Chronic Snarkopolist: Medical Debtfetti
Please welcome Melissa Travis! Melissa is one of our new columnists. She also happens to be a comedy writer contending with chronic and multiple autoimmune conditions, and cancer. Melissa’s column will humorously and irreverently table the issues facing patients with multiple chronic conditions, cancer to boot, exorbitant medical debt, and much more.
Hello there! I am so excited to share myself with you. As I write, my doggie Moshe, is shredding my medical bills into confetti for me so we can have a PROPER PARTY out of this affair! And also because it makes living with the burden of medical debt more bearable if I pretend to make something festive out of all the collection notices.
I will NOT discuss the times when I attempt to contact my doctor’s offices and occasionally flip out and sound like a sobbing freak because I feel so economically overwhelmed and try to make payments to them. Nor will I discuss the time when the totally bizerko office manager screamed at me in front of the entire lobby of patients for “ripping her a new one” – which is amusing too because you know… I was at a proctologist’s office for that very problem because you know… thyroid, Hashimotos, constipation, anal fissure… you do the math. Oh dear… I’m digressing too far and we’ve just met. Oy. Let’s pretend you do NOT know about my poop shoot just yet and just that I make confetti out of my medical bills out of a desperate attempt to feel festive about the stunning mountain of medical debt I’m in due to the joyous mountain of health issues.
I also pack boxes with the shredding to feel more eco-superior. I have a mountain of shredded paper. It’s no longer going to a landfill. It is now packing material. There. I’m minimizing. I’m sustainable. I might even start a garden and use it as some sort of fertilizing mulch. That will work right?
All I know is that these medical bills have never stopped coming – they just change colors and occasionally change names from the doctors to “collections”… and you know – my credit cards have gone from having PLENTY of open credit to having $7 bucks of open credit and the APR now looks like something Greece is dealing with. I like baklava and lamb gyros. I’ll move to Greece. Or Canada?
Whatever… For now I just live in my little ghetto fabulous tiny ass apartment that is always too hot in the summers and too cold in the winters and the roof leaks when it rains because the slumlord won’t fix the ceiling. The toilet clogs and I have to share water with the other tenants and we all split the bill fifty-fifty even though I’m a single occupant and they are a double occupancy. It is NOT a fair system- but one doesn’t argue with a slumlord. One just pays rent and attempts to not fall through the floor like my neighbor did last week when he was opening his blinds.
I live with my four-leggeds who keep me company. And I live alone because when I got sick my ex divorced me because illness was NOT in his agenda. Ahh- but these are stories for happier times. I cannot tell if I should introduce you to my animals or my illnesses first. But I live contentedly with my animals and I lion-tame my illnesses with chairs and whips. And sometimes the illnesses seem to have me ass up over every doctor’s table and insurance company and collection agency in the country.
My dog – who I am positive is an alcoholic – chews nylabones and shreds medical bills –and is generally well behaved unless someone comes over to witness… and then she becomes a giant asshole and acts like a Tasmanian devil who snorted a line of pixie sticks off a five year old’s lunchbox. I’m always sitting there wondering how my sweet little 11 year old doggie who is on her last legs and can do no wrong – suddenly becomes demon spawn. But she finds a way to make it happen every time.
Keep in mind my dog runs her own comedic advice column and no one realizes it’s me and has more fans than I do. And I cannot tell if this makes me hilarious, or a giant loser because “we’ve” been doing it since 2002. She even posts videos in an old man’s voice and people LOL all over themselves. She has quite a massive following.
My cat Mercer is in a snit because the living room curtain fell and I cannot get the energy to re-hang it. Said curtain also cut off the register vent last night and now the living room in my tiny ass apartment is all stuffy and hot so we are all a little grumpy and cranky right now. Incidentally I also moved two plastic organizer boxes on HIS favorite sleeping ottoman. Hell hath no fury.
I also have a nineteen year-old ancient cat who wakes me up at all hours to get her twice daily insulin shots. I thought insulin was supposed to have some sort of time table- but the cat will just sort of shoot foam from her stomach and insist that IT IS TIME… and so it goes. I’m sick; she is sick. She wins because she is more tragically attention getting about things.
The vet told me she is nearing the human equivalent of 150 years old. I fight back semi-jealous feelings toward my cat that she should be so lucky to only have ONE medication twice daily and easily injected. And she has a human companion who fawns all over her to make sure she is loved and cared for. The cat retaliates by living- FOREVER. Indeed we both sleep about the same amount and I’m only 36 in human years. But again, I digress. I’m jealous of my cat because she gets to be old and sick in comfort and loved for it. And I got sick too soon and too young. Is that fucked up to be jealous of your sick cat? It is, I shouldn’t have confessed it here. It says too many bizarre things about me.
And then there is my healthy as a horse young man cat – who is still in a huff about the ottoman. He is devilishly handsome and he knows it. He grows proportionally to the stress in the house and makes me feel guilty for the lack of normalcy around here. Ohmygod- am I not playing with him enough. Do I not make the bed over him enough? Am I in the hospital too often? Am I sobbing too much? Do I hug him too much because I’m so sad and feel unlovable and out of control? Am I too needy? Am I pushing all my wants and fears onto my poor four-leggeds? So the healthy cat is growing each year, eating away his frustration… He was 12 pounds at this last checkup from the tiny diminutive cat of 8 pounds that he used to be when I was married –before Autoimmune Disorders of Doom were unleashed a few years ago.
Meanwhile we are all huddled in my little porch–office conversion in my ghetto fab tiny ass apartment where the register blows out too much hot or cold. My toes are freezing and everything is cool and calm. The dog shreds pink “emergency-you’re-going -to -jail -because -you’re -a -terrible -human -being -aren’t -you -ashamed -to -be -alive -you -irresponsible -fuck” bills contentedly. The cats rest. I write and consider socks. My toes turn purple now from the cold. A girl can only deal with so much cool air blowing from these vents.
There. I’m now typing this in a snuggie – with socks. No – they don’t match. Deal with it. (Marvel comics t-shirt, pink socks, un-ironic snuggie is a recent gift from an old improv buddy along with some gourmet chocolates that have become increasingly appealing now that I’m on prednisone).
I’m wondering just how much self-introduction is necessary. I fear to name the diseases too much least they feel AT HOME in my body – like they some how have a RIGHT TO ME – like they belong here or were invited. Because they were not. They just showed up like in-laws on your anniversary when you have the latex and “quality porn” out. Some of these diseases I’ve had a long time and so I am more comfortable with them and know them. I want to say- THEY DO NOT HAVE ME. But sometimes I feel like they do, when I feel like shit or when I just can’t get my comedy dick up. But most of the time I feel defiant and say- I have sickness, but the sickness does NOT have me.
Lupus of course I am more familiar with. Her friends – every other auto-immune dis-order you can shake a stick at – I think of more as rugrats who run around in my blood stream attaching themselves to my organs and trampolineing themselves through the air – hurdling from organ to treatment to side effect. It gets confusing and annoying and sometimes I just go numb with the sheer overwhelm. Other times I am in awe of the people who seem to have their shit pulled together. It seems like some of you have an excel file in your brains where you know exactly what sensation you feel and what causes it and why you feel that way and what you can do to fix it.
Meanwhile – I go to biopsies, and deal with the intersections of illnesses and side effects and medications and who-done-its inside my body. I attempt to be humorous, I fail miserably some days. I work hard not to play “my illness is worse than yours” and instead realize that most people who have one auto-immune disorder are also a walking time bomb of many of them. I was the unobservant fuck who got hit with a ton of bricks because I just kept walking ahead and not paying attention to the small signs and trusting doctors and medical people when they told me it was all in my head.
And now – NOW when it is too late for going back – it is time for me to carry on – move forward through the worst of it. Some days are spent in bed. Some are spent in medical offices. And some are spent doing what I love – teaching, writing, and doing comedy. Illness has certainly taken from me what I loved and wanted the most. I struggle daily to find an identity separate from being sick.
Yet – fighting through the illness has given me the keys to my most true inner self. And a deep love for banana popsicles. And online and real life support groups. And too many Friday nights spent on the Internet. And the knowledge that a discussion of anal fissures makes people run for the hills. (And are a terrible way to introduce yourself). Oh hi. Nice to meet you. I wear well over time. I’m Melissa. I’m the snickness snarkopolist. Curtsies.
So please – tell me more about YOU! I want to hear all about YOU YOU YOU! Do you have fissures in your pooper? How’s your thyroid treating you? Do you have multiple chronic conditions and if you do – what ways do you cope with them? Do you look like a sobbing sofa cushion or is that just me? How often do you pick cat hair out of your medication?
I’m publishing weekly and I want to hear from you! I want this to be YOUR area to talk to me and have a dialogue with me. I love conversations with fabulous sassy awesome people. Talk to me – tell me more about your life – parenting, jobs, money, keeping sane, going quietly or loudly insane! How are you handling your shit?
Be seeing you next week! Same time same place! Kisses!
Tags: anal fissures, autoimmune disorders symptoms, chronic autoimmune conditions column, chronic autoimmune disorders management, Chronic Snarkopolist, comedy writer, hashimotos symptoms, medical debt, written by Melissa Travis