to thrive.

None of this solves the fact that my Baby Sis still isn’t talking to me.

None of this solves the fact that I want to reach out to her and try to offer comfort in her hour of need.

After 3 years of trying to reach out and being rebuffed, though, I have to accept that I am now stalking my own sister and need to stay away so that I don’t add to her stress when she’s already trying to cope with more immediate family concerns.  So, I send this old Irish blessing out into the world for her:

Bless you with gentle rains in Springtime, warm breezes in Summer, a cozy fire in Winter, and a good friend beside you – always.

Irish blessing

Baby Sis has some wonderful friends in her life, and I hope (since I can’t be with her), that she’s availing herself of their comfort and council during this difficult time in the lives of herself and everyone she loves.






Valganciclovir Risks and Costs

cCMV positivity

As written in my prior post, Home Front – Medical Ethics, the new baby is on some type of anti-viral to help her fight off the effects of cCMV.

When one starts doing their research about potential costs and side effects, it gets pretty scary pretty quickly.  While the most publicized antiviral for cCMV is listed as Valganciclovir or Valcyte by Genentech (yet another company I have been honored to work for as a freelancer), the list of risks and side effects are overwhelming.

To quote:

The most common side effects of VALCYTE in children include:

  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • low white blood cell counts in blood tests
  • upper respiratory tract infection
  • headache
  • urinary tract infection

That’s a lot for anyone to have to deal with, never mind a newborn with pre-existing health issues.

The average cost of the medication is outrageous:

Valcyte costs

I’m thankful that both my #1 Nephew and his wife have excellent jobs.  I’m also hopeful that both of them have excellent insurance that will help with the ongoing costs for dealing with their fragile baby girl.

I have to think about their first child, and how much the situation between these two children is echoing my brother and myself for birth order, for wellness issues, and for the next chapter – the financial burden of caring for their daughter while they figure out what she needs and how best to provide everything necessary to give her the best start in life.

Given my own struggle with pre-exisiting conditions, though, I have to hope that the future will be kinder to this defenseless child for enabling her to be able to afford to care for herself for the rest of her life, once grown.

I have to remember that time changes perspective, and that anything is possible given time.

Miracles Take Time


Home Front – Medical Ethics


As I have written in many other posts, I am grateful for my life.  I am grateful for my Mother’s choice to fight for me when I was born seemingly healthy, and later appeared to have birth defects that needed significant attention.  That doesn’t change the fact that I wouldn’t willingly give birth to a child with a high likelihood of health issues.  And, it also doesn’t change the fact that I support parents of disabled children for having the courage to make the hard decisions for themselves and their children.

Now, as originally written about in Pariah II, there has been another generation born into the family with birth defect indicators, cCMV, and it’s now a wait and see period of time as G’s parents work to ensure that the baby has everything she needs to fight the virus she carries, and to have the resources she needs for the best life possible.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading since I learned the news about G, and the part that sticks with me the most is something that’s bringing back memories of my Mother, Betty.  Oh, how I wish she was still with us for her wise counsel in getting through the next five (5) years, minimum, as my #1 Nephew and his wife work to ensure their baby girl is as healthy as she can possibly be.

My Mom gifted me with a phobia about germs.  No kissing on the lips.  No sharing of food or drinks.  Careful attention to sanitation and details when hand washing dishes.  You name it, Mom was on top of it.


Almost to the point where I had my own phobia about shared germs from kissing and such, putting the kibosh on a comfortable sex life in the age of HIV and AIDs until I could come to terms with sharing the simplest of germs with my partner.

Herpes contageon made me crazy with dating and trying to determine the honesty of my potential partners (yes, I was anal enough to demand a “clean” and recent STD test results, or there would be no getting nekkid together).  No way was I dealing with catching anything from a liar.


Seeing all the information about how easy it is to catch CMV, I have to wonder if my Mom was aware of the risks (having raised me, lost a couple of pregnancies to miscarriage, and having lost a younger brother to SIDs).  It’s times like this where I wish the older generation was around to provide guidance to the great grandchildren’s parents about things that have been lost in the mist of time.


There is so much positive information, along with so much scary information, that I have to keep my mind focused on the fact that they can treat much of this with anti-virals today, that she is not wearing a feeding tube in her baby picture, and that my #1 Nephew has said that he’s overwhelmed by the bad news but determined that his daughter will be all that she can be, regardless of whatever happens.  No disease or birth defects will determine her destiny.

Having read all that I have about things the mother coulda / shoulda done to prevent the contraction of CMV in the first place, I can now see why #1 Nephew was so quick to come to his wife’s defense and say that how the baby caught the disease was “water under the bridge”.  Absolutely right, and I never for a moment thought about blame – not just because I didn’t know the baby was here and was ill – but because blame doesn’t change reality.

I absolutely agree with his fighting stance on behalf of his wife and daughter, and I hope that the baby ends up healthy and defect-free.  I have to pray that her hearing and vision and cognitive abilities will not be effected, and that her anti-viral medications work wonders for her during the next five (5) years of her life as they wait and wonder and fight to give this child every opportunity to be everything she chooses to be in life.

cCMV positivity

As shown in the image above, the statistics look good for early intervention preventing many of the side effects, so now we wait and see what the Docs are concerned about, what impairments present themselves, and whether or not the intensive antiviral protocol helps her fight off the risks of her disease.

Interesting cCMV Blog:

Grace’s Story  of the journey through a cCMV baby’s life

When you look on Insta-gram, there is another little girl, Lilah, all over those pages as her Mom shares her ups and downs.  Ditto for all the other children fighting the effects of cCMV on their lives.  So many happy children, finding options for great quality of life.  I’m hopeful that my #1 Nephew and his wife will be able to field this challenge and find their marriage stronger than ever as they pull together to raise both their children to be all that they can be in this world.



Pariah II

CMV logo.jpg

I think I’ve made it clear in prior blogs that I was somehow eased out of the family, and no one has had the courtesy to let me know why.  Background on this tale is somewhat covered in earlier blogs:

Pariah – December 23, 2017

You’re Missing – October 5, 2017

At any rate, Nephew #1 has been expecting his second child, and I have been thrilled that he and his wife are enjoying parenthood, and getting ready to welcome another child.  I only found out they were pregnant at New years, when they posted a family picture and my niece-in-law had her hand on her clearly pregnant belly.

Me being me, I saw the picture and immediately sent a private note, asking if they were expecting another child (yes).  They said the baby was due in mid-March, and I congratulated them on the upcoming blessing, as well as added a comment that I would look forward to finally meeting their first child and their newest child when I came home for my High School reunion in the Fall.

Fast forward to yesterday, and #1 Nephew publicizes a fundraiser for his upcoming birthday, noting that he’s raising money for cCMV.

* * * * * * * * * * *


For my birthday this year, I’m asking for donations to National CMV Foundation.  Our little Gxxxx was diagnosed with cCMV las week, and I’ve chosen this nonprofit because their mission means a lot to me and I hope you’ll consider contributing as a way to celebrate with me.  Every little bit will help me reach my goal.  I’ve included information about National CMV Foundation below.

Our mission is to educate women of childbearing age about congenital CMV.

* * * * * * * * * * *

So, knowing that I hadn’t seen any kind of birth announcement, the phrase, “Our little Gxxxx” went completely over my head.  I just thought it was a comment about someone he knew and not his own child !  Oblivious, I sent him the following private note asking about CMV and wondering if my #1 Nephew is also immune and doesn’t carry CMV in his blood.  I also ask if the fund raiser will be open until the end of the month as I don’t get paid again until then.  Harmless, if one doesn’t know that the baby has been born.

Background:  I am CMV-negative.  Years ago, I was told that CMV was a form of the common cold or flu, and that up to 50% of the population has this antibody in their bloodstream by age 40, and that 75% are infected by age 75. Someone without CMV in their blood (me) is highly desirable as a blood donor as my blood will not hurt immune-compromised individuals (babies, the elderly, people with HIV or AIDS).

Additionally, I’m an AB- blood donor, (very rare, and a universal donor), and when one adds in the fact that I am CMV-negative, the blood bank vampires love it when I come in to donate.

Having been courted to donate platelets and not just whole blood due to my CMV status, I also learned that a 2nd cousin on the Scot’s side of the gene pool was also CMV-negative and had been providing apheresis donations for years.  I have some skin in the game, but from a completely different context than the emergency that is occurring in my family, plus I’m once again excluded from knowing about a crisis or situation in advance, and too stupid to realize the nuances of the bigger issue in how he phrased his fund raising request.   FYI, my #1 Nephew is very generous, and gives to many causes throughout the year.

* * * * * * * * * * *

So, I send him a chatty private message and get back a very formal / cold reply:

“We have no idea where the virus was introduced.  Most likely it was transferred via saliva from (their eldest child) to (his wife) via another infected child at daycare.  I am likely not a carrier as (our older child) was fine.  Either way this is all just water under the bridge at this point and what’s done is done.  The fundraiser will be open through 3/13. Thanks.”

I realize that one cannot get accurate emotions off email and private messages, except… I spend most of my spare time writing and trying to convey emotions.  Lack of emotion IS emotional.

So, I’ve clearly put my foot in something and I’m working blindly.

My next reply (trying to keep it very brief is:

Ok, thanks.

I actually didn’t know (your wife) had it (never put 2+2 together).   just assumed you were a blood donor who didn’t carry the CMV virus.

Since you’re likely not a carrier, please keep that in mind when or if you donate blood as your specific non-CMV blood can do a lot of good in the world if you choose to donate.


(Echoing silence).

– Clearly, I didn’t congratulate him on the birth of his child as I didn’t know he’d already had the baby !

TODAY,  the drama deepens as he finally publishes a birth announcement:

* * * * * * * * * * *

Gxxxxx __________ __________ was born 2/26 at 2:40 PM, weighing 4 lbs 5 oz, and 17 1/4 inches.

She spent 11 days in the NICU at W______ Hospital and was cared for by some of the kindest nurses and doctors I have ever had the pleasure to meet. She spent time in the NICU due to congenital cytomegalovirus (cCMV) which she likely contracted during her first trimester.

We are just at the beginning of a long road with many appointments, follow-ups, and information to be heard and accepted. I am confident we will “get by with a little help from our friends”, and feel fortunate to be located in the Boston area with access to world renowned hospitals and pediatric specialists.

Whatever the further testing reveals, my daughter will NEVER be defined by a piece of paper or medical opinion, and I strive to be an advocate and champion not only for my family and Gxxxx, but also for all the other children and families forever changed by this preventable disease.

I will update you all as the news comes in, and when I have the strength and courage to do so. Please keep us in your thoughts, and please join me in raising awareness for the National CMV Foundation.

* * * * * * * * * * *

WTF ! ! !  My instincts were right that I’d stepped into it with both feet given the coolness of his response.

Once again, I’m excluded from inside information, and am left looking over the palace walls, informed only when the rest of the non-family members of the world are informed via a general posting.

So, I send him an apology for yesterday’s message, and note that I didn’t know the baby was here.  I apologized for the poor timing of my questions regarding the fundraiser, and assure him that he and his family are in my prayers.

“Thanks”.  His one word answer, has a world of condemnation in it.  Or, I’m just cringing from putting my foot in it, yet again.

I know that this baby’s health issues are much more important that my hurt feelings.  While my #1 Nephew hasn’t said what’s going on with her, she was in the NICU for 11 days and she could end up with Downs-like complications, hearing and vision issues, etc., etc., etc.  I’m sorry to be a Debbie Downer to see it as more family genetic issues going on into the next generation, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want this child to be all that she can be, and that I don’t hope and pray that she has no lasting harm long term.

I am still hoping to be able to visit with them when I go home for my High School reunion in the Fall, but this situation really emphasizes that I have to step away from my family and not push them as they clearly don’t consider me part of their family circle any more.

Why is it so hard to get that through my head???



Medical Ethics


Alex Trebek and Garry Armstrong’s latest blog are on my mind as I sit down to deal with the issues of aging, and the cases of medical ethics which face all of us daily, whether or not we believe it.

First, the blog:  Remembering My Mentor – Jeff Krause

Next, Alex Trebek’s news:

Pancreatic Cancer Announcement

And, finally, Peter Zhu, who was left on life support despite being brain dead, due to his parent’s demand they be allowed to harvest his sperm to carry on the family name despite his premature death at 21 from a skiing accident.

What do two of of three of these cases have in common?  Money.  Money and the ability to change the outcome of history due to inroads in medical technology.

Garry wrote a lovely blog about his friend and mentor who died way too young, at age 53.  There is no ethics controversy there; I simply include it as a cross reference point for accepting the inevitability of death as a part of life.

(Stick with me here – I promise I’m not writing a Debbie Downer post).


In the case of Alex Trebek, he’s 78 years old.  Please let that sink in.  78.

Due to an incredible income, believed to be $10 million a year, Alex can defy the odds of aging and do whatever he chooses to do with his disposable income.  In effect, he has suspended time and the normal effects of aging in his own life.

Alex also appears to be the king of his own domain, evading the stresses of life and retaining the joy in life and the will to live.

The reality, however, is that Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer comes with some complicating realities that may kill him, even if he survives the cancer diagnosis.  When one is at Stage IV, the cancer has spread to other organs in the body, which adds to the intricacies of the battle he’s facing.

Last night was “Survivor” night (my version of being a sports junkie is to watch the psychological dramas playing out on a deserted island among strangers who consciously became castaways due to the lures of money and insta-fame).  So, during the evening a conversation occurred, as they often do, regarding medical ethics, Alex Trebek, the deceased 21-year-old’s sperm, and whether or not Alex will be saved thru the removal of his pancreas.

Yep, that’s a typical conversation among me and my various friends.

We harked back to a conversation we’d had in January, about a friend who’d had her pancreas removed (becoming an instant Type 1 diabetic), and my Roomie’s belief that one could not live without a pancreas.  At that time, the Roomie mentioned another friends wife, and wondered why she’d died instead of having her pancreas removed if it was truly possible to live without a pancreas.

Well, last night we got more of an answer from the Alex Trebek story.  If other organs are infected with cancer, a pancreas removal may not be worthwhile.   (Side note:  I also went on to study my friend’s situation, the one who had her pancreas removed, and found that people live an average of 7 years following pancreas removal, so there is also the aspect that the ill person is only delaying the inevitable, as well as adding a major quality of life complication – T1 diabetes – into their life).

So, that brings the whole story around to death, accepting its inevitability, as well as embracing new medical science advances while also accepting that only some people, mostly affluent, will be able to take advantage of the options for cheating or delaying death, as well as the options to create new life.

Money is what drives the options.

Money is what enables freedom of choice.

Money is what disguises the normal ravages of time.

Money, resources to maintain quality of life despite complications, and the financial stability to pursue alternative choices that are out of the reach of most occupants of this planet.

Inevitability, the ethics debate becomes one of resource allocation.


Because the Cadet’s family chooses to pursue it’s specific family genes in creating life, they are bypassing their option to adopt a child (or many children) already here and in need, and instead focusing on finding a surrogate to be impregnated with their dead son’s sperm.

One presume’s that the Zhu’s will choose to raise this child (or children) themselves.  And, if they find the surrogate is pregnant with female children, the question must also be asked – will they terminate the pregnancy until they get the desired boy?  Or,  will they have multiple children until the golden boy child is safely delivered?

Into these ethics concerns appears another question or influence:  Legacy tales.

As Garry has so beautifully written about his friend gone too soon in life, what will be the tales told to these surrogate-produced Grandchildren / children?  Will they have the issues with drugs, alcohol and early death as exhibited by the Kennedy Children, who were raised by grieving families?  Will the expectations put on their shoulders be the making of them or the ruination of them?

At what point do these moneyed people accept that death is a part of the circle of life, and not something to be feared?

No answers here, but I do continue to observe the human condition quite closely.   Especially the part where one is warned to “be careful what you wish for” as no one knows what repercussions tomorrow holds regarding the decisions made today.