Just Don’t Get Cancer :)

“Don’t worry,” my doctor reassured me when I asked about what it would cost to see him if I lost my health insurance due to the recent change in administration.  Such a benign way of putting it… change in administration….

“I will still see you for a reasonable charge if you don’t have insurance.  Just don’t get cancer….”  He smiled.  It was an odd joke, but I took it for the reassurance he meant it to be.

Until he found a lump in my breast when doing the physical exam.  Laying there as he dictated to the nurse, “left breast, nodule, one o’clock…,” that’s about the point I stopped listening.  And just focused on his face.  The poor fellow really regretted his joke.  I could see it replaying over and over in his head.

Later, sitting precariously on the examination table’s edge, reclothed, straight-backed, mind whirling-avoiding-whirling-avoiding, I smiled at the doctor when he came back into the room.  I didn’t want him to feel bad.  Or awkward.  He is one of the nicest doctors I’ve ever had.

I received my instructions to stop coffee for a month, after which I would have another physical exam and then a mammogram.  Coffee, for those of you not-in-the-know, can make breast tissue extra lumpy and dense for some women and, worse, very painful for that life-saving torture procedure known as a mammography.

Don’t worry.

Everything came out fine.  No cancer.

This time.

My birthday this year will not be a Fabulous-and-60 affair.  It will be a Hold-your-breath-because-it-is-still-five-years-until-I-am-65-and-somewhat-safe birthday.  Five years until I can get health insurance through Medicare.

Oh well.

I understand and appreciate that there are many, many, many folks out there who would resent the fact that I am a “taker.”  The federal government, through ObamaCare, assists me tremendously with my health insurance premiums.  “Why aren’t you out working and paying your own way?” they may politely inquire.

“Well, I tried.  My business failed.  I couldn’t get a job.  I took another path,” I respectfully reply.

And it looks like that pathway is closing.  Depending upon what happens with all of the politics storming around this excruciatingly basic, human need for simple, affordable health care, I may or may not be able to afford what comes next.

Just don’t get cancer.

And I will be fine.

But what about all those who do get cancer?  And heart attacks, strokes, dementia, and a host of other scary conditions that tend to be all about someone else way over there somewhere until they hit you smack in the gut close to home.

I remember a few years ago in Virginia there was a crazy news story about a state legislator who was attacked and injured by his very own son with a knife.  Sadly, his son was in dire need of mental health care but there were no beds available in the state system so he had to remain at home.  And that is where he came after his dad one day with a nice big butcher knife.  After the attack, his politician father went on the warpath to make sure that state resources would be available to meet mental health issues such as theirs.  As if it was a new issue.  Self interest.  Moves all.

Self interest.

Moves all.

And in the interest of full disclosure?  Honesty?  My own self interest?  I don’t want a cataclysmic health condition to either:  1) outright kill me because I can’t afford to go to the doctor for something that could easily save me or, 2) strip away all of my resources so that when I exit from the crisis I am a destitute pauper.

That’s all.

I apologize to my readers out there who come here for a light hearted view of life.  I apologize to any readers who would like to comment.  Like my post preceding the 2016 Presidential election, this post will also be closed for comment.  Chalk it up to my deep and abiding need to avoid conflict.  You can yell at me all you like.  I just don’t want people I care about to have to hear it, too.  🙂

(This post is dedicated to my three knights in shining armor:  Dr. Raymond L., Michael M., and Greg H.  Thank you for watching out for this old girl, each in your own way.)

J.O.Y.

Saturday

Ann called today.  She is a friend from my days in Virginia, including the time when I ran a small personal services business.  Ann worked with me in that business for a while, but we knew each other primarily from church.  A few years ago, she and her family moved to south Florida.

Today Ann was passing the exit for my winter campground on her way to Georgia.  She thought of me so she gave me a call.  We had a nice chat as I lay curled up in my bed with Dawny, who hasn’t been feeling so hot lately.  Today she has had a particularly bad spell.

Ann and I chatted for awhile about this and that.  Then she mentioned that their family recently lost their beloved dog, Skipper.  Rather than crying and moaning about his death, Ann happily told me how they gave Skipper a roaring send-off, complete with a doggy bucket list.

It was a bucket list to die for.  It included chocolate and beer.  I think that if Skipper asked for it, they would have provided him with a smoke.  He enjoyed a day with Daddy on his boat and a walk in the woods without a leash….  That last one was a little scary since he got a bit away from them and poor Ann was afraid they would have to call the vet to cancel the euthanasia appointment because Skipper got himself lost in the woods.  But he came back.  And they made their appointment.  Talk about irony on top of irony.

Ann said that what has gotten her through this time–in addition to fond memories of Skipper’s life and his final days–was the acronym J.O.Y.  She explained the “J” is for Jesus, the “O” is for Others, and the “Y” is for Yourself.  If you look at the world through this kind of construct, it can help get you through some of those challenging times.  You put Jesus first, others second, and yourself last.

Jesus.  Well, I sure didn’t want to go into it over the phone, or even in person should we meet later this month as planned, but I have a real problem with the whole organized religion thing.  So let’s not even get started on that.

But if I think of what the person, the concept of Jesus means to me in a spiritual sense, it does carry a particular meaning and weight.  Simply and purely put, Jesus is Love.

Ok, I can go with that.

Others.  In the context of losing a loved one, Ann explained that you look only at what is best for them.  Ann and her husband knew that Skipper was in pain and was suffering.  They had the power to cut that suffering short, releasing the little fellow from his time here in this world.  They gave Skipper a few super special days celebrating his life and their life together.  Then they released him.

Yourself.  Putting yourself last allows you to let go of your loved one.  The only thing that matters is what is best for them.  And you give that to them with love in your heart.  It is not about you.  It is all about them.

Until they are gone.

Then it can be about you.

Ann sounded very joyful on the phone today.

As I sit here with a listless Dawny at my feet, however, I weep.  Mostly for me.  Selfish, self-absorbed me.

**********

Sunday

Oh, joy!  Dawny woke up hungry and ready for her morning walk.  She did a loop and a half around the park with no problem and when the workampers’ golf cart drove by, she tried to chase it down in hopes of catching a cookie or two.

Love, except in its purest form–attainable only by God and Dog, in my opinion–is based on self-interest.  That doesn’t make it bad.  Just human.  And this highly imperfect human is grateful for every day with her nearly perfect Dog.

Today’s post is dedicated to Miss Ashley (Texas ranch dog extraordinaire), Missy and Benji (beloved canine companions belonging to friends at this winter campground), and, of course, Skipper.  Rest in peace, and bless your sweet souls for your faithful love and devotion to your respective humans.

Hidden Gems… and a Cautionary Note

One of my favorite resources when planning a journey from Point A to Point B is the website www.uscampgrounds.info.  You can access a fairly comprehensive set of public campgrounds (they do not include private campgrounds) from the national and state level to city and county parks.  They also cover TVA, BLM, COE, and military-only campgrounds.  One of the things I like best about it is that it is map-based, giving you clear, easy access to camping options along your route.

Once you zoom into an area on the map, a variety of colored symbols show you the location and types of parks in that area.  If the symbol is white, that is an indicator of a low nightly fee.  When you click on a park, basic info appears to tell you things like the nearest city or town, the park’s phone number, what kind of facilities/hookups are available, and links to weather and reviews.  Elevation is even included, which I have found useful when seeking a campground where summer nighttime temps have a chance to cool down or, in the winter, when I want to aim for lower elevations.

Here are three gems that I found by using the US Campgrounds website:

McLeod Park and Campground in Kiln, Mississippi is run by the local water authority.  I like it because it is extremely convenient to I-10.  It is also in a very pretty area, situated on the Jourdan River.  All of the sites are full-hookup for $24/night.  It is a fairly large campground, though, and only has one bathhouse, which could be a problem if it is crowded and you rely on park facilities.

The Dead Lakes Recreation Area near Wewahitchka, Florida is a county-run park and campground on the western side of the Apalachicola National Forest.  For just $14/night, they have electric and water hookups in a small, charming campground overlooking a pond that leads to the Dead Lakes.  There is a public boat ramp to the lake nearby.  They even have a couple of laundry machines on the premises.

Sopchoppy City Park (a.k.a. Myron B. Hodge Park) in Sopchoppy, Florida is a small city park located on the Ochlockonee River in the southeastern corner of the Apalachicola National Forest.  It is one of my favorites.  For $15/night, you can have an electric/water site overlooking the river.  Full hookup spots are available along the fence line by the road.  The only downside is the condition of the bathrooms and showers, which are pretty unclean, at least when I was there.  But if you are in a self-contained RV with all of your own facilities, that shouldn’t matter much.

I would like to offer one cautionary note.  It is always wise to read reviews of any park you might want to visit, but with these small, locally run parks it is even more important.  I have steered away from a few after reading reviews that mention lots of local traffic, especially kids at night.  Some of these parks do not have a camp host or any kind of staff member on the premises after business hours, which could leave you vulnerable in case of trouble.  In the above three cases, only McLeod Park did not have after-hours staff or camp host presence, but the park seemed nice enough, so that didn’t deter me.

Also, keep your options open and leave yourself enough time to find another campground in case you decide not to stay at a park you picked.  This trip, I bypassed a city park in Louisiana because of the extremely trashy condition of downtown and its pothole-ridden Main Street.  Another time, I left a park in rural Ohio after feeling very uncomfortable with its seedy atmosphere.

Bottom line, there are lots of really nice campgrounds out there and the US Campgrounds website is a great way to expand your search.

Happy, safe travels one and all!

(The photo at the top of this post was taken near the boat ramp into the Dead Lakes.  All I could think of at the time was an alligator bursting through the calm of the water to grab me or Dawny.  Did you see the recent news story about the Florida alligator that tried to drag a man–not a child, not a puppy, a man!–into his pond at a golf course?  The man got away by jabbing the gator vigorously and repeatedly in its eye with his golf club.  I have no golf club.  Just a wimpy limpy leash.  And my iphone/camera.  Should Dawny and I have some kind of terrifying mishap, future paranoids at the Dead Lakes boat ramp would not hear a faintly eerie tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock keeping time with their imagination’s stroll on the wild side.  No.  They would hear Siri’s calmly professional, dark and bubbly voice… “Sorry, I missed that….”)