Thursday, July 12, 2007

Things That Grow

The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and - the best part - the temperature is in the upper 70's. I can take just about anything but heat - I hate it! Right now I'm in heaven.

Walking the kids to camp ever day we pass so many amazing gardens! Beautiful yards, plants, flowers - a fence made entirely of cultivated apple trees - folks here LOVE their greens!

Hannah's taller, Max's shoulders are filling out, our kids are growing. You don't notice it for a while, then one day it just dawns on you how tall your kids really are. Hannah's pretty much taller than Gerry right now.

I've put off contacting yarn shops where I'm teaching this Fall. Actually, not "put it off" as much as it's just slipped past me. So finally I'm writing to each venue offering to gracefully let them off the hook if the idea of waiting for me to possibly cancel is just too nerve wracking.

A yarn shop is a narrow-margin business. Not many yarn shops owners I know are getting rich, most are happy to keep body and soul together and pay the rent (like all of us!)

I understand that between the extra planning and advertising and any other costs that may come up when engaging an outside teacher, it may be too much to expect a shop to keep dates open for me if I can't guarantee that I'll be there to teach.

Here's the email I just sent to shops where I'm scheduled this Fall. I've already had to cancel a few engagements - I hope to be able to visit them in the future! - because I couldn't handle the guilt that I'd be costing them any money. Guilt is like a weed, it grows if you don't pull it out by the roots.
As you may have heard, my husband is very ill. He has been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a form of blood cancer which affects the plasma cells in the bone marrow. His prognosis isn't great, but we're hopeful. (We'd never heard of this type of cancer before, but we've become armchair experts in the past few months, as you can imagine!)

I've written privately to some of you regarding my Fall engagements - please know that I fully intend to honor each engagement.

However, I can offer no guarantees on my husband's condition. Gerry is scheduled to have a Blood & Marrow Transplant (BMT) at the Mayo clinic in August with a 6-8 week convalescence in Rochester, then back home to St. Paul for further recovery.

Although we're new to Minnesota - we just moved here in February - the fiber and knitting community has rallied around us tremendously and I feel that I have coverage for Gerry-and-Kids-care while I will be away at various teaching engagements this Fall.

But things don't always work out the way we'd like. It's possible that the transplant won't "take", that Gerry will have a bad reaction to some of the medications or that he might get an infection during his susceptible time.

For this reason, although I DO intend to be at each of your venues and teach my full slate of classes,
I cannot offer an iron clad guarantee
that things will go without a hitch.

If you're okay with this uncertainty, then as far as I'm concerned our agreement is intact and I'll see you at your shop.

Just drop me a line to let me know you're aware of my situation and you'd be okay with me canceling rather late in the game if I need to. Obviously, the cancellation policy in the letter of agreement you signed and returned to me would be null and void and I would not expect you to pay anything for my fee or my transportation if I have to cancel so close to the teaching date.

However, if this level of uncertainty is a little too high for you, I totally understand! The demands of running a yarn shop bring their own set of worries, this may just be one worry too many. Please send me an email letting me know you'd prefer to cancel the engagement rather than wait it out in the hopes that all will go well.

I can't give you any guarantees.

If you need a guarantee, it's probably better to cancel my engagement than to create a situation where we both have more worry to deal with. You know best what level of uncertainly you're comfortable with - after all, you have a business to run!

The worry surrounding this situation is immense. There is worry about the future, about the kids, about the mortgage and - obviously - my main worry is about Gerry. I just can't add to that pile by taking on worry that I'll be costing a yarn shop money, or disappointing folks terribly if my visit must be cancelled.

Please know that the only reason I would cancel would be if Gerry's health had significantly deteriorated.
I think I've put this off because the ONLY reason I'd be canceling is if things don't go well with the BMT. I don't want to think about that. But the head can't stay under the pillow forever, and it's necessary to deal with this possibility in terms of how it will affect the shops that have hired me and my editors sooner rather than later.

I am DEFINITELY planning on being in France for the French Girl Knits retreat. The tickets have been purchased, I'm arranging child care coverage for those weeks, and dang it - I just want to go.

French Girl will be during the time that Gerry's supposed to still be in Rochester, but nearing the end of that period. Gerry's mom is flying in and she'll be staying in our suite taking care of him for those weeks.

His sister may be able to fly in and be up in St. Paul with the kids when they return to MN for the start of school - but it's looking iffy.

We're actually trying to find an alternative (having the kids stay with local friends for that first week of school?) because Gerry's sister is in the throes of job hunting and the timing really couldn't be worse for her. If you're on my Twin Cities helper list - especially if you live near me - and feel you could take a kid for a few nights let me know.

A good friend from NJ is flying in on 9/10 to be with the kids until I get back from France, so the dates that we need coverage are 9/2 - 9/10. It also wouldn't be bad to keep them out of the house, staying with someone else, to give the contractor as much empty house time as possible! Oh heaven's I just realized we need to arrange cat care!

The sad truth is, cancer comes at inconvenient times - but bills still have to be paid!

Those of you who have been kind enough to give us help during this period - THANK YOU! Most of those fund will go to our accommodations and to pay for flying the kids back and forth from MN to the East Coast for August, and for flying Gerry's mom out to be with him.

Some of it also is just going to cover our mortgage, etc. We're nearing the point in donations where our budgeted expenses will be covered HOORAY!

If we qualify for Social Security, it's supposed to kick in sometime in October. It's hard to imagine Gerry wouldn't qualify, but weirder things have happened.

Once we hit that point I'll post it on Gerry's Multiple Myeloma's page. If folks still want to purchase the Red Carpet Convertible, it will be available - but at a set price, not for a donation any more. For all intents and purposes, our needs will have been met then.

Our hope has been growing right along with our non-medical fund, thank you SO much!

Just this week the insurance company for Gerry's former employer (Fox, where he was working when he initially visited the doctor about his bad back, the first symptom of the osteporosis that is a symptom of Multiple Myeloma) has agreed to pay the princely sum of $170 per week for short term disability.

They had been insisting that since that first doctor misdiagnosed the condition (he said it was a back sprain and prescribed physical therapy - which is probably how Gerry crushed his first 2 vertebrae) and that same doctor wrote a note to Fox TV that Gerry should be out of work for only 4 days. This was the diagnosis the insurance company said they had to accept. Insanity.

But apparently the letter from Gerry's oncologist and our GP have finally convinced them to relent. So we'll be the proud recipients of $170 per week - the NY State minimum, among the lowest in the country we're told.

An interesting side note is that there was a form which Gerry's GP had to fill out. The insurance company said that it had to be in within a certain number of days or we'd lose our eligibility. Gerry asked that they fax it to him so he could run it over to the doctor, and they said they would, but they faxed it to the doctor instead.

When Gerry & I stopped by to make sure it arrived - something we thought we didn't need to do since the insurance company assured us it was faxed - we discovered that the form WAS sent, but with NONE of Gerry's information so the doctor's office had no idea who the form was to be filled out FOR!

It's hard for me to believe, especially given the time sensitive nature of the form, that leaving Gerry's info off the form was entirely accidental.

Cynicism grows like a tumor, too!


Marin said...

Darlin', if there's one thing I learned through my mom's illness, it's a healthy suspicion and mild disrespect for the vast, glutted form of modern medicine. Individual doctors can be lifesavers, soul-soothers and your best friends in times of crushing confusion, but bureaucracy waits on no illness.

Hang in there. Have a Diet Coke.


July 12, 2007 4:30 PM  
m-moran said...

With insurance companies it is a war of attrition, one doctor told me. They will deny and hope you go away. Ask for an appeal and they may deny (and hope you go away) that but eventually, if you keep coming back at them with the evidence, they just might give in and accept that it is a covered service and that they must pay the claim.

July 12, 2007 5:01 PM  
Knitting Linguist said...

Oh, arrgh! What IS it with insurance and doctors and the "health" industry? It's insane what you have to fight for -- last summer, I had to convince my insurance that I needed the "elective" surgery that was designed to keep me from losing muscle function in one leg. And that was after waiting two years to see if it would heal all by itself! Hang in there...

July 12, 2007 6:42 PM  
Connie said...

Good for you guys to be extra careful. No, I don't believe it was an accident that info was omitted. Insurance companies are evil. Best of luck to you and your husband in this terrible time...

July 12, 2007 7:07 PM  
cathyannhenry said...

I'm a physician in a large, bureaucratic academic medical center, and I find the situation as aggravating as you do. I would amend what Connie said, though--FOR-PROFIT INSURANCE COMPANIES are evil. Their ultimate responsibility is to their stockholders, not their policyholders. And I doubt that the way the forms were faxed was intentional--they are not smart enough to think of that.

July 12, 2007 7:15 PM  
susanc said...

You're doing the right thing - you HAVE to be proactive and constantly check up to make sure dr's offices, insurance, etc. have done what they are supposed to do. My dad has had the runaround for the last year regarding his second knee replacement (not the same knee) and they had him go to physical therapy, which threw his back out and brought on a nasty bought of sciatica. Half the time you have to constantly call and make sure they've sent the correct papers, forms, etc. Insane.

So glad to hear that you'll be getting at least something for disability. Geesh. I hear of so many doctors misdiagnosing people that it is truly scary. Some aren't so lucky and have had precious time wasted by the wrong diagnosis. :o(

Hang in there. It's a disgrace the way are "healthcare" system is run in this country. Pathetic. $$$ runs the system.

July 12, 2007 8:24 PM  
Anonymous said...

Annie, I hope and pray for many good years for you, Gerry, and your family.

Just came onto your site for first time in a week. And I'm absolutely reeling.

My best to you. And my thanks- you are a lesson in grace...


July 12, 2007 8:57 PM  
Cathy goldman said...

Dear Annie:
I just read your blog and besides all the prayers and hopes I have for you....the most important advice I need to give you is that Soc Sec. sometimes rejects your application the first time. Do not be upset just immediately re apply. It seems that on the 2nd try you are accepted.
Hope you don't have to go through that. but better to be prepared. cg

July 12, 2007 9:13 PM  
knitizen said...

oh you must have United Healthcare. they stink so bad they make raw sewage smell delicious! gosh Annie, hang tough and tougher. Gerry must get a lot of comfort knowing you have his back, literally! lots of light to you and your family.

July 12, 2007 9:36 PM  
shoeboots said...

There is nothing in this world that angers me more than health care companies. Parceling out care and basic needs, making the patient run around and do all the dirty work- just angries up my blood! I'm glad they finally agreed to such a paltry sum. Something is better than nothing!

July 12, 2007 10:25 PM  
Martheme said...

Good for you contacting the shops like that! I'm sure (the good ones anyway) will appreciate your up-front approach to the situation and have you back later even if you need to cancel.

I don't think the oversight on the form was an accident either. Suspicion in small doses is a good thing.

July 13, 2007 9:06 AM  
Sheila E said...

My husband Michael had an idea....He said...Annie could make a video of the talk that she would be giving at the yarn stores...that way, if she can make it, Great...& if she can't then the stores can explain a bit about what's up with you and still have you there!
I don't know if this could work for you but I thought I'd throw it out there....hey, if Al Gore can do it!
This all really *sucks* Annie!!
Love and Light are being sent your way daily!!
Glad that you are finding the time and energy to see the beauty in life...your children growing, blue skies, green grass.

July 13, 2007 10:04 AM  
Anonymous said...

I'm in the UK and work in the National Health Service. It's got it's flaws and inequalities but at least people don't have to beg and plead for help (well not much). But rest assured anyone who has health protection for loans etc over here has to jump through hoops as well.

BTW, I'm puzzled about the horrible types who seem to resent their donation being used to help your husband join in with the family. If someone buys one of your books (which I will do when my own finances improve - promise). I read an interview with you in Interweave, you sound like a lady who'd I love to have as a friend) are you supposed to print a list of things you intend to do with the monies you make from these books and hope they approve? Strange people...

Best wishes Fran

July 13, 2007 11:29 AM  
Cindy said...

Life doesn't come with any guarantees; a great solution to the possible conflicts. By the way, when I donated some money to your cause, I assumed you were smart enough to use it where and how it was needed and that receiving is hard. Don't let anyone get you down; sending good thoughts your family's way.

July 13, 2007 9:29 PM  
Anonymous said...


We're keeping you in our thoughts and prayers here in Oregon, but I used to work in Payroll (for an insurance company...) and you need to check to see if the monies received are taxable and/or having taxes withheld.

I would hate to read about you having these issues later.

Take care


July 14, 2007 12:08 AM  
cathyannhenry said...

Annie, I forgot to add in my previous comment that, although I am not a businessperson, your explanation to the yarn stores seems eminently sensible to me, and very well put. I can see that some folks running a business just couldn't tolerate (emotionally) that much uncertainty, and I wouldn't be surprised if a few cancelled. But I bet most won't. They'll want to support you best they can, and I would think most have at least some capacity to roll with the punches. I have very little, which is why I never went into private practice. That whole accounts receivable/accounts payable thing would make me crazy. I want to know what day the paycheck comes and how much it's for. So I will continue to support my LYS (Fine Points, in Cleveland), and I have faith they'll support you.

If you make it back here for a class (I know you were just here in April), I will rearrange my schedule to be there.

I'm also buying your book hot off the press.

July 14, 2007 5:39 AM  
Lisa C. said...

Oh Annie,

Insurance companies stink. Hubby suggests that you write to Kieth Olberman regarding your insurance/disability woes. It sounds like something he could sink his teeth into.

July 14, 2007 8:41 AM  
Libi said...


Someone stated that "sometimes" SS denies disability claims. Change that to always. First time out, they always deny. We fought for 5 years for my mom. And when it was finally granted, it wasn't for what she's disabled with! A truly bizarre system, I must say.

Best to you and your family.

July 14, 2007 12:10 PM  
Brenda in San Mateo said...

Hi Annie - We hope you see how supportive everyone is for your situation. I just talked with Sudha at Nine Rubies today, and she said they've let you know they are totally supportive. If you can make it in September, that's great, otherwise you can reschedule. I'll definitely try to take the class whenever you can make it.
Take Care of yourself and your family.

July 14, 2007 7:24 PM  
S t a c i said...

Annie - thanks for your kind note on my blog. I realize that you're going through your own stuff right now. You're an amazing woman to unselfishly reach out and comfort others.


July 16, 2007 9:18 AM  

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