Part of my diverse career path an accountant (CPA) and social worker (MSW) was working as an office manager in an GYN Oncology Clinic. I am the rare accountant who loves helping patients (or the social worker who tolerates numbers). But that's another story...
In late summer in the 1990s, I receive a phone call at work. Instead of "hello" there is a sob on the other line. I know it is important. I strain to understand some of the words beneath the crying. I piece it together, bit by bit. A woman's voice says she's calling from her OB-GYN office in the suburbs of Denver. A few minutes earlier, she finds out the results of her annual medical exams. It indicates she has ovarian cancer. She is shocked and needs to see an oncologist. She is the same age as me.
I ask her about her insurance to determine if she can see the oncologist and if surgery is required, if her insurance covers the surgery at the hospital where it will be performed. Her insurance doesn't cover the oncologist, the surgery or the hospital. I reluctantly inform her about this. She replies that she wants to see the specific oncologist, specific surgeon at the specific hospital. I suggest the option of scheduling an evaluation within the next couple of days, and in the meantime, I will contact her insurance company.
She arrives for the evaluation two days later with a large tumor, yet a smile on her face. Somehow I convince the insurance company of the urgency of her request and the need for them to pay for the evaluation, the oncologist and if surgery is required, to pay for the surgeon and the hospital even though the patient's policy does not cover this group of doctors or hospital.
The results of her evaluation reveal that she does indeed have advanced stage ovarian cancer, the type of cancer where patients don't normally live five years after diagnosis. Surgery is scheduled within the next few days.
When I met the patient about eight years later, she informed me that she was doing well and that she will never forget her phone call to me when she found out about her diagnosis and my warm response.
Her parting words were "When I asked my OB-GYN if I should help with the insurance issue, she said "No, stand back and let Kate do what she does best. She's a tiger."
I smiled knowing that I once was a tiger and that I had helped.