Thursday, January 16, 2020


So it's colonoscopy time again next week, and I'm surly about it. I don't mind the procedure. I even enjoyed the first one -- or was interested by it, anyway -- because they didn't put me under and I could watch my insides on the monitor. The procedure is fine. What makes me grumpy is a) it's a hideously expensive and elaborate test without a large likelihood of return on investment, and b) it disrupts my painfully-arrived at diet for a whole week, forcing me to choose less healthy foods. No seeds, no nuts, no whole grains. So my breakfast oatmeal, with chopped nuts, is out of bounds. Replaced it with home fries this morning. The quarter cup of peanuts I eat in the afternoon I guess gets replaced by a couple tablespoons of creamy peanut butter: I'll need to go buy some today. And the flax seeds I chew in the evening are of course out. For a week. To reduce the chances of an early exit by colon cancer by half a percent, or whatever it is, while taking the small but severe risks of bowel perforation, bad anesthesia outcomes, and hospital-sourced infections.

The only real reason I'm going ahead and doing it is to convince my doctor that, although I won't take steroids, I'm really a good little patient who usually does what he's told. And the only real reason I want to stay on good terms with my doctor is that if I'm dying in pain I'll want opiates, and the physicians' guild holds the monopoly on them. Simple as that.

Among the many ironies of my life is that politically I'm dedicated to universal health care that, in my own person, I don't particularly want. I would far rather go without health insurance. Much of modern American health care, and especially the expensive parts of it, I would gladly forgo. I want the vaccines; I want the emergency trauma care. I want the check-ups. But I don't want a heart transplant. I'm not excited about dragging out my potential cancer death or cardiac failure, and I have no interest whatever in spending much time in the sleepless disease-vector boxes that are modern hospitals. God. TVs on all the time, lights never more than half-off, and never a let-up in the goddamned noise; I'd rather sleep on the street than in a hospital. Drug me if I'm in pain and let me die already.

I love medical science. I love being able to look things up and nose around in research articles. Medical science is wonderful. I'm not one of those people who bitch about "Western Medicine" per se, or who thinks alternative medicine is fabulous. But our peculiar three-player medical delivery system, in which all the money extracted has to flow through an insurance company before it reaches any caregiver, and runs through multiple curtains of obfuscation and profit-taking before it gets there, does not thrill me. And it would be lovely if I had somehow had back some of the $500 to $800 per month I've been paying, decade after decade, for medical services probably worth $5,000 in total. Seriously: it's hundreds of thousands of dollars I've paid into this system. I could find a use for a few hundred thousand extra dollars.

I probably won't post this: there's not really any point, and it sounds too like a certain sort of right-wing yapping that I don't want to encourage. I'm not thinking clearly enough, perhaps, about all the unknown unknowns. The number of ills that can befall a person is truly astonishing, and I might well wake up grateful in a hospital bed tomorrow morning.

But I am still surly. Even if the scrambled eggs and home fries this morning made really a nice change from boiled eggs and oatmeal. I just want everything to hold still long enough to lose that goddamn inch or two from my waist. I don't want to spend my time chasing rather remote chances of colon disease when I'm staring down the barrel of quite likely cardiovascular disease. Living long enough to get colon cancer would really be something of a feat, given my history and my family history. Something I could be proud of.


Sabine said...

If it would be a less intrusive procedure without the yuk prep day, would you still feel the same about it?
I am due my 9th colonoscopy this spring and my dislike and disgust is increasing, dramatically. An exercise in staying calm and giving in.

Dale said...

I don't really care about the intrusiveness at all. And I wouldn't even mind the yuk prep day all that much, if that was all there was to it. The two things I really mind are changing my diet for a week -- when I've worked so hard so long to find something that works for me, to get thrown off it for a week is so discouraging -- and knowing that it's billed somewhere for a large sum of money, even if I'm not the person who pays that particular bill (I just pay my share of so many people paying for similar bills.) Or, backing off to a slightly longer perspective, I just feel powerless. I mean, I could simply not have the colonoscopy done: that would be easy. But I'm still paying for it, basically, because my insurance covers it, and I'm paying for my insurance. And there's no easy way to negotiate that. I can't just walk away, because without the medical establishment the pharmacopia is closed to me. They do have stuff I want, sometimes.