Difficulty Level: Infinity

12.17.2008 | 1:59 pm

I’m taking several vacation days to be able to spend some time with Susan and the kids, as well as to focus on a couple of for-fun writing projects.

Also, I plan to reboot my diet and fitness plan. But that’s another post.

Well, actually, it was going to be today’s post, but now today’s post is about why there’s no possible way I could write something entertaining.

Here’s why: today I confronted the labyrinth of insurance and medical expenses.

It took all morning to figure out which things are really bills, which are just statements, which are bills that are redundant to bills sent concurrently to insurance, and which bills my insurance company has paid, but which I have been sent angry letters demanding payment for anyway.

I believe that I have now given my credit card number to every medical establishment within a 300-mile radius.

I then sat down to begin writing something fun for the blog. At which point, I realized that there is no possible way in the world I would be writing something entertaining today, what with my blood boiling, my stomach churning, and my soul sucked dry. And whatnot. I simply don’t have it in me to be fun right now. Which is a weird sensation for me, and not very pleasant.

I tell you what: there’s a lot that sucks about cancer that has nothing to do with the cancer.

Hey, look! I think I just saw a tumbleweed blow across the windswept, barren deathscape that was once my checking account.


  1. Comment by Big Boned | 12.17.2008 | 2:01 pm

    Stay the course fatty. Things will be better in the morning.

  2. Comment by Big Boned | 12.17.2008 | 2:03 pm

    If it does you any good, we’re all still here rooting for you. You’ll see that when we bust up all the Livestrong records!

  3. Comment by rich | 12.17.2008 | 2:06 pm

    Hey Fatty,
    Hang in there man. This too shall pass….

    Quality time with the family will make all this better. Enjoy your vacation time.
    We’re all still out here pulling for you guys and praying for you…

  4. Comment by Clydesteve | 12.17.2008 | 2:11 pm


    I think you need some dark chocolate.

    Win! Susan. 2:01 pm PST

  5. Comment by Ka_Jun | 12.17.2008 | 2:14 pm

    What Rich said. Hang in there…

  6. Comment by KE | 12.17.2008 | 2:21 pm

    About halfway through chemo, I learned that Blue Cross was rejecting every single chemo session bill. When my panicked wife called the doctor, she was reassured to learn that insurance always rejects every claim over $5000, requring more paperwork justification. That, my friends is in part what’s wrong with our medical system today. The doctors spend huge amounts dealing with insurers, the insurance companies spend huge amounts denying claims, and we foot the bill. And having cancer made it all that much more fun.

  7. Comment by Bandobras. | 12.17.2008 | 2:23 pm

    Ah yes the wonders of the American medical system. I wish I could lend you my OHIP service and all that crap with the insurance companies would go away. The mangers of said companies deserve a kidney stone for each and every client forced through this sort of pain. You know nothing fatal just a bit aggravating till it’s over.
    Have a great holiday with the family.

  8. Comment by Arthur | 12.17.2008 | 2:27 pm

    at least it wasn’t a burning tumbleweed in the oil slick that used to be your checking accountKuwaitOilFire002.jpg

  9. Comment by Lana | 12.17.2008 | 2:31 pm

    As someone who has suffered with a kidney stone AND the medical system at the same time, I totally agree with Bandobras.

    Hugs for Fatty!

  10. Comment by jt | 12.17.2008 | 2:32 pm

    My wife has had JRA (juvenile rheumatoid arthritis)since she was about 6 (over 50 years ago). We deal with mounds of insurance paperwork on a routine basis, although nothing like what you’re currently going through. Over the years, my rule of thumb has been that it’s not a real medical/insurance bill until the third notice. The medical community often works on a “kill them all and let God sort it out” basis, sending bills to both sides in the beginning. By the time the third notice happens, everyone has had a chance to weigh in and settle what needs to be settled. At that point you can turn your attention (briefly) away from Susan and family and towards the insurance companies and medical establishment.


  11. Comment by Don | 12.17.2008 | 2:44 pm

    I’m sorry…
    It will in fact pass, and dark chocolate is not only good, but good for you!

  12. Comment by Dingbat | 12.17.2008 | 2:46 pm

    God love you, man, for dealing with that. It’s depressing to think about the fact that insurance paperwork is a problem of entirely human creation but unstoppable force, like war, or fat-free mayonnaise.

    (Today my paperwork is pestering my co-workers for Livestrong donations)

    Win Susan!

  13. Comment by Uphill Battle | 12.17.2008 | 2:50 pm

    Fatty, Sorry to hear that you have to deal with all that crap. I can’t imagine the mound of paperwork. My daughter was in car accident in November of 2006. The insurance declined the $287000 hospital bill and $32,000 surgeon bill for being out of network! They forgot the small consideration that she was life flighted to the nearest facility that could handle her injuries. It took me until August of 2008 to get the bills straightened out. My advice to you…don’t worry about the bills…they will be there…take care of Susan and the kids.

  14. Comment by WheelDancer | 12.17.2008 | 2:52 pm

    Good medicine is an art and managed health care is a science and they mix about as well as oil and water. jt has it right with the “kill them all” approach and I heartily recommend the “third notice is the first bill to pay attention to” though even then the dust might not be settled. I got a fourth notice (for a bill that I had already paid) around the same time I got a refund for overpayment on that same bill.

    I got a good belly laugh at your last line and am relieved that you still retain your sense of humor and ability to capture it in your blog. Enjoy your time off!

  15. Comment by MikeonhisBike | 12.17.2008 | 2:55 pm

    Hang in there and enjoy the time off with your family. They are way more important than the bills.


  16. Comment by dug | 12.17.2008 | 3:33 pm

    “I believe that I have now given my credit card number to every medical establishment within a 300-mile radius.”

    i’m a medical establishment and so’s my wife.

  17. Comment by Dan O | 12.17.2008 | 3:43 pm

    hang in there Fatty,

    I got a “statement of benefits” in the mail last night related to my Bone Marrow Transplant that was 17 pages! you’d think they’d at least put the claims in date order!, nope they are in order by claim number! not fun!

    Take some time to be with family, the insurance co can wait!

    life is good

  18. Comment by MOCougFan | 12.17.2008 | 4:00 pm

    I hate Insurance Companies. They are the root of all evil.

    Hang tough brother. Enjoy your family time.


  19. Comment by Philly Jen | 12.17.2008 | 4:39 pm

    Keep climbing, big guy. You’re doing a great job, even if feels like hell.

    Be careful when you say “Labyrinth”. Either David Bowie pops out in a poofy shirt with crazy hair extensions, or you end up sitting down to dinner with people who have eyeballs in their palms.

    Though it’s true, either option would be prettier than dealing with insurance companies.

    ♥WIN♥ Susan

  20. Comment by Al Maviva | 12.17.2008 | 4:40 pm

    I haven’t a good thing to say except life simply blows some times, but it sure beats all the other suggested alternatives. We keep on because not keeping on is unthinkable, unnatural. Let the anger pass; the problem with the insurance companies, as you know, is they are run by people, and nothing touched by people is or ever could be perfect. Or even moderately functional in some cases.

    Thoughts, prayers, good wishes, and mildly humorous barbs coming your way Fatty. Don’t forget the reason for the season.

  21. Comment by JT | 12.17.2008 | 4:41 pm

    Hang in there! there are times despite its faults I truly appreciate our Canadian universal health care system. In lieu of a humane health care system chocolate and times with you family are sure to improve the situation. If not pull out the big guns – brats and the evil velveeta!

  22. Comment by Charisa | 12.17.2008 | 5:07 pm

    Hang in there! Some good holiday family time will hopefully help! You are amazingly holding your entire family together and inspiring hundreds in the process.

  23. Comment by matt (ming) | 12.17.2008 | 5:43 pm

    charge the tumbleweed in your checking account rent, im doing the same for the crickets in mine.

    hold tight and youll hang tough

  24. Comment by Charlie | 12.17.2008 | 5:51 pm


    I used this product when I was helping my Dad out with knee replacement surgery and subsequent complications. It helps you track what the explanations of benefits say should be paid, what the bills say and what you actually paid. While it takes some time and effort, it helps alot and lets you rest easier as soon as you identify duplicate statements compared to new bills.

    I’m a consultant in the healthcare industry and my mind gets boggled, so I know what you must be going through!

    If you haven’t already, see if you can find a case manager in your insurance company who can become your advocate, it will help! Get the direct dial number of a customer service manager and become his or her new best friend…

    Anytime something doesn’t seem right, give them a call – things get screwed up with claims all the time! They are the people who can fix them when they do.

  25. Comment by Jenni Laurita | 12.17.2008 | 5:52 pm

    What do you need? Ask. We’ll work it out.

  26. Comment by Roadent | 12.17.2008 | 6:11 pm

    Seriously: see if you can move to Canada ASAP as a refugee or something – I have no problem having some vanishingly small percentage of my taxes going to universal healthcare for people from another country where cancer treatment is a pay-if-you-can option, rather than a fundamental right….

  27. Comment by Orly | 12.17.2008 | 6:22 pm

    Insurance suuuuuuccckkks. Perhaps I should be thankful I no longer have it? Oh, wait.

    My favorite part about being insured was not being able to get an ER visit covered at an out-of-network hospital because I didn’t get it pre-approved. Silly me, you call insurance and *then* you call 911. Duh!

    Anyway, I can’t even imagine how much more hellish it is for an ongoing illness. Good luck, and WIN SUSAN.

  28. Comment by Ms.Moon | 12.17.2008 | 6:35 pm

    I had a friend who was dying of cancer and she wrote a letter to then first-lady Hilary Clinton saying, “Look, it’s bad enough to be dying of cancer. Why do I have to deal with all these bills and healthcare service invoices?”
    It’s time for our country to grow up and accept universal, one-payer health care.
    It’s so wrong.
    Bless you for having the strength to do what you do every day and also bless Susan for and in her journey.

  29. Comment by Carrie | 12.17.2008 | 6:41 pm

    We know the insurance dance all too well. Just take it one piece of paper at a time… So annoying I know…

  30. Comment by Di | 12.17.2008 | 6:48 pm

    Fatty, there are two things I do when the going gets tough:

    1. Talk to God, or yell at God. It depends on the situation. He’s pretty good about handling what you can throw at him.

    2. Go ride your bike. <— can’t stress this enough!!! The reasons are obvious to you.

    Good luck!


  31. Comment by Dyan in Austin | 12.17.2008 | 7:01 pm

    I am sorry. Cancer sucks. My husband has had it twice.

  32. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 12.17.2008 | 7:27 pm

    But hey, look on the bright side…uhhmmmm…let’s see…oh yes, your boys have not yet impregnated anyone (that you know about).

  33. Comment by Scott | 12.17.2008 | 7:44 pm

    I totally understand about the medical billing frustrations. I swear that this system was intentionally designed to be completely incomprehensible and frustrating. It’s worse than taxes.

    Hope things look up!

  34. Comment by Dobovedo | 12.17.2008 | 7:51 pm

    does it help to know that you are better than they (the insurance companies) are? prob’ly not, but you are.

  35. Comment by CSB | 12.17.2008 | 8:08 pm

    Man, do I ever feel you. Before we were married, I had to – literally – drag my wife to the hospital because she could barely breathe. Why? She didn’t have health insurance and while being terrified about her health, was more terrified about how much a trip to the hospital would cost her. What’d they find?

    Pneumonia. To a dangerous extent.

    And she’s not alone. Three hours and $1500 later (I’m not kidding) she was better, and they had only asked for a credit card number three times (I’m also not kidding). Before that point I’d been disappointed with healthcare, after it I was plain sickened. Insurance companies are worse, I had to sue one (also not kidding) to get them to pay a bill once. Even after they paid it, and my lawyer’s fees they had me sign something that said they didn’t admit fault.

    My employer took a stand this year against rising healthcare costs, and I’m proud of them. They saw the economy and instead of using it as a cost to raise them, they pumped millions into the plans to lower the employee costs. My plan for my family has literally dropped to a quarter of what it was in ‘08.

    I think at some point enough has to be enough, I can’t believe that good folks like you have to sit awake at night wondering if they can pay to help keep their wife alive.

    I’m with you, man, keep up the good fight. Your fight is inspiring in ways you don’t even know.

  36. Comment by ann | 12.17.2008 | 8:19 pm

    so glad you’re so real.

  37. Comment by Sprocketboy | 12.17.2008 | 8:24 pm

    To have to deal with all these bills and invoices on top of the more important things much be awful. When I lived in the the States for a few years I had a minor procedure done and I was amazed at how much paperwork there was, including five separate invoices–and I wasn’t even dealing with an insurance company at any point! The Canadian system has its faults (I have yet to find a GP since my return)but at least we don’t have this billing stress to contend with as well. But the paper blizzard will sort itself eventually and life will be in balance. Get back to working on that training and nutrition plan: if it is like mine it looks wonderful in principle!

  38. Comment by dr_robert | 12.17.2008 | 10:11 pm

    For-profit health care and for-profit insurance are just two of the things that are deeply wrong with this country. :(

  39. Comment by Tuxer | 12.17.2008 | 10:16 pm

    At this very moment, a health insurance company is demanding that my doctor supply them with my complete medical records. To justify some expensive and not-pre-approved procedure? Nope. The inspiration for this (latest) documentation frenzy was an office visit and a prescription for antibiotics.

    All insurance companies are nuts. It helps — a little — to accept that they are the lunatic asylums of the corporate world and never even expect anything they do to make any sense.

    Also, I’ve been lurking for quite a while, and you’re in my prayers, Fatty and Susan. Best of luck with the paperwork blizzard, and don’t let the madness wear on you too much.

  40. Comment by Kathleen | 12.17.2008 | 10:44 pm

    I worked for a start up that created software specifically for tracking medical expenses…for the very reasons you’ve outlined. Sadly we were bought by Steve Case and the whole thing got shelved. Too bad, it’s a much needed tool.

    Hugs to Susan and the kids and know that we’re here if you need to vent.

  41. Comment by Undomestic | 12.17.2008 | 11:02 pm

    Maybe it wasn’t a fun post, but the last line made me smile…you’re still funny.

  42. Comment by oldmanfran | 12.18.2008 | 1:21 am

    the next time you just can’t take it anymore, think of the moment you realized you loved Susan.

  43. Comment by Bjorn 4Lycra | 12.18.2008 | 1:31 am

    Botched whats wrong with the boys dressing up like someone else …. oh wait a minute I see.
    FC enjoy the family time – hope they all enjoy it too.
    Win Susan.

  44. Comment by Bitter (formerly known as Lissee) | 12.18.2008 | 1:55 am

    Hey, look! I think I just saw a tumbleweed blow across the windswept, barren deathscape that was once my checking account.


    That. Sucks.

  45. Comment by Mike Roadie | 12.18.2008 | 6:05 am

    Cancer and Insurance Companies……….Bah, Humbug!!!

  46. Comment by Alex | 12.18.2008 | 6:36 am

    If Canada won’t have you try the UK. For all the moaning the Brits do about the NHS it has worked well when I have needed it and the staff are focused on the patient, not the profit.

    Hang in there.

  47. Comment by luvsdownhill | 12.18.2008 | 8:03 am

    I know it’s just a drop in the bucket that’s probably really dry, but I thought it might give you some bit of joy to know that my husband and I bought a bike for sick child in Atlanta last weekend. A bike was his Christmas wish hanging on a Giving Tree. We picked a bike in honor of you and Susan. So know that there is a little boy in Atlanta tearing down the halls of a kids hospital on his new bike right now because of you.

  48. Comment by buckythedonkey | 12.18.2008 | 8:06 am

    There was a time when we bought our Fat Cyclist jerseys in order to directly support you and your family. I sincerely hope that this profoundly important aspect of being a member of Team Fatty doesn’t get lost in the race to break records.

    Call it cutting out the middle man if you like, but supporting the Nelson family is one way to fight cancer. IMNSHO.

    Love to you Fatty and…

    …WIN SUSAN!!

  49. Comment by KC | 12.18.2008 | 8:06 am

    I truly feel for you. Been there. Done that.
    Don’t give up and don’t give in, but please try to shelve it until after Christmas.
    Hugs to all of you.

  50. Comment by Wine Dog | 12.18.2008 | 8:11 am

    I feel ya. Our medical system makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon.

    Did you call them? That’s my favorite part. That’s where some trained monkey reads your bill to you as if you couldn’t read the damned thing the first time around. Reading it isn’t the problem. Figuring out what they did is the problem. I think it’s all a plot to make you call in your credit card to every medical establishment within a 300 mile radius of your home…oh, never mind.

  51. Comment by Woody | 12.18.2008 | 8:29 am

    I can’t even keep up with my medical bills for checkups, etc. I cannot even imagine the mountain of paperwork that has engulfed you. I hurt for you!

  52. Comment by Weiland | 12.18.2008 | 8:33 am

    Insurance is a form of legalized crime…

  53. Comment by DeborahB | 12.18.2008 | 9:29 am

    I second and third the dark chocolate idea. I am sorry about your insurance nightmares. I agree with Weiland, it is a form of legalized crime. Vet bills too. My husband had 2 bouts of A-Fib early this year, each time with a little hospital stay. Good news was our deductible for the ENTIRE FAMILY was paid in March. Bad news is we’re STILL dealing with insurance yahoos. I feel bad for you honestly. Hang in there, you’ll get through this. Hugs to you all!

  54. Comment by Lowrydr | 12.18.2008 | 10:57 am

    Just throw those bills in the trash and wait till next year when you get the 4th statement, then it may be easier to read and figure what’s been paid or not.

    OOOOh! chocolate, can I have some of it.

  55. Comment by Franky & Mer | 12.18.2008 | 11:28 am

    My daughter had to get a huge birth mark removed that was in danger of turning into a cancerous tumor. After the operation was approved(!) by the insurance and the surgery was done the insurance (Horizon BC/BS) informed us that they changed their mind and considered it cosmetic surgery. After a couple month of calling/yelling/writing we got them to revert their decision again. The US health care system is a joke. Anyways…it will all be sorted out at the end. Now go back to Susan and give her a kiss. Nothing else matters :)

  56. Comment by Dr Codfish | 12.18.2008 | 11:45 am

    Oh yeah I feel you!

    I’m an optimist, cynical, but basically optimistic. There is NOTHING like dealing with the fiscal, financial, fiduciary obligations that attend a major medical event to show the optimist the door and fuel the cynical fires. I went through something very similar with the demise of my Mom’s health, and she was a member of a long standing HMO that should have had everything will in hand. Oh boy, don’t get me started!

    The upside is that (at least for me anyway) it generated so much latent rage that I was able to do seemingly endless intervals: Whenever I started to see stars, and whimper like a beaten child, all I had to do is recall the most recent conversation with the HMO’s “Health Care Coordinating Offcer” and I was off for another solid 20 minutes of redline. Argh!


    Yr Pal Dr C

  57. Comment by Ray | 12.18.2008 | 12:16 pm

    After 12 surgeries, the latest being heart surgery, I have become firmly convinced that the legitimate bills are those that keep sending statements after 6 months. At which time they become a lot more eager to work with you and your insurance.

  58. Comment by Kerri | 12.18.2008 | 2:09 pm

    Ah, yes. The hell that is the health insurance system. I am dealing with it right now as well. I had surgery on my hand a month ago. Because my husband changed jobs not long beforehand, the new insurance is requesting proof that the problem that caused me to need surgery was not a preexisting condition. It has required us to jump through a lot of hoops.

    I am sure that my $4000 surgery is nothing compared to what kind of bills you’re facing, though. Good luck!

  59. Comment by Zuke | 12.18.2008 | 2:31 pm

    Fatty – Enjoy your quality time off with Susan and the kids. We’ll be anxiously awaiting your return!

  60. Comment by El Animal | 12.18.2008 | 2:33 pm

    Fatty I feel your pain, I make a living out of making the insurance companies pay our claims.

  61. Comment by Woody | 12.18.2008 | 3:03 pm

    My Dad says he uses the fishbowl method for bill paying. Each month all the bills go in the fish bowl and he pulls out a couple to pay. If the money collectors don’t like it, he’ll show them and not put them in the fishbowl!

  62. Comment by Jennifer | 12.18.2008 | 8:02 pm

    I work in healthcare. Every day, I pray for SOME form of socialized medicine to arrive on our fair shores. This is AMERICA, fer gosh-sakes, I’m sure we can create something even better than Canada, and France, and Norway, and South Africa, and Sweden, and Denmark, and Britain, and Germany, and Switzerland, and Cuba, and…

    Hang in there, Fatty!

  63. Comment by Megan | 12.18.2008 | 8:04 pm

    Hi Fatty – I also would suggest (if you are in hospice care) that you speak with your case manager or social worker (sometimes they are the same, sometimes they are different people). They know a lot more about the system and can at least guide you, if not actually sort it out all on their own. Also, if you have a social worker or case manager through your cancer care center that person may be able to help you as well. Sometimes they can’t, but it never hurts to ask!

  64. Comment by Tuxer | 12.19.2008 | 12:27 pm

    And yet, nationalized health care…

    Yes, let’s put our lives in the hands of the people who bring us the post office and the IRS….

  65. Comment by Ringo | 12.19.2008 | 4:01 pm

    THe IRS isn’t half as bad as medical insurance paperwork. Ask anyone who has gone through anything like Fatty’s going through now.

    And why do people always rag on the post office? The post office is amazing. It is incredibly simple and reliable. You can send a letter anywhere in the country in 2-3 days for $0.42, very few questions asked and a very low failure rate. It operates better than most businesses in my estimation.

    I lived in Japan for a bit, and was shocked how simple the paperwork was when I broke a bone in my foot (riding my bike). Showed my health id card, filled out a simple form, and paid a tiny copay. And I was done, that day!

    National Health care is the answer. Stop fighting it.
    Helath care isn’t a business, it’s a right as a citizen.

  66. Comment by Penny | 12.21.2008 | 1:26 pm

    My system:

    1. Folder for each “provider/biller”
    2. Statements go in there, stay there.
    3. Each bill is not removed or paid until I receive EOB from insurance.
    4. I keep a running total of the ‘justified’ charges on the front flap (based on EOB)
    5. I don’t pay until I see on their statement or bill the credit from the EOB payment.
    6. Then pay it, mark it paid, with date and trackable menthod of payment.

    There really should be someone you can hire to deal with this crap. Family is so much more important.

    Thoughts are with you.
    Win Susan

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