Don’t be Haunted, Be Proactive!

While we associate breast cancer with pink and ribbons, it is far from pretty. It’s more like a Haunted House. Some of my friends and family members have been unexpectedly shoved all the way into the darkest Haunted House you can imagine. And even with support, the hallways and rooms are very lonely, grim and scary. It’s a nightmare that’s incredibly emotional and physically taxing on the body and mind. With having the knowledge that I was BRCA2+ carrying a risk of 60-80% chance of ovarian, breast, melanoma and pancreatic cancer I only had to stand in the foyer of that Haunted House and was given the chance to not go any further. My situation was not if but when. Once I was diagnosed with Melanoma, I then made the decision to be have  prophylactic surgeries: a full hysterectomy, bilateral mastectomy and DIEP Flap breast reconstruction (with multiple revisions). In all, I’ve had 8 surgeries in the past 24 months with the last one being 4 weeks ago. It has not been an easy journey. I have experienced setbacks, but I have absolutely no regrets. I have an amazing medical team who has taken me apart and put me back together again! I also could not have done this without my incredible support team who has helped me through the good, bad and ugly. I ultimately knew it was all worth it when I heard my breast surgeon say “you now only have a 2-5% risk of breast and ovarian cancer.” I had the chance at prophylactic surgeries, but many are not given that choice. I tell everyone these personal details not to get sympathy or accolades, but to urge you to get tested for BRCA and other heredity cancers if there is a history of cancer in your family. For reliable testing, visit a genetic counselor or order an at-home test at It’s a simple saliva test that could prevent you from having to unwillingly navigate the gruesome halls of a Haunted House far far away from the world of pink ribbons. My dad was my carrier and he gave me this amazing knowledge before he passed away and now I am making it my mission to encourage others to get tested and to take charge. Fight cancer before it fights you! Be vigilant! There are many resources and options out there to help you find the best path for you.

-J. Gibbons


Will My Insurance Company Pay for a Mastectomy to Reduce My Risk of Breast Cancer?

How to Maximize Insurance Coverage and Discover the Full Range of Benefits

health insuranceHealth insurance coverage can be confusing, and often patients don’t know what is covered, which can lead to problems and extra expense. Following are three ways to maximize your insurance coverage and get the most for your money.

Premium cost isn’t the only consideration.

Many employers offer only one health insurance policy, but you do have the option to purchase coverage elsewhere. If you choose to purchase privately, look at more than the monthly premium before buying. Plans vary widely in their coverage and total cost, and some will be a better fit with your family’s health situation and desired coverage.

You should consider several things when buying health insurance:

  • Coverage should be adequate for any current health issues, including paying for prescriptions, medical equipment, and services such as physical therapy and nursing care.
  • Pre-existing condition coverage varies, but normally there is a waiting period before insurance will cover those health issues.
  • Deductible is the amount you pay each year before insurance goes into effect. This may be separate from your copayment.
  • Coinsurance is the percentage you pay after insurance kicks in. This typically varies from 10–50%.
  • Maximum out-of-pocket expense is the maximum dollar amount you will pay each year. Once you have reached that amount, insurance pays 100% up to the maximum plan dollar limit.
  • Maximum plan dollar limit is the most the policy will pay. Plans may have an annual and / or lifetime maximum dollar limit.
  • Copayment is the amount you pay at the time you visit the doctor, pick up a prescription, or enter the hospital. This payment may or may not count toward your deductible.

You will also want to check whether your doctors and pharmacies are listed in the insurance company’s network of providers. If they are, your visits and prescriptions will cost less. If they aren’t, you’ll pay considerably more—and some plans will not cover any care given out of network.

Read your policy thoroughly.

It’s not exciting reading, but familiarizing yourself with your policy will avoid nasty surprises and extra cost and hassle later. Speaking of surprises, you might find services and products are covered that you never thought of, such as alternative treatments and over-the-counter medicine.

Insurers send updated policies regularly, so be sure to read those as well, and keep the summary of benefits handy for quick reference.

Double-check your policy before, during, and after you receive care.

Make sure that everything you need is covered by your policy. Check whether you will need referrals from your physician or authorizations from the insurance company before you go in for care. Every insurance company has specific procedures they follow, and straying from them can cost money or time.

Any time you receive care, you need to be proactive about ensuring that your doctor’s office is coding and submitting your information correctly. Afterward, carefully check all bills to see that the insurance company is paying them. Don’t be afraid to talk to the insurance company directly and do what you can to maximize your coverage.

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