Multiple sclerosis takes its toll not only on your health, but also on your wallet. And because it’s such an unpredictable disease, you never quite know when you’re going to be hit with a new round of huge medical bills. I was reminded of this reality yet again in late October, shortly after having finished one of the most exhilarating accomplishments of my life: the National MS Society’s Bike MS Bay to Bay Tour 2012.
I felt so liberated and proud that I finished the 100 miles in two days…despite the rain, wind and cold that we had to endure during the ride to “sunny” San Diego. I felt very healthy, albeit a bit tired and sore, after the ride. Most of all, I felt blessed to ride alongside an amazing team.
My health took a turn for the worse just eight days later, when I felt pain on the right side of my belly. Thinking I must have pulled a muscle, I didn’t pay much attention to it. It was 100 miles after all; pain is to be expected, right? But the pain got worse, and later that afternoon I drove myself to an urgent care center. The doctor initially thought it was either appendicitis or a cyst on my ovary. After a slew of tests, however, I learned that my gallbladder was sick, inflamed, full of stones and would need to be removed. What?! Where did that come from?!
So there I was, a little over a week after checking something major off my bucket list, and I was told to stay on a liquid diet for five days until a surgeon could remove my gallbladder. (And I must say that it was pretty frustrating to be told how serious my situation was, but then find out that a doctor couldn’t be be bothered with it over his weekend. I get it, I really do, but it pissed me off.)
The common factors, or “Fs,” often associated with gallbladder disease are: fat, forty, female, fair and fertile. I was only two for five — 40 and female, if you were curious. I realized that I had likely been sick for quite some time since one of the side effects is no appetite. I had dropped weight recently and nothing sounded good to eat.
With my mom, Jake and his girlfriend Cierra with me, I checked into the hospital on a Monday and underwent the procedure. It took longer than expected because my surgeon had to open my belly a bit bigger to get a large, golf ball-sized stone out. That meant more scars — or war wounds, as I like to call them, along with more post op pain.
Before I even had the surgery, I cringed at how much it was going to cost. I pay a 20% cost share with my insurance plan. When you think about the hospital stay, medications, surgeon and anesthesiologist fees, it adds up quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to have the coverage. It’s never a good time to need surgery, but I had been enjoying the freedom I had after paying off the mounds of medical bills from my hysterectomy.
Having a chronic illness can be very expensive, which adds to the toll it takes on a family, er, a single woman. The average person living with MS spends roughly $50,000 per year on health care expenses.
My recovery was a tough one. Much harder than I expected. Thankfully with Jake’s help, I was back to myself in a couple of weeks. I will say that I’m happy my gallbladder had the patience to wait until after my 100-mile bike ride before acting up. It also allowed me enough time to recover before the holidays were in full swing.
Now I’m just waiting for appendicitis to rear its ugly head. I’m kidding…kind of.