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HP Palmtop Tracks Battle With Prostate Cancer

HP Palmtop Tracks Battle With Prostate Cancer

Our Copy Editor's personal journal of his successful treatment of cancer and the role his HP Palmtop played in the process.

By Wayne Kneeskern

 As Copy Editor of The HP Palmtop Paper for the past four and a half years, I read every article in each issue at least twice. I keep an HP 200LX at my desk to test the tips and how-tos in all the articles. I also use it for business phone numbers, appointments and to take the minutes at our company meetings each week. (Turns out I am a pretty good thumb-typer.) But until about a year ago I never found the need to use my palmtop in my personal life. The same was true for the OmniGo 100 I used for our OmniGo World magazine. And now I also have a HP 620LX Handheld PC for use when I edit our Pocket PC (formerly Handheld PC Magazine).

 My situation changed in January 1999 when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer (PCa). When you are told you have prostate cancer, you immediately know two things: "I have cancer" and "I want it gone." After that initial response, I started thinking about and working through a lot of personal things. I enjoy writing and have kept journals before for self-exploration and personal study; so I decided now was the time to start my survivor's journal and keep the information on my trusty 200LX.

 To make an intelligent decision on how to deal with the enemy within, I started to research the subject. I bought a couple of books on prostate cancer which gave me a lot of general information and also told me where I could go on the Internet to get the latest developments in fighting the disease. There were also mailing lists to which I could subscribe. Our MIS manager at Thaddeus helped me set up my palmtop to access our ISP and, with a 14.4 fax/modem card and WWW/LX, go up on the Internet and check my e-mail. (Maybe someday I'll even get brave and do a posting myself.) While reading all this material, I used Memo on my 200LX to write down questions I would want to ask my doctor when I went for my next appointment. This would also make it easier for me at the appointment to just type in his answers for review later.

 At the appointment with my urologist, Dr. McCoy, I listened to the available options. After discussing them with my wife and family, I elected to have a radical prostatectomy, which involves the complete removal of the prostate. This was done on February 15, 1999. I have included a sidebar summarizing my thoughts as a prostate cancer survivor for those who are interested (see page 13).

 I found that NoteTaker and Memo on the 200LX gave me everything I needed to keep my journal and also to record any other information I wanted to keep on prostate cancer. My Palmtop was with me all the time I was in the hospital, as well as while I recuperated at home. Whenever I thought of something I wanted to write down, I could pull out my Palmtop and open up NoteTaker. On my walks through the hospital corridors I would sit for breaks in a waiting area and write in my journal (Screen 1). And even now, a year later, I am writing this article on it while watching TV. It's amazing how long time-outs and halftime are during a football game.

Tracking medical expenses
The bills eventually started coming in, along with Explanations of Health Care Benefits from the insurance company. I set up a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet to track all the charges and payments (Screen 2). It was very interesting to see how many different providers I ended up having: physicians, hospitals, labs, X-Ray technicians and specialists to read the X-Rays, anesthesiologists, pharmacies, and on and on. The spreadsheet was set up to show the following:

 Date (of service)

 Provider (of the service)

 Billed (provider's charges for the service)

 Provider Savings (the amount of the charges billed above what the insurance company will allow)

 Net Charge (amount the insurance company allows to be charged)

 Ins Payment (amount the insurance company paid the provider after allowing for patient deductible and co-insurance)

 Due (amount of deductible and co-insurance the patient pays)

 Notes (description of services provided, etc.)

 When I received an Explanation of Benefits from the insurance company, I would record the information shown for each procedure on the spreadsheet. A totals row at the bottom of the spreadsheet uses SUM formulas to add up each column. This gave me a running total of the amount columns. I also used the cell below the total cell in the Due column to put in a formula that would verify that the Billed Charges minus the Provider Savings minus the Insurance Payments equaled the amount Due. This was also a way to make sure my data entry was correct. I can sort this spreadsheet by date of service to show a chronological record, by providers to put all the charges from each together, by any amount column to show them from high to low or vice versa, or most any other way I might want to look at it.

PhoneBook and Appointments
I used the Phone application to organize contact information for my service providers (names, addresses and phone numbers). It was very handy having them all in one place and always with me wherever I was.

 While I didn't have to worry about missing an appointment while I was in the hospital, there were plenty of them before and after my hospital stay. I used Appointments to keep track of these. I set each appointment up with an alarm that would give me plenty of lead time to make sure I wasn't late --I am from a small town and some of my providers were 15 to 55 miles away.

Supporting myself, helping others
My Palmtop helped me deal with this monster in many ways. But it has also helped others who face prostate cancer. I've attended PCa support group (called US TOO) meetings since I was diagnosed. The group is a mix of people from those who have just been diagnosed to those who have survived it for a number of years. Many times their wives are there too. I am in the habit of carrying my Palmtop with me to these meetings. On occasion someone will ask a question about costs, doctors, hospitals, insurance or where they can go to get information. Usually I have many of the answers with me, in my 200LX. And of course I am always adding new information to continue in my fight for survival.

Prostate Cancer: Things You Should Know

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