The Beauty of Survival: Merck for Mothers, BlogHer, My Daughter & Me

It’s funny how life works out, and I mean the word life in every way possible… in every breathing, heart-filled sense. About a decade ago I was bedridden and pregnant with my daughter. We weren’t sure she, or I, would make it through. She was my second baby. I also had complications with my son, who came two years before. Neither pregnancy was easy, and back then we didn’t know why. We know now many of my issues were caused by Lupus. Regardless, bed-rest was the best we could do. I would bemoan to my husband that despite advances in modern technology every time something was going wrong while pregnant, the best my OBGYN could do for me was to tell me to rest and put my feet up. With my daughter it was no different. It was on and off rest and putting my feet up. Again getting to the point of only being allowed to get up to shower and use the bathroom. This second pregnancy was a bit more difficult though, as my little girl decided to scare us all a few days before her scheduled arrival. After heading to the hospital with consistent labor pains, the doctor ordered an emergency C-section as her heart rate dangerously dipped and I frantically panicked. Our story, however, had a happy ending. With a crying baby and a safe, if not shaken, mother. And instead of what could have been the anniversary of a tragedy, we’ll be celebrating a decade of BlogHer in San Jose with thousands of other women. Mother and daughter, together. HalaMerck A decade of blogging, a decade of strong women, a decade of survival for my daughter and I despite the reality that women around the world die from complications related to pregnancy every day.  So while in San Jose, Hala and I will be honored to attend the Merck for Mothers event at BlogHer ’14. We know we are the lucky ones, because no woman should die giving life, not when it’s preventable. Yet, as Merck for Mothers tells us, every day some 800 women around the world die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Some 800 women die every. single. day. Think about that for a minute. And we’re not just talking about third world countries that don’t have state of the art medical care. According to Merck for Mothers, the number of deaths from complications of pregnancy and childbirth has more than doubled in the past 20 years in the United States. Hala and I could have easily been statistics. Instead, my spunky 9-year-old will be learning about the amazing things women can accomplish when we join forces. She will be empowered by the many amazing speakers, encouraging her to become the best version of herself and she will have the opportunity to learn more about how she, along with many other babies that had a hard time getting into this world, can help make sure all women have proper prenatal care and healthy pregnancies. Merck for Mothers is a 10-year, $500 million initiative – to help tackle this tragic issue. If you are headed to BlogHer ’14 in San Jose check out the Merck booth (411) in the Expo Hall.

Motherhood, in a word, to me… means survival. Every day I celebrate the survival of both of my children and myself. And the survival of having simply made it through another day of this amazing journey… teaching them about life, cleaning up after their spills, making sure they eat right and behave properly and learn all of the things necessary so they can eventually leave our home and become productive members of society. Of course my kids leaving will mean another type of survival for this Mom ;). In one word, what does motherhood mean to you? Now that you know not everyone has the easiest of times even safely carrying and giving birth to a child, does motherhood mean the same as it did? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Tell me your story in the comments below and explain to me what word you would choose to express what motherhood means to you. You can also learn more about Merck for Mothers on their website and follow them via Facebook and Twitter.

Why Do You Blog? The Answer is Magical

So why are you still blogging? 

Are you hoping to make money? Become famous? Gain followers? Fans? A book deal?

Are you blogging because you want to share your family with relatives scattered across the world? Are you blogging because you found a community with which you relate? Are you blogging because you need to vent about life, family, friends, kids, partners, exes, bosses, or other bloggers?

WHY are you blogging?

It was a question posed by former-NFL receiver Donald Driver at Disney’s Social Media Moms Conference this past weekend-and it sort of knocked me off my chair.

(The kids enjoying family time at the conference on Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland)

I haven’t thought about WHY I blog in such a very long time and it has changed over and over again.

At first I was blogging for something to do, to connect with other parents, to find my ‘tribe.’

Then I was blogging as an activist. Political posts ruled the day.

Then it was a smattering of parenting and politics and life.

Then I got sick…and everything changed. 

I didn’t know what to blog for a long time. So I just kept people up to date on my health. Until I broke down and began blogging about just how hard it all can be, about just how affected the kids and my husband were by my illness. I began blogging for myself, to just get it out.

Driver spoke to the crowd this past weekend about the motivation behind our blog posts, our tweets, our Facebook posts, our photos. His message was so simple, yet one I fear I have forgotten in the past 10-years as the industry has grown. Are you using your voice for good? 

Those of us who have been around the social media block have watched the metamorphosis. We started out as just hobbiest looking for community. Sharing our ups and downs like friends do. As our voices became more powerful some of us just kept doing what we’ve been doing all along, others took the $$$ path to try and cash in on their new found attention. Starting new sites, trying to bring in the big traffic numbers. ‘Monetizing’ was the word everyone loved.

Sure I put ads up on this blog, but I lost out on a lot of opportunities because I wouldn’t write sponsored posts on this site. For me, it just didn’t fit. It still doesn’t. This is my space to share and talk about my kids, my life…not products.

However, with Driver’s words still ringing in my ears, I am wondering where Queen of Spain blog goes from here. I want to make a difference. I want to help people. I want to continue to share the ups and downs of living with a chronic illness.

I am inspired to DO MORE with this space I’ve been given and have cultivated over the years. I’m inspired to make the most of what I’ve been given-and just asking myself the question this big ‘ol football player so easily stated really changed my mindset. WHY am I blogging?

I know the answer:

I’m blogging for myself. I’m blogging for you. I’m blogging to change the world we live in and hoping to bring others along for the ride.

I’m determined to bring back the magic in blogging and the honesty, the transparency, the REAL stories of life and love and loss. Not the ones conjured up for traffic, products, brands, or sponsors.

This space is where my soul and my heart connect with others and I give you all of me- the good and the bad. And I still believe there is a place for that in the industry.

Let’s get back to basics. Let’s get back to storytelling. Let’s get back to connecting with one another just for the sake of connecting, not because it’s required to fulfill a contract by a pr company.

Let’s get back to blogging.


*I was invited to attend the DSMM Celebration. I paid my own conference fees and received gifts during the conference. All opinions, experiences and thoughts are my own.

Betrayed by the President & Obamacare? Try SAVED Instead

My KINGDOM for a $373 a month premium and ONLY $1,500 maximum out-of-pocket in order to take care of myself and the Lupus inside of me!!!

That is what fellow Lupus sufferer Emilie Lamb is complaining about as she blasts President Obama over her new health care plan, forced upon her under the Affordable Care Act. She’s the star of a commercial attacking “ObamaCare” and is giving interviews left and right slamming the President.

Tennessee resident Lamb is one of the few who received one of the now infamous letters from her insurance company, CoverTN, telling her she will not longer be able to keep her plan because it does not comply with the landmark legislation.

But let’s break down the coverage she is so upset to lose, because Lamb is ANGRY at the President, even attending the State of the Union as a guest of Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn.

CoverTN was run by the state of Tennessee. Hmmm, right away I’m raising an eyebrow, as usually those against “ObamaCare'” don’t want “government run” health insurance. Yet Lamb clearly doesn’t have that issue. Good. So let’s move on.

What was the great thing about CoverTN? According to Lamb, “The coverage was perfectly suited to my unique medical condition. It offered me low premiums, a low deductible and low co-pays for my regular trips to doctors and specialists. This plan was perfect for someone with my unique medical condition and limited financial means.”

Yes, Lupus is a unique medical condition and can be very, very expensive for those of us that suffer from the disorder. Lupus has you bouncing from test to test, doctor to doctor and ER to ER.

Lamb says she had low premiums, awesome. How low? $57 a month. WOW. That’s AMAZING. How low was Lamb’s deductible? She doesn’t say. How low were the co-pays? She doesn’t say. Low prescription coverage? Lamb doesn’t say. There is no mention of a maximum out-of-pocket from Lamb. Something KEY to us Lupus patients as most of us hit this maximum every year due to the crazy high costs of all the drugs and treatments we need in order to keep our auto-immune disorder in check. To give you an idea, I have hit my maximum out-of-pocket every single year since my Lupus diagnosis in JANUARY of that year, after my FIRST TREATMENT.

January. I’m not kidding.

Mine was $6,000 for an individual and $12,000 $18,000* for the family under our old plan. We’re saving $2,000 in that category on our new ACA plan and I was THRILLED. Yes, that was a SAVINGS. So to have my maximum be $1500 like Lamb’s…WOW, I’d be crying tears of joy and frankly licking the President’s boots for saving us so much money. I’m jealous.

But, like most Americans, we’re all on a tight budget. So I wanted to figure out just how much more Lamb is paying under ACA and why she’s so upset. She claims she’ll be paying at least $6,000 more per year.

$6,000 was my maximum out-of-pocket so again, I’m jealous.

I know we all have different incomes and an extra $300 a month isn’t easy for anyone. So I headed over to CoverTN to try and figure out what her old plan was all about and why she thinks it was the be all and end all of Lupus coverage. I quickly learned CoverTN was, by far, the scariest type of coverage someone with a chronic illness could possibly have. The only saving grace was it was affordable for those who simply couldn’t afford anything else.

You need to understand something about Lupus patients. We are chronically sick. Like…as in, all the damn time. That means we are CONSTANTLY in and out of the hospital, in and out of the ER, at our doctor’s office, undergoing treatment, missing work, having tests done, undergoing X-rays and MRIs and really weird brain tests to make sure we haven’t lost any cognitive skills. We accumulate thousands upon thousands upon hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses per year. That means we NEED an insurance plan that has things like NO annual caps, NO penalties for pre-existing conditions and NO waiting periods as we get SICKER while we wait and NO lifetime limits.

Guess what CoverTN had? You guessed it, all of those things I just listed. In fact, in announcing they are no longer going to offer the program, they lamented their inability to screw over the chronically ill: “…those that administer the Cover Tennessee programs, can no longer implement annual or lifetime limits, institute a waiting period for pre-existing conditions, require a ‘go bare’ period, or deny an individual coverage due to a pre-existing condition. Insurance companies must also cover preventative services without any out-of-pocket costs to the member.”

But it gets worse for a Lupus patient who had CoverTN, “CoverTN is a limited benefit program that has a $25,000 annual limit.”

HOLY SHIT (sorry, but this deserves a curse word) $25,000!!!!!

Just ONE ROUND OF TREATMENT FOR MY LUPUS COSTS ALMOST DOUBLE THAT. $44,000 is what was billed to Aetna for one round of IVIG for me. That’s what I get EVERY 2-3 weeks!!!! That doesn’t even count the Rituxan I receive every four months or the 17 medications I take monthly or the co-pay every time I go see my doctor or the labs every time I go see my doctor. Just ONE of my treatments ALONE wipes out everything CoverTN had to offer me.

I would hit CoverTN’s $25,0000 annual limit the first week of January. 

I would also hit their lifetime limit. Accrue their penalty for having a pre-existing condition. Have to undergo a waiting period with NO HEALTH CARE  just to QUALIFY and have to pay for basic preventative services of which are ESSENTIAL to keep my system healthy to fight Lupus.

Now, maybe I am an extreme case and Lamb is a minor case. She is, after all, working. She says in the article she’s taking on a second job. My Lupus does not allow me to work.

However, according to information given to me by the Lupus Foundation of America the mean annual direct costs of people with lupus ranged from $13,735-$20,926; the costs of those with and without nephritis ranged from $29,034-$62,651 and $12,273-$16,575, respectively. (source)

That means Lamb’s CoverTN health care was essentially a tiny notch above catastrophic coverage- if that. Her new plan actually will help her should she have a Lupus flare. Except Lamb says, “For me, the impact of ObamaCare is a health plan that is both unaffordable and uncaring. For a law named  ‘The Affordable Care Act,’ this is both backward and perverse.”

For those who don’t know, I was released from the hospital at the end of last week. Lupus flare.

Our new Affordable Care Act plan info was given to the admitting people as I cried in the emergency room, knowing full well I was going to be stuck in the hospital for days. I waited to hear the usual “That will be $500 for your ER copay, your deductible and other bills will follow…would you like to pay now or should we bill you?”

Instead I heard ‘That will be $150 for your ER copay, you have no deductible. Would you like to pay that now or shall we bill you?”

Uncaring? Backwards? Perverse? I shudder to think what would have happened to Lamb if she found herself being admitted to the hospital for a Lupus flare under her old plan.

Unfortunately Emilie Lamb doesn’t see it this way. She went on to say “When you were on the campaign trail, you promised that ObamaCare would help me with my medical problems. You promised that people like me with pre-existing conditions would be better off. And you promised that if I liked my health-care plan, I could keep it. Mr. President, you’ve now broken all of these promises — and not just to me.”

Except she couldn’t be more wrong. She now will be able to receive the expensive treatments to help with her medical problems. She won’t be discriminated against for her pre-existing condition.

However Lamb is 100% correct in that she did not get to keep the health care plan she liked, and I, for one, am glad.

But what of that extra $300 per month? Believe me, I’m not dismissing the extra cost for Lamb. So I took a look at what was available, with the best estimates I could make from what she has disclosed publicly, and plugged it into for an estimate on plans she could have chosen for less per month. Even the minimum plans would be a step up from the CoverTN plan she loved. Some of the bronze and silver plans were as low as $137 a month NOT including the tax credit Lamb would qualify for, easily putting her in the $60 range- the same amount she way paying previously with BETTER coverage.

I also spoke with my rheumatologist’s office and they confirmed there are several programs for Lupus, RA, Fibromyalgia, and other patients with auto-immune disorders to help off-set their costs. There are a handful offered through my doctor who partners with various organizations, so I would highly suggest Lamb check with her rheumatologist for similar.

Emilie Lamb, I am sorry you feel betrayed by President Obama. I just hope in time you will see no one is trying to ruin your life by forcing you to give up your bare-bones health insurance. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite.

Should you happen to read this, I am happy to help in any way I can. Something tells me those in the White House you call uncaring and perverse are willing to help too. Whether you realize it or not, they already have.


 *cost of our Aetna plan family maximum revised after double checking the photos I made available of our plans on my original enrollment post & subsequent media coverage 

Of Leeches and Heroes

I get a lot of emails. Especially now that I’ve gone public with my illness and the hardship it has brought on my family.

Some emails lift my spirits in ways I can’t explain. Others who understand how difficult it is to manage a chronic illness and a family, yet keep on laughing

Some emails break my heart. The stories upon stories of just what getting sick can do to one household. It is why I fight so hard for Obamacare. It is why I make sure I scream from the rooftops that those of us who need things like assurances that our pre-existing conditions won’t be taken into account when we apply for insurance are heard.

Because it’s not a joke when we say it really is a matter of life and death. It is not rhetoric. 

We worked hard to turn the Affordable Care Act into law. No, it’s not perfect. It is a start. We will NOT turn back. The current debate in Congress over Food Stamps? We’re not turning back there either, because in case you haven’t noticed…many of us who have gotten sick now need help due to the absolute disaster of a healthcare system we have in this country. We are drowning in medical debt at my house and we have great insurance.

This is just one of the many emails, just one of the many stories. This is your neighbor, your friend, your family.

Read what was sent to me below and then go to HealthCare.Gov to learn more.

You will not DEFUND ME. You will not DEFUND US.


I Am a Leech

by Anonymous 

I may have an auto-immune disease. I am a woman. I am also poor. My insurance is supplied by the state. I have five children – they are also using state funded insurance. I get food stamps. According to the GOP, I and my family are leeches.

Let me tell you a little something about living as a leech.

For years I worked as a nurse aide, then after an injury at work I began working as a freelance writer and blogger. My husband worked in the rental industry and worked other jobs. His last job involved leaving home before six in the morning and getting back after eleven in the evening. I was pregnant with our first son. We did not have a lot. We made due, like everyone else. Our oldest daughter has autism and we worked to place her in the best programs possible.

My husband was injured on the job while working in the rental industry, but he kept working until jobs began to dry up during the Great Recession. I kept writing, bringing in extra to try to make those ends meet. He worked with a friend painting homes, then one day he came home with his injured knee swollen and something bulging from the side. That was the end of being able to walk without pain or swelling for him.

I took on as much work as possible. Trying to make ends meet when clients want to pay you one dollar for five hundred words? That burns you out. Non-paying clients, low paying clients, and then advertisements that end up being a spam scam? Yeah.

For years we made due with very little. We refused to ask for food stamps, no matter how low the pantry was. He and I went without eating to ensure the children always ate. One day I began falling ill with mysterious symptoms. The day I couldn’t lift my fingers to type was the day I went to the emergency room. The doctor there told me she believed I could have Lupus.

At the time I had no insurance. No primary doctor to fall back on. No tests to go for. Nothing. We saved our tax return and moved out of the city, I hoped living in the country would help my symptoms and give my children a better place to grow. After almost a year we decided we would need to apply for at least Medicaid and food stamps (SNAP). We qualified.

Let me tell you, if you think that SNAP recipients are just handed a huge amount, you’re wrong. We qualified for $450 a month. That is for seven people. We utilize meals plans, careful shopping, and coupons in order to make it last. This leeching family spends more time ensuring that our benefits are well spent than most people ever imagined. Processed food? No thank you. Our meals are made from scratch. If my children eat cookies and cinnamon rolls, they’re homemade.

It bothers me to accept assistance. Even though I’ve paid taxes and should be thankful for this safety net. It bothers me to the point that I hide my EBT card in a way that it cannot be seen when paying for food. Even though our cart is full of nutritious food for our children. Because no matter what you do, you’re bad when buying with food stamps.

Don’t believe me? Look at arguments online. If a food stamp user spends money on ‘junk’, they’re bad. Anything that is considered sugary or processed is wrong. But wait, if you spend your benefits on natural, healthy foods like fruit and vegetables, you’re still shoving your benefits in people’s faces by buying what they can’t or won’t. Honest – I could buy nothing but flour, sugar, vegetables, and everything else to make meals from scratch but the moment someone saw the one six pack of Pepsi in my cart? I’m a Food Stamp Queen.

What does my health have to do with this? Well, we applied because I was having a hard time writing. Heck, I was having a hard time walking from my bedroom to the kitchen for morning coffee. I was in severe pain. Imagine your bones burning. Literally burning away inside of you. Your muscles weak and shaking from the sheer exhaustion just getting out of bed caused. Typos all over your articles because lifting your fingers was too much.

That’s why we have these ‘benefits’. I’m smiling as I write the word benefit because, really, there are people that believe there is a benefit to being sick and poor. The reality is that when you have state insurance your doctor runs only the basic tests. If those tests show nothing severe, you’re not sick. You’re sent home and told to take some ibuprofen and cut your stress levels. Have a knee with severe dislocation and torn, deteriorated cartilage? Bone worn down until the grinding is audible to anyone listening?

Go home and take some ibuprofen.

This is my benefit. This is my husband’s benefit. Being stared at as if we are criminals, made to feel ashamed for making sure our children are fed. Not allowed more extensive tests to help us get better so we can get off of the system. To top that off, because we stooped to ask for help, there are many that would deny us the right to health care at all. Thanks to ObamaCare we can have the most basic of care, but there are those that would deny us this. Why? Because the sick and poor do not deserve to exist. My benefits do not pay my bills fully, because of this my propane company is pocketing a big $87 a month that they refuse to put toward out back bill and won’t deliver anything else until all $1800 is paid. This is after paying them faithfully every month for a year – they misquoted us on the full amount, but it’s still our problem.

We don’t have a car, social services refuses to help with transportation, even though that’s the law. Shortage of funds in our county. The bus route in our rural area was cut, so that’s out of the question. Without transportation to social service mandated tests or reporting, we will be ‘sanctioned’. Even with all of these so-called ‘benefits’ we are worse off than before. We can’t afford to pull out of the system but we can’t afford to stay in it. The stress from it causes my symptoms to rear their ugly head and that causes more stress until I can’t work.

Every time my body decides to flare up symptoms, some part of my body is being attacked. It is being damaged. Without the tests and care to determine the cause, the damage progresses. Without medication to control this, I will die early. My family will be left without a mother. A mother that loves them enough to work through the pain, the exhaustion, and to bite back her pride enough to apply for assistance. My husband will still be disabled and without me, he will need to find a way to supply their needs, even if that means being a prisoner of the system. Being shamed for swallowing his own pride.

We are sick. We are poor. We are leeches. Yet still, we fight. We fight to find work. To keep our family above water. We will continue to do so until our bodies are broken. Why? Because that is what an American does. Regardless of your party – you fight to survive. If that means asking for help when you’re broken, so be it.

I am a leech. But, I will live until I die whether anyone likes it or not.

Living with Lupus: Reclaiming Me

Taking back my life from Lupus is no easy task.

But I’m doing it. Slowly. Piece by piece. Part by part. Brick by brick.

I’ve learned to manage the ups and downs of the pain. Which, truth be told, has been the hardest part. When you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning or fear what level of hell awaits when you open your eyes every morning…then you know what it’s like to live with an auto-immune disorder that makes your body hurt day in and day out.

But I’m finally used to that now. I can get out of bed and handle myself like a nearly normal person. I can make myself tea, take my pills, make lunch for the kids and pack their backpacks. All while grimacing in my head. As the doctors and nurses always ask ‘Are you at a 10 or a 4 or a 7?’ in my pain levels…it doesn’t matter. I can be at a 10 and still go about the morning routine. Because I have to. This is life now.

And because I won’t let it ruin my day and I won’t let it RUN my day any longer.

Then I had to take back the scheduling of my life. Yes, basically I spend my days in a doctor’s office or in treatment with an IV hooked to my veins.

I’ve now learned to schedule everything so it works with everyone else’s schedules. I go when the kids are at school and my husband is at work and no one is the wiser. I’ve taken back the part where everyone would have to move their day and lives around to take care of me.

And onto my bold step. The big one that will test how much this Lupus ‘fog’ has taken over. While I have taken some community college courses online in the past, I’ve kicked it up and re-enrolled in the school where I started: Michigan State University. I had to write a short essay explaining why I wanted to be re-admitted. And for some reason, they took me back.


I’m officially a Spartan again, although I’m not sure I ever really stopped being a Spartan. I’m hoping to finish my degree in journalism by remaining a parti-time, disabled student, taking courses online from my home in California.

I’m excited. I’m very nervous. Bust most of all I am proud of myself. I found a way to keep my mind busy while I figure out my next big step: taking back my body.

Stay tuned.

From Exercise-Fiend to Vegan: Moving Forward

I spent the better part of the day trying to figure out how to change.

Should I go vegan? Vegetarian?

Should I try getting up at 5am every morning and walk to the end of the block again? Then in a week around the corner? Then in two weeks around the block? Or should I try to get in the pool daily and swim?

Should I cut out dairy? Maybe carbs.

My doctor gave me the ok to try whatever I wanted and gently reminded me nothing would really make a huge difference until I was off all these steroids saving my life.

…off all these steroids saving my life.

I’m not sure about the saving my life part. Sure they are saving my organs, but what life are they leaving me with?

There has to be a happy medium here. I’ve been trying to find it for a long time now and I’m at my wit’s end. I have to LIVE.

I want to enjoy myself not just stay alive. And my situation is not so desperate where I can’t think about doing these things, even my doctor agrees. It’s why he has no trouble with me flying again at the end of the month to see family (so long as my lab results and body are doing well) and it’s why he won’t stop me if I want to try new things.

The question is…what? I know I’m limited. I know I won’t put my body in danger, it has to stay here and healthy for those I love. But I need to have A LIFE. A life that includes romance and outings and friends and socializing and fun.

I feel like drastic changes are needed in order to take control of this situation. I know I can’t take control of Lupus, but maybe I can change enough of my habits and my lifestyle that Lupus will have less of a chance of seeping into every part of my life…as it has.

Right now, post hospital stay, it’s all-consuming and all around us and all a little too much. I can’t push it out of my mind or shield the family because there is too much aftermath to deal with. Hopefully that portion will be over with soon. Then I can go about life for them without mentioning the “L” word for a while.

In the meantime I will formulate a plan to move forward, again. Thus far I will begin school again in the Fall. Enough to keep my brain going so it doesn’t go numb and I work towards a goal.

Physically it’s harder. I have limits to what my body can do, but they aren’t so great that I can’t overcome them and they aren’t so great that every so often I can’t get off my duff and move. It won’t be easy. It will take time. But change has to come.

I can’t live like this. Ideas are welcome.

Welcome to Hotel Henry Mayo

I am still trying to wrap my head around what happened. What went wrong.

Except nothing went wrong. At least, not that I can pinpoint just yet.

I got a stomach bug. Just a simple stomach bug.

I was learning my limits. Learning to deal with this disorder. Learning how to live again and all of the sudden…a three night, four-day stay in hotel Hospital complete with blood transfusion.

Still trying to assess hospital damage physically and emotionally on entire house

Thank you to all the friends and family who brought over meals, visited, and were just plain there to listen as we waded through the unexpected stay.

I have so much more to tell you and to say…about how this came just days after a very stressful test by my disability insurance company, wanting to make sure I really deserve that check they give me…about how this came after telling White House staffers living with a chronic illness means I could be hospitalized at any time (bingo!) and our lives turned upside down- like so many millions of Americans. And about my roommates, the first of which did not have insurance. The second was trying to figure out Cobra and send in a check on time so her hospital stay would be covered.

Sometimes I wonder how we Americans survive. I have to think about the bills that will arrive from this stay instead of concentrating on getting well. And worry that my disability check could be gone at any time for any reason as they put me through test after test to make sure I’m really sick.

Maybe this last round of treatment that had to be administered in the hospital, and two units of AB – transfused in the hospital, will be enough for Mutual of Omaha.

Probably not.

Then again I have my appeal for Social Security disability in October…

I am thankful the Affordable Care Act means Aetna can’t fight as hard to throw me off my husband’s insurance when they see I was admitted and received a ton of treatment. And that those lifetime caps aren’t an issue- or we’d be screwed. I don’t think people understand just how important this first step at changing our heath care system really is…and the GOP fight to take down ‘ObamaCare’ wages on while we sit in hospital beds moaning and complaining about the system.

Here is that first step at changing the system. Just a reminder. It may not matter to you right now, but it will eventually. When you’re at the ER with your kid, or when you’re taking your Mom to get her physical (a ton of preventative care measures are free now). I know, I know. I’ll stop. But not until you go check out HealthCare.Gov and at least know how it will all affect your family.

More later as my crusade continues…just not from a hospital bed this time. I hope.

The Vest Family Goes to Washington

It will come as zero surprise to you, my dear readers, that I have trouble sitting still. From the minute I was diagnosed with Lupus, I knew I had to do something and do something big. There was no way I was going to take this disorder laying down and no way that once I was capable I would use everything I had to bring attention to Lupus and just how crappy it can be.

Keep in mind where we started:

My family Googled the disorder and found outdated information and very little information. And what they found scared the hell out of them.

When we finally got some good info, we were told research was scarce and drugs for the disorder even more scarce.

As I lost organs to surgeries and struggled with pain and fatigue and went from doctor to doctor, no one seemed to know what in the hell we were dealing with. Four rheumatologists. Three gastro docs. Specialists from UCLA and Cedars-Sinai. From there,  a Lupus advocate was born.

As I continued to rely on my husband for support to get me through those tough days and to just pick up the slack around the house, a Lupus advocate was born.

As my young children visited the hospital time and time again, or were rushed to a friend’s house while Dad drove Mom to the emergency room as she moaned in pain once again, two little Lupus advocates were born.

As part of the Lupus Advocacy Summit, my family and I dipped back into my “other” life…the one I had before Lupus changed it all. The one you all may remember where I traveled a lot and actually did something other than sit on my couch, complaining about pain or fatigue. The one where I spoke to large audiences in Austin or Reno or New York or Washington. The one I miss, terribly. The one where I met many of you in person and we exchanged hugs.

Then you watched me change.

Sure the political rants and raves continued…but not as much.

The hockey fan in me still used twitter to watch playoff games…but not as often or as closely.

The tweets weren’t as frequent. The Facebook posts a little light.

My body would rather sleep, frankly. Or it would rather have its medication, THEN sleep.

You watched the photos continue to be posted but I was in less and less of them, frightened by my steroid puffed up figure and face.

Yet you continued to cheer me on. For that, I am forever grateful. It gave me the courage to remember who I am and what I am capable of.

So it occurred to me that I know some pretty damn important people, and they just might be able to help. After all, I do share my life online and millions have watched me go from interviewing President Barack Obama to an IV in my arm, receiving treatment, twice per month. And I KNEW more needed to know about auto-immune disorders and chronic illness. The toll is takes on our lives, on our finances, on our loved ones. Hell, you read my tweets as we battled with JP Morgan Chase over our mortgage. As we continue to battle Social Security and Mutual of Omaha for my disability.

So I made the call. Or, more accurately, I sent the emails. And without hesitation the White House accepted my offer to sit down with my family, and a representative from the Lupus Foundation, to hear OUR story…and yours.

Yes we are at the White House #lupusadvocacy we have some important meetings

They want to help. They want the new Affordable Care Act to help. And we are all going to work together to make sure everyone stays informed on how to put the new information and site to use for YOU.

That means when I am well enough I’m going to help spread the RIGHT information to the public on how they can access the marketplaces, where they can find preventative care (did you know a whole lot of it is FREE NOW thanks to ACA?) and just plain how they can get HELP.

And keep in mind,  just as importantly…they listened. The White HOUSE listened as I talked about what many of us go through: the multiple doctors before we even know what the heck we’re dealing with. The bills that never end because we don’t have a cure, just ongoing treatments, the endless toll on our support systems- if we even HAVE support systems. And with wide eyes, like so many others, they listened with sympathy and awe learning for the first time what it’s like to have Lupus, an auto-immune disease, a chronic illness.

Lupus advocacy reached the White House this week and that is just the start. Now the real work begins as we turn our advocacy into funding, research, and relief for all of those- myself included- who suffer.

I also want to note that we were lucky enough to sit down with our own Congressman Buck McKeon. Now, I know what you are thinking “OMG! Erin sat down with a Republican and no blood was spilled and no headlines were made and no one was arrested?” It’s true. The Lupus folks set up the meeting and my family and I happily accepted. We need all the allies we can get in this fight- Lupus is non-partisan.

Congressman McKeon was gracious and asked us many questions about the disorder. We, in turn, asked him to support HR 460 – The Patients’ Access to Treatment Act. I truly hope and EXPECT his support.