Friday, June 24, 2016

The fear of having to plan a funeral...

A 30 year old shouldn't have to plan their funeral. A father of two young kids shouldn't have to think about losing his life. A husband shouldn't have to worry about the family he may leave behind.

Yet that is what is happening in our home. As Christians we often don't talk about statistics and death because people often criticize one's lack of faith or trust. Yet statistics stare at my family on a daily basis. Statistics state that without a bone marrow transplant my husband will die. Statistics tell us that when this type of cancer returns a person can't expect to live another year. Statistics shout at us on a daily basis. And there are times we can ignore it. Times when my husband is feeling good that we can have a positive outlook. But there are times like this week when his legs have been in unbearable pain that the statistics shout louder. There are times like this week when he discovers bumps on his head that the statistics scream in our face. There are times like this week when he has to go in for testing to determine whether or not he can get a bone marrow transplant that statistics laugh at us.

For 18 months we have been praying for a healing. 18 months crying out to God with a broken heart. Because a 30 year old shouldn't have to plan his funeral. A 5 year old boy shouldn't have to bury his father. A 4 year old girl shouldn't have to attend a funeral. And a wife shouldn't end up a widow.

Why did my husband have to get cancer? Why is this pain inflicting my family? Why hasn't God stepped in yet and healed my husband? Why hasn't God declared an end to cancer treatment and declared my husband free from this disease?


We've prayed for a healing yet the cancer returned. We've prayed for a miracle yet his siblings are only half matches for a bone marrow transplant. We prayed for a healing yet he now has bumps on his head that can be lesions from the Lymphoma returning. We've prayed for a healing but now the conversation revolves around planning a funeral. And I just think my kids can't be robbed of an amazing dad. I can't be robbed of a husband.

My husband had lab work done yesterday. He is getting further lab work completed today. He has a biopsy on the bumps on his head on the 5th of July. And if cancer has returned that means the chemo has stopped working. And if cancer has returns that means my husband can't get a bone marrow transplant. And if cancer has returned that means, unless God steps in, within this next year I will be planning a funeral.


Everyone criticizes Martha in the Bible because when her brother died she ran out to Jesus and said "If you would have been here my brother wouldn't have died." But those that criticize Martha have no idea what it's like to face death. Because we know God can complete a healing. We know He can perform the miracle. But there are times, like with Martha, we called out to God to perform the work and "3 days has passed" and He hasn't come. It hurts when it's been 18 months and the cancer persists. We know God can step in but it's painful when the doctor's list statistics. And when your only hope is a miracle from God you don't want him to wait until the 3rd day, you want Him to step in now.

Until you are in the position where you absolutely need a miracle you will not understand how painful that road is. It is very easy to say "Trust in God..." and it is easy to say "There is nothing impossible with God..." But there are times when God chooses not to heal. There are times when the miracle doesn't come. There are times when a person has to plan a funeral.  And when a person has to live with a cancer diagnosis thinking about what happens if the healing doesn't come isn't a lack of faith. Breaking down in tears because you can't imagine your life without the person you love so much isn't a lack of trusting in God.

We have no control over the situation we find ourselves in. And it is painful. And I don't want to have to plan a funeral.


You can register to be a bone marrow donor  by registering at https://join.bethematch.org/matchmel
Here is the link to our FB page https://www.facebook.com/prayersformelchor/
And a link to our gofundme pagehttps://www.gofundme.com/melchorlira

When chemotherapy costs more than my house...


The cost of medical insurance is incredibly high. In December of 2014 my husband was diagnosed with Lymphoma. A six day hospital stay resulted in a $191,000 charge to our insurance. My house is not even worth $191,000.

A recent one week stay in the hospital resulted in a $161,000  charge


This year a 2 week stay resulted in a $234,000 charge to my insurance

My husband gets chemo three days a week every 21 days. One day of chemo costs $25,000
A week of chemo costs $75,000. Without this drug, the cancer will return. 

I didn’t plan on writing a blog today about the high cost of health care.  But after examining the claims for my husband though I felt it necessary to write a blog. And I hope this blog goes viral because it is outrageous the high cost of health care. 

This is not a blog criticizing doctors because they are not the ones who are charging an arm and a leg. This is not even a blog about insurance companies, because we have been blessed with an insurance company that covers the cost of my husband’s treatments. We have thankfully not had to deal with the nightmare of the insurance denying a claim or refusing to pay for a service. Although that does happen.

This is a blog about the incredibly high cost of health care and the high mark-up of drugs and services.

In 2015 my husband was hospitalized 9 times. He spent over 100 days in the hospital. He received 8 cycles of chemotherapy. He received platelet transfusions. He received shots to boost his White Blood Count. He visited his doctor on a regular basis when he was not in the hospital. And when the year came to a close our insurance had been billed close to a million dollars.
2015 medical expenses


In 2016 he received 4 cycles of chemo and 18 days of radiation. He is waiting to get a bone marrow transplant which will involve more hospital stays and a lot more expenses.

The charges to his insurance are almost $400,000 just six months into the year. And many claims have not posted to our insurance yet so that amount is actually significantly higher. 


When a person is diagnosed with cancer their life is turned upside down. It typically involves a lengthy treatment and recovery. Many times the illness prevents them from working so income is cut in half or even more. My husband’s take home pay was larger than mine when he got sick. And for the last 18 months he has been unable to work. Because he was just shy of work credits he does not get any disability. And because we are in the wonderful position of being middle-class we get no government assistance. So our income was cut in more than half. But our expenses did not budge. And medical expenses were added.

If we didn't have insurance or if my insurance refused to cover the cost this bone marrow biopsy would eat up 4 months of my paychecks. 



We have health insurance. Thank God we have excellent health insurance. Our out of pocket max last year was $2,500. And this year it is $3,000. So we paid an incredibly small percentage of the massive amount of medical expenses. Yet it is sad because so many people who have been diagnosed with cancer end up filing for bankruptcy because even though they have health insurance, their out of pocket max is high and they are unable to pay for their medical expenses. Not only that there are times when the insurance company denies treatment because the cost is so high and so a patient is forced to pay out of pocket.


Out-of-network vs in-network
Most people do not know that even if a hospital or facility is in your network the particular doctor who treats you may be out of your network. And the insurance will not cover out-of-network charges or they cover it at a lower percentage so you end up getting a bigger bill. And that cost is separate for one’s out of pocket max

Last year my husband received a bone marrow biopsy in the doctor’s office. The doctor was in-network but she sent it to an out of network pathologist. So we received this wonderful message on our insurance claims. This out-of-network charge was:  
That charge was separate from our out-of-pocket max. So in addition to the $2,500 out of pocket max we had to pay we got a $2,381.64 charge.

Some insurance companies will convert all out of network charges to in network if they occurred while one was hospitalized. Cigna, our new insurance, does just that. Every time my husband got chemo in his spine that was done by an out of network provider. Cigna thankfully converted it to in-network.

Blue Cross does not convert out of network hospital charges to in-network. They were our insurance carrier when my husband was first diagnosed with cancer. So even though the hospital in our network, the emergency room doctor was not, so we were charged an additional $785, outside our out-of-pocket max.

When a person is faced with a life threatening illness they shouldn't have to worry about the cost of treatment. In addition, a pharmaceutical company shouldn't be able to charge incredibly high amounts for a drug. 

I encourage you to share this post. In addition, if you have stories of high medical charges and cost share those as well. 


https://www.facebook.com/prayersformelchor/







Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I am tired of trusting in God...

I am tired....

Tired of cancer

Tired of chemo

Tired of calling the insurance on a daily basis

Tired of this storm that has relentlessly pounded


Tired of not making enough to cover all our expenses

Tired of having ten years of teaching experience but making significantly less than a  first year teacher but not being able to do much about it because I need to be able to work from home and health insurance is through my job


Tired of hospital stays

Tired of separation

Tired of this mountain called instability, this valley called chemo, this desert called transplants, this storm called cancer.

And it hurts...

It hurts seeing my husband hooked up to chemo

It hurts hearing my son tell me he gets sad when his dad is in the hospital

It hurts listening to doctors as they provide statistics 

It hurts as 18 months of this horrible journey continues on 

And even though I can see the provision of God I'm broken that we have to endure this

Yes God has removed a tumor from my husband’s body

Yes God did provide thousands of dollars of home school curriculum to me for free

Yes God opened the door for me to work this summer where I make more than I make from my actual job

Yes God has provided financially for the last 18 months and our oil has not run out


But can I be honest? I am tired of being the family that needs the miracles. Because that is an incredibly painful position to be in.

I am tired….
And I am just going say it….
I am tired of having to trust in God….
It hurts this road we are on. It is unbearable at times.
I am ready to pass this baton over to someone else because we've been running the race for so long.

A person’s faith is not put to action until their life begins falling apart. It is easy to recite Proverbs 3:5 but when your husband is diagnosed with cancer

Trust in the Lord with all your heart….

Lean not to your own understanding…

Become words that you no longer just recite, but words you have to live.

And it is draining. And depleting. And exhausting…

And we are called to trust God because the doctors tell us that a bone marrow transplant is the only thing that will cure my husband and without one he won’t survive.

And we are called to trust God because our monthly expenses exceeds our monthly income by 4 digits every month.

And it hurts.

This road hurts. This storm hurts. 
Yes we are still praising God. Yes we are still worshipping God but we are broken inside.

So I am going to take off the mask we all put up
That mask that has a smile on her face
That mask that is acting like everything is okay
That mask that portrays a strength I don’t have
That mask that acts like this storm isn’t hurting
That mask that acts like the wind isn’t knocking me down
And I am going to sit and cry
I am going to pour out my pain
I am going to pour out my worries
I am going to pour out my weariness
I am going to pour out my brokenness

And I am going to let God be God
I am going to weep at His feet
I am going to allow God to take my weariness and give me rest
I am going to allow God to take my weakness and fill me with strength
I am going to allow God to take my sorrow and give me comfort
I am going to allow God to take my turmoil and give me peace

Because healing comes when you take off that mask. Healing comes when you acknowledge the pain. Healing comes when you acknowledge that the road is difficult and your heart is breaking.

And the love of God will see us through. In our darkest times, God will hold our hand. He will wipe our tears. He will ease our pain. 

This mountain may remain but He will give us the strength to climb it.

And so I take off my mask. And I allow God to see my pain. Because He is the one who mends the broken hearts. 




Friday, June 3, 2016

A life worth saving

Do you have minute? I know you are busy. You might be at work. You may be at home with little children demanding your attention. Maybe you are in the car. Or you might even be enjoying a vacation. But can I have your attention for a few minutes?

I want to introduce you to my husband. He is an amazing man. And he has cancer.
This picture was taken during the first of his 12 hospital stays.
He has spent over 200 days in the hospital during the last 18 months.



This was taken during 1 of the 8 cycles of chemo he had last year.

He has been injected with toxic drugs designed to kill the cancerous cells.

He has been hooked up  sometimes for 24 hours with chemo dripping into his body.

And because the chemo is so toxic he would have to be given a rescue drug so the chemo wouldn't stay too long.

These are pictures from his many hospital stays. Each picture represents a different two week hospital stay.

 And the collage doesn't fit all of his hospital stays.

The chemo doesn't just kill the cancerous cells. It kills the good cells.

So in addition to chemo he has received blood transfusions and platelet transfusions.

His White Blood Count has gotten so low that he has had to receive daily shots to bring it up because the WBC helps fight against infection.



Looking at him you would not suspect that cancer has invaded his body.
He doesn't look like the typical cancer patient.
But he was given high doses of chemo month after month for a year.
These doses of chemo have wreaked havoc on his body.



In December we were all smiles because we thought that this was his last hospital stay.
In January he began 18 doses of radiation.
And we thought the most difficult times were behind us.


We were able to eat dinner together as a family again.

 We resumed our Saturday Family activities.

And my husband returned to school and was looking for a job since he had been unable to work for over a year.



I took this in April not realizing that the following weekend we would back in the hospital and my husband would be told that the cancer had now invaded his kidneys.



This time the doctor's could not use the same type of chemo they used previously. He would be given a salvage drug. The drug is a temporary fix. What my husband really needs is a bone marrow transplant. But there are no matches in the system.



My husband spent 3 weeks in the hospital when the cancer returned. His kidney function was down to 25%. His blood pressure was dangerously high. He saw a cardiologist, a neurologist, a nephrologist as well as his oncologist during this stay.



And my kids resumed their visits to daddy in the hospital. Mel couldn't lay down next to them before they went to bed. He couldn't read them bedtime stories. He wasn't there when they woke up in the morning.




Although we try to maintain our smiles and live our life, my husband has to get chemo every 21 days. What that means is he has two weeks off and then a week of chemo. He has multiple oncologist appointments. He is beginning to experience the side effects of the chemo. 


My husband is an amazing man. He doesn't complain. And when he is at home he plays with the children. He plays the bass at church. 

Yet he has cancer. And he needs a bone marrow transplant. But there are no matches in the system. Getting tested to be a match is simple. And the procedure for those donating bone marrow is painless. Matches are more likely found with people of the same ethnicity yet minorities are less likely to register to be donors. 


 So if you haven't already registered to be a donor please do so.
 You can do it by going to your local blood center. 
You can do it by registering at https://join.bethematch.org/matchmel

You can save my husband's life. And if you aren't a match for my husband you can be the match for someone else. Because they have a story. And they have a name. And their life is a life worth saving. 


Here is the link to our FB page https://www.facebook.com/prayersformelchor/
And a link to our gofundme pagehttps://www.gofundme.com/melchorlira