Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009 - Retirement Options!

Hello Blogey-mates!!

I was reminded today that the last blog entry I have done was April 11th! WOW! I could have sworn it was just the other day that I had reported about poor little Bridget's dental woes but I actually reported about them 2 weeks ago?? Unbelievable how time just whizzes by!!

Well, I'm happy to report that Miss Bridget is doing just fine. I don't think she has any traumatic memories about her dental adventure at all. Of course, she was put under anesthesia for the procedure so it's no as if she knows who did what to her. For that matter, she has no idea that anyone did anything to her. If anything, she might remember that her mouth hurt, but highly doubtful she even thinks of that now since it is all better and there's no pain or infection. She's even been back to see Dr. Joan and the clinic and had no problems with that until she had to be put up on the slippery table... she doesn't like that table at all because her feet slip on it ;)

She also has been to the groomers yesterday. Hehehe... well, I'm on to her tricks now! Toby, who normally takes her for her morning walks, took her up to the groomers. Bridget did a little bit of a "don't leave me" dance, but nothing like she does when I drop her off. Likewise, when Toby picked her up (I was at the hairdresser's myself when Bridget was ready), she didn't get near the greeting that I get. You know the one... "Ohhhhh Mom!! How could you leave me here!! They beat me, starved me and chained me up as soon as you left this morning!!" Uh, right... this is the message she would like me to believe even though she is put in a crate, with a blanket and with the door left open should she want to come out and socialize with the other dogs ;) The groomer gets a big chuckle out of Bridget's shenanigans and he told Toby that Bridget is the most well-behaved schnauzer when it comes to grooming. But as soon as her "people" come to pick her up, she does the big production number! She is such a little diva/actress!! :)

Anywho... all is going well in my world. Of course, there won't be anything to report as far as the lungs go until July 20th which is when I next go in for a CAT scan, bloodwork and then see my oncologist. That scan/bloodwork is to do a check of the lungs to see if any of the 11 nodules have grown at all and if so, how much.

Let's see... I did see my GP last week. My biggest complaint is a combination of the arthritis joint pain and just general overall pain that comes and goes but is always somewhere. I have been diagnosed with CPS (Chronic Pain Syndrome). This is caused by a few different things but the two most common are if you have had a trauma/wound, or cancer treatments. CPS will show up months after, which is why it is hard to diagnose and once it has shown up, it isn't actually diagnosed until you've had the chronic pain for at least 6 months. Well, I've had the arthritis prior to knowing about the cancer, so that isn't new... but the other pain in and around joints, or the area between one joint and another... that has basically surfaced in the last 9 - 12 months. Unfortunately, the majority of the causes for this chronic pain is nerve damage. I haven't really had any trauma that I can think of, except for the surgeries... but definitely, we know I've been bombarded with chemo, when I was getting the treatments for 8 months.

So, we are trying two different kinds of meds to see if we can short-circuit the messages from nerves to the brain that say "Pain". I have been on Gabapentin ever since the Oxipilatin chemo did the nerve damage to my feet and heels. That med, combined with the pain med Tramadol, hopefully will calm the pain down. So far, it is doing an ok job with most areas that I've noticed, but alas, it is not touching the pain in the lower back. So, we shall give it some more time before we try something else.

Meanwhile... the big news this week is I went to a "BC Public Service Pension Seminar" with a co-worker of mine. I have been to one or two of these in the past but since I was not close to retiring, they really didn't mean too much to me. But this time, it was a real eye-opener for me! I was actually thinking that I probably wouldn't be officially retiring, but would be staying on Long Term Disability insurance... mainly because, not having any idea what the future is going to bring, I wanted to make sure that I would be covered with my Medical Services Plan (MSP), my Dental Plan, and my Extended Health Coverage (prescriptions, chiropractor, acupuncture, glasses, etc).

So, as long as the doctors say I'm not able to go back to work, then it seemed that staying on Long Term Disability was the answer. From a financial perspective, with Long Term Disability, I get about 69% of my salary. No matter where my income comes from, I'm only entitled to the equivalent of 69% of my salary. Of course, the insurance company wants me to apply for anything else that I might be entitled to so that they can then deduct that from what they pay, with the end result being all totaled, my income would still equal 69%/salary. I also get CPP Disability which is $1053/month... which is fine, but it gets deducted from my LTD, so I get two deposits to my bank account every month... the CPP Disability and the LTD.

Well, what we found out at the Pension seminar - since I have my 35 years of service, I am entitled to a full pension. A full pension with the provincial government is 70% of your average top 5 years salary. Ok... so that is pretty much the same as my LTD payments. BUT, and this is a big BUT... since I am eligible for CPP Disability, I would be able to have that payment as well as my retirement pension. So I would have 70% of my salary PLUS the $1053/month CPP Disability pension. The CPP Disability is valid until I turn 65 yrs old, in which case it changes to regular CPP (Canada Public Pension). So, the long and short of it, I would end up being on retirement pension, getting $1053 more than my co-workers who might have 35 years and retiring ;)

Ok, so the next biggie is medical, dental and Extended Health insurance. Another eye opener... if I retire, Extended Health is part of the retirement package. I would have to pay my own MSP and Dental, but as a "retiree" I get them at subsidized rates. My medical insurance would cost $18/month and my dental insurance (where I'd be getting the same coverage I have as an employee) would cost $40/month.

Sooooo... it's a no-brainer!! For $58/month in insurance expenses, I will actually see $1600/month MORE than what I'm seeing/getting now (ok, $1600-$58=$1542 more per month)

Hahaha, now I have to start the paperwork! My official "early" retirement date is Feb 1, 2010. I already have my 35 years of service, but the earliest one can retire from the provincial government is at age 55. I will be 55 on Jan 7, 2010, so retirement starts on the 1st of the month following your birth month.

It all seems so surreal! Imagine that... I'm actually eligible to RETIRE!! To become a retiree!! All my working life, I have stayed with the provincial government, even though I was tempted on numerous occasions to try something different. For years, I really did want to work in the film industry, which had a booming period here in Vancouver in the 80s/90s... but no, I stayed where I was. I then thought it would be exciting to move to a different province, or even to get my green card and move down to the States and just experience working in another country. But I didn't. Then I really was tempted to move to Japan to teach English. I had a couple of friends who did that and they really enjoyed the work and the experience. But alas, I didn't do that either. In hindsight, I could kick myself for not following some of my dreams... on the other hand, it's actually payback time now. Not too many of my friends can say they are in a job that offers a company pension, let alone, do they have the maximum years of service to make them eligible for early retirement. Freedom 55!!

There is something to be said for the feeling of relief to know that you are going to have income for life, especially when you are in a situation such as mine where your #1 job is to look after your health and get on the road to recovery. Statistics are against someone with Stage IV colon cancer, but then I am not a normal Statistic. I have the luxury of having medical insurance AND being able to retire at 55 with the luxury of a decent pension! So I am one very happy and relieved camper this week and will be for some time to come :)

Well, that certainly is a mouthful of babble, now isn't it?? I have been keeping myself busy by spending afternoons down at the TUTS office. Yikes! I can't believe that both shows start rehearsals in May and we are getting closer and closer to production. That means summer is just around the corner and yes, it better start getting warmer soon because I plan on spending my summer down at the park :)

Okey dokey... it's now just after midnight! Time to sign off and once again, I will try and be a little better at putting up entries a little more consistently... and more often :)