Oh, dear: it is that time of year again . . . Time to schedule my annual colonoscopy, or “colo,” as my gastroenterologist, Dr. Steve Bensen refers to it, in the casual, behind-the-scenes way he talks to his fellows and medical interns, nurses and doctors. Since my book came out, and I presented him with a signed copy just two years ago, our bond has thickened, and luckily my small intestine has not (pun intended!).
Bensen has been my GI doctor ever since the doctor at the big-city teaching hospital I will not name (Boston area), told me to take 6MP, or if I persisted in my quest for a combination of naturopathic remedies and Western medicine, to “eat squishy food!” The fact that this eminent Harvard-trained department head would tell me to “eat squishy food” struck me as hilarious at the time, but it turns out he was entirely correct, in that my disease is characterized by scarring and narrowing of the small intestine due to flare-ups, and eating squishy food is actually great advice!
Having medical tests is physically, and often emotionally, draining. For example: Why would I go all the way to Boston, from my home on a dirt road in rural Vermont, deal with traffic, parking, and stress, wait at the X-ray department for one hour after swallowing tons of vile-tasting barium, only to be told by the X-ray technician that he was “going to lunch?” . . . I have lots of stories!
Ergo, my switch to the compassionate, smart, jovial, encouraging doctor, Steve Bensen, I have now. When I searched for a specialist, I went immediately to the ccfa.org website where they say:
Whether you’re trying to find a Crohn’s doctor or an ulcerative colitis doctor, trying to locate an experienced surgeon in your region, or searching for a dietician, you’ll probably find them in our listings. Search for providers by name or by the state and ZIP code in which they practice, as well as by specialty. Our list consists of leading Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis doctors, researchers, nurses and other healthcare professionals working in the field who have chosen to become members of CCFA. We cannot make recommendations about specific physicians or guarantee that all members listed specialize in the treatment of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. CCFA cannot attest to the credentials of its members, nor do we evaluate the competency of our members.
I figured a doctor who was current on all the ccfa.org research, studies, and developments in the field would be a good doctor for me. I nicknamed him “the Nordic god” (sorry, I know I am sexist and trivializing not only a country I love, but making the doctor sound like a model, which he could be, and if this were a man writing about a woman doctor I would probably be offended!), and our doctor-patient relationship begin almost twelve years ago. His staff is great—they remember my nickname is “Dede” and the nurses always ask me what I am taking in terms of vitamins and supplements, and they offer Ayurvedic teas, especially my favorite called “Smooth Move” (I kid you not!).
I am lucky to have such a welcoming and supportive clinic, but that does not diminish the anxiety of calling to schedule your annual “colo.”
For me, as a surgical patient, my fears are justifiable: there is a 50-60% reoperation rate after ileal-secal resections, and that is plenty to worry about for those of us who are trying to lead healthy lives after suffering for years before surgery.
Okay, now to get to my point: I am lucky to have a great clinic, doctor, surgeon, etc., however the other day I called the Endoscopic scheduler “AS PER MY INSTRUCTIONS ON THE SHEET THEY MAILED ME (caps, mine for emphasis!), after much trepidation, anxiety and fear, delay, denial….. you get the picture. They put me on hold, and the man came back and said, “Sorry, we can’t schedule your colonoscopy because you are calling too soon for an October test.”
I took a deep breath, and realized how anxious I’d become. Obviously, it isn’t his fault, and it is just hospital bureaucracy’s fault. I thanked him for his time, and went to my basement yoga-meditation area (I like to call it my yoga “studio”) and when I got to the meditation, I felt the stress let go, literally, from the top of my head—my mind, and its medical worries contained therein, became an empty void, a clean slate, a tabula rasa, and in place of fear and anxiety, I felt trust and healing. I will call back and schedule that test in a month . . . To be continued!
I was interviewed by Marisa Cohen for her story in Prevention Magazine entitled Four Screening Tests Women Fear. In the article, under item #2 (COLONOSCOPY), I am quoted about prep for a colonoscopy and she mentions our book! Anything that empowers women, as well as other patients with IBD, to take care of their bodies and relieve the fear of invasive medical tests is a good thing! Happy to be part of such a great article.