Saturday, October 25, 2008

First appointment at the Fibro and Fatigue Center of Atlanta

A lot of people have expressed interest in learning more about the FFC and what they do there when they found out I was going to go there, and it hasn't been easy for me to find first hand accounts or unbiased reviews of the Centers (one exception: Fibromyalgia Diaries on Kitten's Scratching Post), so maybe my postings on this subject can save some of you some time in that respect. Here's all the scoop on my first appointment.

I did a lot of research before deciding to go to the FFC, but I haven't posted on that yet because I've been sick...

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease in August. Yeah, just what I need, one more diagnosis. Anyhoo, there seems to be some kind of connection between FM and Hashimoto's - more on that to come, I'm sure, but this new diagnosis is one of the reasons I decided to bite the bullet and go to the FFC now - that and the new package price program described below.

I'm just getting over the second in as many weeks, of bouts with flu-ish symptoms of fever, chills, nausea, headache, and extreme fatigue. In between these two bouts, on September 30, I had my first appointment at the FFC.

I have to travel for three hours to get to the closest center, which is the FFC of Atlanta.

Coming into Atlanta: We have to go all the way through the city to the northern suburb of Kennesaw.

We stayed at a hotel that was recommended by the FFC (and got a pretty good discount for mentioning the FFC), the Hilton Garden Inn. The hotel was OK, but since I never had the time or energy to use the hot tub or heated pool, I think we will stay at a less expensive hotel for my next appointment, next month.

RE: The costs - One of the main reasons I am going to try the FFC now is that they are offering a new "Comprehensive Care Program (CCP)". It's still expensive. They don't actually tell you the costs at the website. You have to call them up and ask them to email you a copy, which I did. Here's the scoop:


First we have the pay as you go program. The first two appointments are one hour with our medical team and cost $ 390 each and your follow up appointments are half hour with our medical team and cost $199. In order to get back your quality of life back you can expect to have about 10 appointments the first year. Supplements can run about $150-$300 or more a month, depending what is prescribed by your physician or nurse practitioner. Injection therapy runs $35-$110 each and IV’s are $125-$145 each. You can expect to be in the center for about 2 to 4 hours depending on any treatment you may receive.

We also offer an individualized program for patients like yourself who live too far to come into our centers for the appointments. You would have to come in for your first appointment and then your appointments would be by phone for up to a year. This 12 month program allows you to have the best outcome possible. You will have a team of medical personnel dedicated to your care. As a patient in this program you will get priority booking for all your appointments. This means the wait time will be reduced for you to get in and meet with our clinical team.

Because you would be an out of town patient you may not be able to take advantage of the IV therapies so you would take advantage of our immunoglobulin injections in the center and energy injections at home. We show you how to give them to yourself so you can administer them at home.

You will receive with the Out of Town Program:

• Three (3) one hour appointments with the medical team.

• Seven (7) follow up appointments. Time between these appointments will vary depending upon the physician findings.

• Up to 72 Ultraceutical supplements.

• Up to 12 immunoglobulin injections

• 2 Kits of energy injections.

The cost for this program is $6000. Now if you were to pay for these services and products separately it would be over $8600.

First you can pay in full at your first appointment with a check or your own credit card. If you would like to finance it we have partnered with Care Credit. Care Credit is a company that offers credit for medical purposes only. They are offering our patients 12 months at no interest so your payment would be $500 a month. They also offer a 24 months payment plan at 11.9% so your payments will be approximately $300 a month. You can go to their website www.carecredit.com or call their toll free number 1-800-839-907 and they will let you know in about 10 minutes.
This Comprehensive Care Plan doesn't cover the initial vials of blood drawn. For me: count 'em, nine large ones and four small ones, and that wasn't near as many as they usually draw on the first visit because they were able to use a lot of the test results from the blood work my rheumatologist just did in July.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, a.k.a. hypothyroidism or under active thyroid, as a result of the blood work by my rheumy in July. Which by the way he would not have done the test that showed I have Hashimoto's disease at all if I had not gone in there with my printout from Dr. Teitelbaum's Online Treatment Program Lab Requisition Form in my hand and ASKED FOR IT MYSELF. I am trying not to dwell on the possibility that I have had this problem since I was first diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 19 years ago... a lot of the symptoms are the same and Hashimoto's can be controlled with prescription medicine. More on that later, I'm sure.

Back to the blood work. I'll get the results next month. Click here for a copy of the receipt showing the tests they are running. I have to say Dr. Cuddapah (pronounced Cud-a pa) was very agreeable about my financial situation, explaining the costs to me and asking me each step of the way what I could afford. That didn't make it any cheaper, but at least he was conscious of the fact that I don't have insurance and would be paying for all out of pocket... He also used some of the tests that were just run on me by my local rheumatologist (see previous paragraph).

So, I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let me just tell you how the appointment went. I arrived about a half hour early. That was fine, and the office staff seemed eager to get my completed 25 page Questionnaire. I barely had time to sit down before they called me back to an exam room. This room had an exam table, of course, and it also had a large round glass table, like a kitchen table, with three chairs around it. Which was good because I had my mom with me to be my second pair of ears and eyes, so we all had a place to sit. And it was comfortable. Like sitting around the kitchen table, discussing. Dr. Cuddapah went through the Questionnaire page by page, asking me questions as he went along. He also looked at the previous lab results that I had brought with me, and we discussed them, especially the Hashimoto's diagnosis. We also discussed my current meds and he said he "didn't see anything too terrible."

Next Dr. Cuddapah gave me a thorough physical examination. Then we discussed treatment possibilities I could start before my blood test results are in. I'm kind of frustrated that he didn't start me on anything for the thyroid problem...

In my next post I'll tell you about what treatment options we decided for me to start, and the IV drip in the recliner room. It's a lot to absorb, intellectually as well as physically. They told me to wait 1-3 days between starting each new treatment, to gauge my reaction to each, but it's taking me a week between starting each new thing.

The supplements and books I bought to catch myself up on the latest in the yeast connection theory - they seem big on that at the FFC

The Atlanta Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Center

Leaving Atlanta during rush hour traffic

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Shoes: "Those Shoes" from The Long Run album by the Eagles, "Cruel Shoes" on Victoria Beckham, and My Shoes

God knows, you're lookin' good enough,
but you're so smooth and the world's so rough.
You might have somethin' to loose.
Oh, no, pretty mama, what you gonna
do in those shoes.

Got those pretty little straps around your ankles
Got those shiny little chains around your heart.
You got to have your independence
but you don't know just where to start.

Desperation in the singles bars
an' all those jerkoffs in their fancy cars.
you can't believe your reviews.

Oh, no, you can't do that,
once you started wearin' those shoes...

complete lyrics for "Those Shoes" by The Eagles at LyricsKeeper.com

Check out Victoria Beckham in those CFM* shoes, with that big, honkin' bunion!!!

I mean really, that sucker's black and blue! That's one of the blessings in disguise about Fibromyalgia that I've been able to come up with: If I let my bunion get that bad I would feel like I was crippled; FM keeps me from letting anything physical get too bad, because it hurts me way more than it would a normal person.

Thanks to Kirsten Borrink for turning me on to the whole cruel shoes thing. She blogged about cruel shoes, picture and song, on Tuesday at Barking Dogs Shoes: Steve Martin's "The Cruel Shoes". Hilarious. Her blog is a most excellent resource for shoes, especially if you have any type of foot problem and you don't care for orthotic-looking shoes, i.e. if you still like CUTE shoes!

She turned me on to these Dansko Professional Clogs at 6pm.com, for less than half price, and they're a dress shoe I can wear in spite of that pesky bunion for which my podiatrist just told me I should always wear tightly laced tennis shoes for my every day shoes (now I have to change my whole wardrobe to sweats and scrubs - I will NOT be seen in tennies and a dress, ever! But I guess it's worth it to avoid surgery for as long as possible...) -

Yes, they're brown crushed velvet... um, why do you think they were on super-sale? I love them, but I'll wear a lot of things other people wouldn't...

So I was able to try the shoe out at a much reduced rate and now I know they work for me. Yay! They even "reduce torque", which can be caused by a bunion when it gets big and painful enough to alter the way your foot rolls, among other technical benefits and features; but what I like best is that they make me six feet tall. Smile.

*CFM - Come Fuck Me

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I AM worth the time

You Are Worth The Time (in case you forget why it's important to create) by Jan Phillips

I create. I write, I take digital photos, I blog. But I want to do more. I've been trying but can't seem to get started. It probably has a lot to do with the clutter that encompasses my life, causing me to feel even more overwhelmed than I already do as a result of life with chronic illness.

So I'm going to try to kill two birds with one stone. (You'll see what I mean later, I hope. And of course I'm not really going to kill anything...) I'm going to try this Soul Journaling collage thing started by Sarah Whitmore on her blog, Caspiana. The Day 1 instructions are here.

I found out about soul journaling because Karin Bartimole added me as a friend on Blogcatalog today. I can't remember exactly how I got from here to there, but the important thing is that I did. I'm quite sure it was meant to be. Anyway, Karin's blog, Beyond Words, has some stupendous photos of journal, or book pages. One glance at any page from her That Aching Back book and you'll know she's a kindred spirit.


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