08 November 2019

$31,748.92 a Month

I was diagnosed with myeloma (bone marrow cancer) in December 2015. In March 2016, I began taking daily chemo pills called Revlimid.* (Along with monthly shots and a bunch of other treatments.)

When I began Revlimid, I tried to find out how much a monthly dose cost. My insurance company wouldn’t say, and neither would my doctor. The best I could determine was that it cost about $14,000 a month.

I got a report from my insurance company this week that lists of all my medical services for the first three quarters of 2019. My monthly chemo medication costs exactly $31,748.92.

$31,748.92 EACH and every month for nearly the last four years. It’s the drug I need to keep my cancer under control (keeping in mind that myeloma has no cure).

$31,748.92. I can hardly imagine an amount of money that high. This contributes to the amount of money my insurance company has spent for my health care so far this year (just over $300,000.00). 

There is no way I could afford this medication without insurance. There is also no way I could afford the insurance I need without help from the Affordable Care Act. It contributes to my monthly premium allowing me to afford an insurance that covers my husband and me – especially me.

Who has $31,748.92 lying around for monthly chemo drugs?

When I read the monthly cost of my drugs, I felt sick to my stomach that I was costing my insurance company so much. I mean, whole families survive on that amount of money a month or less, and here I am popping drugs to keep my cancer at bay.

As I have said many times before, if the Affordable Care Act is ever done away with, I will have no way to get my medication. None.

(*Revlimid is a brand drug. There is no generic. That’s at least in part because the company that makes it, Celgene, refuses to release drug details to allow other companies to make generic versions. Gee, I wonder why...)

27 September 2019

100th Anniversary of Musso and Frank Grill in Hollywood

I first stepped into Hollywood’s Musso and Frank Grill in the fall of 1992. I was the guest of my dear friend Shirley Wilson. She knew I loved vintage Hollywood and suggested we go there to get a real taste of a classy Hollywood restaurant. She was right. Musso and Frank sits on Hollywood Boulevard, virtually untouched through the years. In fact, one hundred of them, as today is the 100th anniversary of the opening of the restaurant.

Everyone who has been anyone has eaten at the Grill. It was a hangout for famous Hollywood writers for decades, as well as actors, directors, producers, and anyone else who had anything to do with Hollywood.

The author, at his favorite Hollywood restaurant in 2019.
One of my favorite memories of M&F is from the second or third time I went there. We sat on the bar side (rather than the usual dining room side). Our waiter came up to us and I said something about how I heard F. Scott Fitzgerald loved to come in and get drunk here. He smiled yes, and said “In fact, you’re sitting in his favorite booth!” I don’t care if he was lying; he was sweet to say it.

I’ve had a love affair with M&F for more than twenty years, eating there whenever I got the chance to be in town. I have such admiration for the restaurant and its history that I included it as a major set piece in two of my James Murray Mystery novels set in the 1930s: Sabotage at RKO Studio (The James Murray Mysteries Book 2) where James takes his new girlfriend for their first big night out after the opening of the movie "King Kong"; and in Abduction at Griffith Observatory: A James Murray Mystery (The James Murray Mysteries ) (Volume 3) where James’s world comes crashing down around him. It’s so neat knowing my characters could very possible have eaten at this wonderful restaurant!

26 September 2019

The Taste of Things to Come

In January 2015, I had to have a heart defect repaired. I’ve written a lot about that week and the subsequent effects the surgery has had on my life. One of the most pronounced changes at the time, was how everything I put in my mouth tasted of copper: water, hamburgers, chips, cherry pie. You name it: copper. That lasted about six months and (very) slowly faded away.

Shortly after I regained my proper sense of taste, I was diagnosed with cancer and had to begin lifelong chemo treatments. After they started, I lost part of my sense of taste again. This time: sugar had no taste for me AT ALL. Cakes, pies, chocolates, anything sweet now tasted flat. It was both a good thing (not craving sweets has helped me lose weight) and a bad thing (when I want a piece of pie, I want it to taste like a piece of pie, dammit!).

Now, four years since chemo started, my taste buds are changing again. It’s hard to describe what’s going on this time, but I am not enjoying foods that have a lot of flavoring to them. An example: I used to love barbecue potato chips. Now, no. Something about them tastes wretched. I am starting to prefer plain chips (which I used to hate). I prefer eating a piece of chicken with no flavoring (salt, of course, is basically forbidden to me), or a piece of bread with nothing, a plain tortilla, etc. I’m kinda hoping this changes pretty soon. I don’t know of any change to my body or lifestyle that is causing it and this kind of food is already starting to get boring.

13 August 2019

That Time I Discovered Sharon Tate

I was ten years old in 1969, the year Sharon Tate and others were murdered. My parents always had on the evening news during dinner, so I remember vague references to the murder, the search, the trial, etc; but the details never really registered with me.

About ten years later, I discovered the 1967 film Valley of the Dolls starring, among others, Sharon Tate. Love that movie. I bought the novel and read it. Love the book.

A few years later, I got the non-fiction book Helter Skelter about the hunt for the killers of Tate and the others. I was about half way through the book when my mind clicked into place that the “Sharon Tate” mentioned in this book was the same as the “Sharon Tate” who starred in the movie.

From that point forward, it was pandemonium: I wanted to know everything I could about Tate, her life, her films, her death. It was such a tragedy that the woman who made such an impression in the movie had been killed.

I have to admit I’m still a little fixated on Tate. She may not have been the best actor in the world, but there was something electric about her on screen. At least we still have that.

11 August 2019

Time Travel

In 2001 our house was broken into. They stole only a few things, but they got our VHS player (although kindly took out the cassette and left that behind). It was at that time we decided to step into the future and invest in a DVD player. We have watched only DVDs in the past eighteen years.

Over time, we began to notice that some of the movies we wanted to see were not available as DVDs – either they had never been issued as DVDs or had been and then dropped out of production.

Clearly this wouldn’t do. So, my intrepid husband went out and found a nice used VHS player for us. We’ve been picking up odd shows and movies on VHS at various places, including thrift stores, to watch programs that we can’t see elsewhere – DVD or streaming.

There are times when modern technology just isn’t good enough!