‘I Don’t Have a Colon, So I Can’t Have a Colonoscopy.’

posted in: Sicky 76
A doctor’s office in 1960, which fits the feeling, somehow. Image: Wikipedia.


A couple months ago, I got a letter from Humana, the company with whom I’ve had an insurance policy since 2004. The letter stated that my individual medical plan would be cancelled as of December 31st, 2017.

No explanation. No apology. Just cancelled. See ya.

This post is not about healthcare policy. I’m not interested in debating about healthcare offered by the government, companies like Humana, or anyone/anything right now. Even if I did, I wouldn’t do it here. And I know — I am 100 percent certain — my beautiful readers are way too classy to spiral into goofy and/or cruel arguments about healthcare policy down in the comments section. I believe such conversations are best had on Facebook.

This post is about healthcare, though. As in, the care a gal gets with her health and how sometimes it’s frustrating in certain small ways.

Because of my cancelled policy — which, by the way, kept me and my family from going bankrupt over the years of so many hospitalizations and surgeries — I have to find all new doctors. None of the doctors who saved my life are in my new network. There’s really no way around it. Either I find an entirely new team who accept my insurance or I keep my doctors and pay completely out of pocket. Paying out of pocket is not something I can do unless I suddenly become a millionaire. I’ll let you know.

Doctors I am currently shopping for include: Anesthesiologist; Gastroenterologist; Family Medicine/General Practitioner; Gynecologist; Psychiatrist. And a phlebotomist, though they’re slightly easier to find.

It’s daunting. I’m haunted by the fact that the new docs don’t know me the way my other doctors at Northwestern have known me for so long. All my records are at Northwestern. For everything. All my docs, until now, were all on the same campus, using phones with the same first six digits. Until now, all my docs knew each other — or at least knew of each other or could get to know each other in the cafeteria or whatever. I feel like I had a medical home and I got evicted. And I didn’t even do anything. I was paying my rent every month. I was doing what I’m supposed to do. I was being responsible.

But this is how it goes, I guess. Whining won’t help. So I’m making appointments, doing my research. I don’t have time for this huge job, but what’s more important than to have a team in place in case/when my body revolts? When you have my health history, getting this stuff in place is important.

It stinks when you meet with someone who definitely won’t work out. It happened recently. It’s happened before, too, this particular thing, but it was harder this time because of my feelings of being in hospital/doctor limbo.

The gal who was entering the stuff into the computer was a nurse practitioner, I think. I’m not totally sure, but she wasn’t the first person who took me into the room to do the pulse-ox and blood pressure stuff. But she wasn’t the M.D. I was about to see, either, so I’m thinking she was a nurse practitioner, which is fine; I’ve worked with and been helped by many.

Unfortunately, after I went through the short version of the long story, this person did the thing that makes me feel bad, small, unseen, and empty. She did the thing that made me feel some hideous blend of despair and anger. After telling her about my j-pouch, my ostomy, my takedown, my second ostomy, my second takedown, my anemia, my fissure, and my fistula, she asked:

“So when was your last colonoscopy?”

My breath caught. I squeezed my eyes shut. I made sure my voice was steady before I used it.

“I … don’t have a colon.”


“Okay,” she said. “So …”

“I don’t have a colon,” I said, “so I don’t have colonoscopies. Anymore.”

“Okay, when was your last one, though?”

I’m no medical professional, but this question is irrelevant. As in, it has zero relevance to me, my situation, and my needs. But — if the lady insists — the last colonoscopy I had was the one in 2008, at Mayo Clinic, when I was admitted within five minutes of my arrival; the one they couldn’t complete due to the state of my large intestine being “totally gone on the left side,” suppurating and bleeding, bleeding and in tatters, hours away from bursting open and ending mademoiselle in a rather agonizing and undignified way, thank you very much.

Yes, I’m upset.

Because when you’ve got a doozy of a story like I do, going through it again (and again, and again) is hard. Bad memories come back. I do not use words like “trauma” or “flashback” lightly. When I say I have trauma from the lowest points of my illness story, when I say I have flashbacks when I go through the timeline, I mean it. But it’s 10 times harder when you’re going through it with someone new — because you’ve just lost all of your doctors — and you get through it only find you were not heard or understood. Because that feels like the person who was supposed to be listening doesn’t care. She might! She might care! But it doesn’t feel like it. And when you’re me, alone in a doctor’s office, talking about your belly, feelings are everything. Feelings are in charge.

Asking a girl nine years out from a total colectomy when her last colonoscopy was is like asking an amputee if she’s had any ingrown toenails lately. It’s like asking a blind person to look up at the chart and read the smallest line she can make out.

I don’t have a colon. It was removed. In its place, a bag. With the bag, the end of innocence. Please listen when I tell you these things, doc. Please don’t ask me about the organ they took out of my pelvis and threw into the hazmat bin before I woke up. I don’t have that piece of myself. I don’t know her anymore.

What I do know is that people are just doing their jobs. I know that. I owe my very life to the doctors and nurses who have cared for me. I’ve praised them often here on the ol’ PG. My new team may have the opportunity to save it again, we don’t know. I hope not?

So I forgive the gal with the computer and the long day, I really do. Who knows what was on her mind? And I’ve asked plenty of questions in my own life that showed I wasn’t listening or that I didn’t understand. No one does it right all the time. Not her, not me. Not the people who run insurance companies or governments, either, but I think those people should all try way, way harder.

I just needed to talk about it, I guess.