I felt it building and then it hit me hard. Suddenly I couldn't think straight, my mind skipping from one unfinished thought to the next, to the next, to the next and me unable to stop them or even make sense of them.
At the same time I knew I was out of control but I didn't know how to calm down and articulate what was wrong. It felt too complicated to explain and the words wouldn't come. All I knew for sure was that I wanted it all to stop and the problem to be made right.
In the three years since my first diagnosis, I had never reacted to anything this badly. You say I've got pancreatic cancer? Oh good, I can stop my despised daily workout routine.
You say I might live longer if you slice me open all the way down the front of my body and take out a bunch of my organs? Well, okay, let's try it.
Now you say I've got COPD too? Oh, for god's sake. Well, tell me how to deal with it and let's move on.
It's not that I took any of these events anywhere near lightly – only that I am good at identifying what cannot be changed, sorting out options and getting on with the more interesting parts of life.
But not this time, and for something that should have been so much simpler than those real-life examples above.
There I was at the table in my dining room mid-morning on Monday, full of frustration, salty tears running down my face while stuttering out unrelated words and phrases to my hospice nurse on the other side of the table.
I will spare you the most boring details and just say that the discount on the gigantic co-pay for a drug I need and cannot otherwise afford, is expiring in August. I was able to get the discount a year ago due to the kind intervention of a pharmacist.
When, on Monday, my nurse called the pharmacy to discuss renewal of the discount, the person on the telephone insisted that the pharmacy had taken no part in the original arrangement for the discount, that it could have happened only if I had personally spoken with my Medicare Part D provider.
That's just not true. I was there. I know what happened.
My nurse's further call to a physician only complicated the issue and nothing was resolved.
Now that I'm back to my normal, uncrazed self, I think I know what really set off my meltdown. It was the lie from the person at the pharmacy, a lie she repeated at least once and maybe twice, word for word. The certainty in her voice was infuriating and unnerving. (Remind you of anyone?)
When you know for sure, when you can see with your own eyes that the sky is blue and someone insists it is red, your mind can splinter. Or go numb. Or, if you are an old woman like me who needs a specific drug to breathe, you just lose it. Or, at least, I did.
There was a time – for most of my adult life - when I had a talent for sorting out malfunctions, getting past petty bureaucrats and charming intransigent helpers into fixing a problem. I took some pride in being able to do those things.
Now I'm old. I'm tired. Sometimes my body hurts in various places. I lack the patience I once had for cajoling people into doing what they are paid to do. And after my Monday meltdown, I lost the rest of the day, exhausted from the frustration and the anxiety.
Eventually this will work out but there is a larger issue: it's not nice to treat an old woman this way, and I don't mean just me. I'm not unique – if it happens to me, it happens to thousands of other people. It shouldn't be this hard to talk over a prescription problem and track down the right person to help deal with it.
And many of all those other people stuck in a communication snakepit don't have a nurse as dedicated as mine.
UPDATE: Monday afternoon, that nurse spent two hours of her own time on many phone calls tracking down someone who understood the problem and could deal with it. She phoned me Monday evening to let me know that I should hear within three days whether I have been approved for a continued discount.
At 9AM Tuesday, I received the approval via a telephone message from the Part D insurer. My relief knows no bounds and I am deeply impressed with my nurse on several levels. The terrible thing is that in our new coronavirus world I cannot hug her.