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Stress and Bone Mets – I read the news last week, oh, boy

Posted Jul 25 2012 5:22pm

I read the news last week, and boy! was it dreadful!

Vanderbilt University has done a study that finds that stress fuels breast cancer metastasis to the bone.  The authors conclude that efforts to reduce stress and depression might be just the ticket to ward off a Stage IV diagnosis. Just what I need to hear as I go through the terrible stresses of a marital breakup, a heartbreaking event that has exacerbated my chemo aftereffects: lymphedema, mitrial valve prolapse, anxiety, Reynaud’s phenomenon and costochondritis. What other “itis” or “edema” or “ectomy” or “lapse” will I suffer through next?

My latest stressor came last week when I was declined once again for regular medical insurance. The kind that most people in the U.S. take for granted (if they can afford it). I’ve also been declined for long-term care insurance. The latest reason for the health insurance decision?  In my application I reported too many medical conditions on top of the cancer. Duh!  The long-term effects of chemo on those who have been treated for breast cancer are still being discovered. Why the discrimination when all of my manifested conditions (including stress, which exacerbates everything) can be traced back to my diagnosis?

The less-than-helpful telephone drone from this insurance company explained to me from his high throne of twenty-somethings that people get declined for regular medical insurance if they have “cancer or AIDS or something drastic.” Thanks, buddy!  It’s nice to learn that my condition warrants a drastic label as serious as HIV.

When I inquired if I could get into the high-risk pool (I’m already in a pool but hoped this new pool would be cheaper), the rep told me I had to be coming off a group plan with COBRA. I have been off COBRA for years.

“Next!” he probably said to himself. “I’ll make my quota of answering 100 phone calls in an hour if I cut off this woman now.”

I wish I would have had the instant opportunity to fill out a survey about this insensitive soul so I could turn him in to his employer. I could still register a complaint, but somehow I don’t think it would make the necessary impact on someone who thinks he’s immortal.

The promising news from the Vanderbilt study on stress is that a simple beta-blocker like denosumab or propranolol might prevent cancer metastasis to the bone. Medicines such as these have been used for some time to control blood pressure. But before we rush off to our doctors demanding that we be put on yet another anti-cancer medication, we need to know that this is a preliminary study, done only in mice.  And we need to recognize that beta-blockers have their own unique set of side effects.

In the meantime, we can play our part by maintaining a healthful lifestyle: a healthful diet, meditation, imagery, journaling, stretching, laughing, connecting with supportive friends and family members, and keeping or taking up aerobic exercise routines. I’m doing all I can. I must push forward and remember that these studies are for our good and may lead to a breakthrough in our treatment.

I just wish reading one study after another about what leads to recurrence didn’t put me into such a tailspin. Onward and upward!

Have you ever been declined for medical insurance because of a pre-existing condition? How do you handle stressors and depressing events in your life?


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