Book Recommendation(s)
Alright, I have two recommendations for you again this month. 

  1. The first is the safer of the two. 
    It will likely appeal to a wider array of people, and will be an interesting read for pretty much anyone. 

    Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell. 
    Malcolm Gladwell always does such a good job weaving stories in an interesting way when discussing macro-level ideas. This book is no different. 

    It covers different bombing tactics during WWII. Throughout the war, strategies around how to bomb most effectively changed several times. 

    The standard at the start, was to just bomb anything and everything. Overwhelm the enemy with as many bombs as possible. No real aiming. No real regard for collateral damage and innocent civilians. 

    A group called the Bomber Mafia investigated ways to be more effective, including an attempt to persuade the US and allies to go for a more targeted approach. Take out strategic factories or war production plants rather than bombing anything and everyone. 

    It is a fascinating story, while at the same time, humbling to hear about the conditions of all parties during WWII. 
  2. Okay, now this second recommendation is more of a wild card. 
    This book will not appeal to everyone, but it’s my top read so far this year, and up there with my favorite books of all time. You’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. 

    So, if you are the adventurous type, here we go. 

    Basketball and Other Things by Shea Serrano 
    Yes, this is a basketball book. Specifically, NBA basketball.
    I just lost a bunch of you, didn’t I?

    Nevertheless, I have never… EVER… laughed out loud so much while reading a book in my entire life. 

    My wife kept saying things like,
    “You’re a dork, why are you laughing so much.” 
    “You didn’t cry at our wedding and you’re crying while reading a silly basketball book?!” 
    (tears of laughter – mind you)
    “There’s no way it’s THAT funny. You’re just doing this to annoy me, aren’t you?”

    I can’t think of a better review for a book than her words.  

    The author uses colorful language throughout, so heads up there, but this book was amazing. 

    If you are not an NBA fan, and you’re not familiar with names like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Dr. J, Shaq, Kobe, MJ, etc. then just skip this one. 

    If you are a fan of the NBA, or you have a friend/adult child who is, this is the PERFECT gift for a birthday or Christmas or Easter or whatever other holidays your family gifts things. 

    I had my dad read it – he loved it. 
    We went to lunch and giggled about it. 
    I’ve gifted this to 5 other people already. 
    It’s awesome.

Words of Wisdom

On to a more serious note… 
I am writing this newsletter from a hospital room. 

Not the most fun experience of my life, but one that I’m sure many of you have had. 

I’ve told this story before, but when my dad was 7 years old, his mom died of cancer. Discussions with him – and common sense – reveal that losing a parent at that age has lasting implications on the life of a child. 

When I was 7 years old, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

As a 7-year-old kid, I remember going to my mom, and crying hysterically, saying, “Mom, I don’t want to be like dad.”

While the topic of cancer was top of mind for the family at the time, this sudden outburst was random, so my mom, somewhat confused, but also a little relieved said, “Erik, I don’t want you to be like your dad either.” And she listed off 3-4 of his weaknesses as a human being – rather quickly I might add. 

I mean, she didn’t even need to think twice. Just boom – Yeah, don’t be your dad for these reasons. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a PowerPoint ready and had been waiting for this moment for years. Anyway… 

7-year-old Erik was royally confused, and I said, “No, I don’t want my mom to die when I’m 7 like dad’s mom died when he was 7.” 

It was a tender moment and I imagine she did that whole grimace face where you tug at your shirt collar and look at someone else trying to cover the misunderstanding. 

This conversation between my mom and me became part of family lore. 

Well, my mom’s cancer metastasized and spread to various parts of her body. She was put in a support group of 9 other women who went through the same treatments. Everyone in the group was given 5 years to live. It was looking like I was about to follow in my father’s footsteps. 

After 5 years, just two of the original 10 ladies were left. 
My mom, and one other woman. 

A year later, my mom was the only one left. 

Why us?

It has been 28 years since she was diagnosed. 

For some reason, call it a miracle, call it luck, call it whatever you want, she lived. 

I’ve asked myself why on many occasions. 
Why was our family so lucky? 
Those other 9 women were wives, mothers, daughters. They all had the same love and support and prayers headed their way. Why us? Why my mom? Why me? 

She’s lived to see her 7-year-old boy grow into an attempt at an adult. 
She’s lived to see my other siblings grow and raise families, too. 
She’s lived to see her first grandkid, then her second… and my youngest daughter is her 14th grandchild. 

Two months ago, she welcomed her first and second great grandchildren into the world. 

She’s travelled the world, including back to Holland, which is where her family is originally from. From a previous newsletter, you’ll remember that her parents came to America after WWII. 

She’s amazing, and continues to live a great life, helping us kids, and our kids, and now our kids’ kids know how much they are loved by their mom, grandma, and great grandma. 

It’s back.

Six months ago, my mom wasn’t feeling super great. 

After several tests over several months, we found out that cancer has come back, this time in different organs. I won’t go into too many details, but experiencing this as an adult has been so much different. 

Rather than being the young child pushing all the buttons on her hospital room bed and running up and down halls, causing concern for everyone – while I’m still tempted to do some of that – I now can hopefully help a little more. 

She had her first chemo treatment last Wednesday, and Friday she started feeling crummy with difficulty breathing. It got worse and Sunday, I took her into the ER. Her oxygen levels were dangerously low. Fluid was in her lungs. She was feeling miserable. 

She’s been in the hospital for a couple days now, and she has been improving steadily, which is great. 

As she and I went through the healthcare system together, I got a reminder of what that whole experience looks like. 

Once we arrived at the hospital, first of all, she’s not in a great spot physically or mentally, so the insurance questions mixed in with the e-signatures on an iPad that says who-knows-what, mixed with the questions about how she’s feeling and what’s wrong turns into quite the whirlwind. 

After her umpteenth different test, she looked over to me and said, “this is going to be quite the hefty bill, isn’t it?” 

Thank goodness she is covered in a way that won’t ruin her financially. Interesting thoughts to have though, when you feel like you’re going to die. 

The hospital staff have been helpful and kind to her as they figure out what’s going on and how to help. 

The Healthcare System

My real job is in health insurance. More specifically, Medicare.
This most recent experience with my mom gave me a first-hand reminder of the healthcare system and how it works for our seniors.

If you need to use the healthcare system, here are four tips:

  1. Carry your insurance cards with you. 
    Having your insurance cards on your person makes things run a bit more smooth through that whole check in process.
  2. Use in-network facilities.
    In the Medicare world, you’re looking at two main options.
    If you have a supplement plan, make sure your providers and facilities participate with Medicare. 

    If you have an advantage plan, make sure you visit in-network facilities and providers. 

    For those on Advantage plans, remember that if you have an emergency, and you go to an out-of-network facility, those services will be treated as in-network, as long as it is a true emergency. 

    The hospital handles the billing and coding on that, so as long as it is coded and billed as an emergency, you are covered as if it were in-network. 
  3. Use the resources available through your insurance company.
    Your insurance companies have customer service teams that are there to help guide you through your hospital or provider visits. 

    If you have questions around coverage, networks, billing, or anything related to your use of the healthcare system, use this resource. 

    Which leads me to the last tip…
  4. Use the buddy system.
    That first day, my mom had a bunch of tests, and after each one, the doctor would come in and share results and next steps. As my siblings or other family called her to ask what was going on, even though she and I heard the same thing from the doctor, she had no idea what he said. 

    The combination of her not feeling well with her being scared and in a hospital meant that she was not retaining the information being shared with her. 

    Her buddy (me in this case, and my brother later on) could listen to the doctors and nurses, ask questions, and clarify next steps. Once staff left the room, it helped my mom calm down a little and better understand what was happening when my brother or I could repeat what the doctor said. 

    So, take a buddy. 
    A spouse, a sibling, a child, or a friend, having someone there with you will be a nice help.

Alright, if you made it this far, I appreciate you taking the time to read this mini novel-length newsletter. 

Our health is so important. 

Hopefully something buried in there was helpful, and I hope you and your family have an amazing month. 

Thank you for all you do!

Until next month,


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