Monday, June 30, 2014

Countdown and Prayer Request

Today I learned that the results of an important test will (most likely) be available to me on July 9th. I should be clear that I'm *not* asking for prayers of patience. Hahaha. We all know how those end! I'm just asking for prayers to deal with the results either way.

If you'd like to know the insane back story that goes with that prayer request, please read further.

When my godmother died from aggressive ovarian cancer earlier this year, my doctor and I decided that it was time to consider the BRCA genetic test. It wasn't just another death in my family. It was that my godmother was fine one week - had mild pain in her belly button the next week - and was dead and being eulogized the next week.

There is a lot of cancer in my family, a lot of it female, a lot of it aggressive, and with all the reproductive treatments I've undergone, I just didn't feel like I had the capacity to say 'no' to getting tested. The implications of being 85% more predisposed to ovarian cancer mean too much when you are TTC with ovulation induction and you just watched your family member suddenly die. Especially when the recommended course of treatment is often to remove the ovaries to prevent activation or spread of the disease...

God is in the details, isn't He?

The BRCA test requires extensive pre-authorization paperwork, family history, genetic counseling, a blood draw, and of course patience to wait four weeks for the results. Regardless of the results and whether they are in my favor or not, I found God very plainly in this process of considering, opting-into, and getting this genetic test.

A month and a half before I got the blood drawn was when my doctor ordered the test. The 3rd party company that processes the pre-authorization sat on it for two weeks. The form then got lost. The nurse didn't get a follow-up fax requesting additional information. The insurance company had no record of a requested test. I called and tried to shepherd along the process from all three points, but it was obvious that this wasn't going to be straightforward or easy.

In fact, it wasn't even until halfway through the process that I learned my insurance company requires genetic counseling before it will even issue pre-authorization for the actual test. And guess how long that genetic counseling pre-authorization itself takes to get? Yup. Two weeks.

So there I was in the middle of May, knowing that my insurance ends at the end of the month, hearing that 4 weeks of bureaucracy lay ahead. I was cranky. And not willing to take no for an answer. But no one seemed to care about my resolve. And no one was taking ownership of the situation to help me.

And that's where God decided He needed to make His presence known.

Somewhere I got the inspiration to call the 3rd party company and ask to speak to the receptionist. We talked about my family history briefly and the reason for the urgency, as well as all the pitfalls I had encountered trying to get this test approved. She tried her best, but ultimately wasn't able to help. Even though she was able to get the genetic counseling pre-authorized with the nurse at my doctor's office and my insurance, it didn't matter because all of the genetic counselors had been booked solid for weeks. There wasn't a phone appointment available before my insurance ran out.

It was the end of the month. Literally, the last business day of the month. And the business day ended without the test approved and my heart sank because I knew I couldn't afford it on my own. Was I just destined to live the same fate as the female relatives before me?

Then the phone rings at 8 pm from out of nowhere. I'm not expecting any calls. It's from an un-identified number. Who is this?? Turns out it's a Japanese accountant calling me from the genetic counseling company to answer any questions I have about costs. I explain the situation to her and how it ended poorly and that there was no way I could get the test now. She sounded heartbroken and apologized before hanging up.

About forty-five minutes later, my phone rings AGAIN. What is going on here? Another un-identified number. Who it is this time?? To my shock and amazement, it's a genetic counseling scheduler. I'm staring at the phone like it's a cruel joke. Now I have to tell him it doesn't matter and I can't get the test. The scheduler interupts me and says that he heard how important it was for me to get the test scheduled and that a spot had just opened up. Just one - and if he didn't nab it immediately and put in my details, it would surely be taken by someone else scheduling the next available appointment. He said "like a last-minute plane ticket to Fiji for $99, these get swooped up - especially the few weekend time slots we have available". Ok. Shut up and answer the man's questions!! We hurriedly had him schedule something for me. On Saturday, the last day of the month. In the afternoon.

If that phone counseling session lasted an hour, it would allow me 15 minutes total with which to get to the lab and get my bloodwork drawn. Yeesh. Was my guardian angel working off some penance??? I sat there staring at the phone after the call, wondering what God was up to and how this was going to work out. And yes, feeling a little like you do at the end of an episode of 24 - where you are on the edge of your seat, biting your fingernails and wondering if the bomb gets diffused and the bad guys get caught.

The next day comes and I get a call from a very friendly genetic counselor. I joke that it's like an awkward coffee date with a girlfriend where she asks everything about my life (umm....cuz she did) and then just takes stock of the information instead of sharing back (ummm....cuz she totally did). Y'all - I was expected to know the details of my grandfathers colon polyps. What kinds were they? How many were there? What age was he? I'm sorry, you lost me at: GRANDFATHER. COLON. POLYPS. For real? I digress...

After we finished building out the most depressing cancer version of my Ancestry dot (com) family tree EVAR, I'm staring at the clock and thinking to myself - how close is this really going to be God? It's now 20 minutes until the lab closes for the day. I still have to drive there. And I still have to be told whether I qualify for the @$*#%)#*%#%)*%# .........(ahem).......TEST. I take a leap of faith and get in my vehicle as I'm listening to all of the awful treatment options that await me if the test returns a positive outcome. "How do I feel about that?" she asks me. How do you think I feel about it? Next question!

The counselor asks me what the background noise is (seatbelts, radio, ignition, beeping, door slamming...). I explain that I have 18 minutes left until I can't get the blood draw at all and that if her outcome is going to be that I should receive the test, I have to be at the lab before it closes. And I'm not even sure if they will take someone for a blood draw if they arrive so near to their close-of-business. 

So that's how this adventure ended: hearing that my situation passed the rigorous vetting process while I was parking my vehicle in front of the lab in a completely empty parking lot. The blinds were being closed as I learned that I was pre-authorized. I was approved for the test 5 minutes before the lab's official posted hours listed them as closed. And it was Saturday - how happy do you think they were to see me?? I got inside the lab 4 minutes before they closed (think: foot in the door and cold angry stares as they were actually closing it for the day). Blood was drawn. 3 minutes later, it was done.

The approval was processed on the last minute of the last day of the month, in the last month of my insurance.

So the results will be ready in nine days. Praying for a no and preparing my heart for a yes. Is there a patron saint of BRCA tests? Because I have exactly a novena's worth of time until I get this fate-filled answer. And I could use some intercession on this one.


  1. WOW, how crazy that everything worked out EXACTLY on time (albeit cutting it close, but still)! God definitely has His hand in this. I wish there was a patron saint for every single thing...wouldn't that be great? I pray to St. Philomena a lot, because she has ties to fertility as well as to "hopeless causes"...which sounds negative, but is positive really, because she has delivered me from a so-called "lost cause" many-a-time. I'll be praying for you for sure!!!!!!!

  2. Praying for your intentions with this. Love that it worked out for you to get this info. My mom had ovarian cancer so I may need to look into this too... <3

  3. Oh my word. That is crazy! I'm glad it worked out, but sometimes doesn't it make you want to say, "Really, God? Did it have to be so down to the wire?" Yes, I will be praying for peace while you wait for the results!