“Looks like your birthday was in November. That makes you 50,” said the doctor. This was Dr. Caretto, my new doctor. I’d had health insurance for over a year, but hadn’t had a physical in that time – nor in the six years before. Going to the doctor wasn’t on my hit parade of the top ten ways to spend an afternoon, but here I was. Silver lining? I noticed that he was kind of cute, assumed he had money, and saw that there was no ring on his finger.
“And that means you’re due for a colonoscopy,” he said.
Oh, hells no. No way. I have friends who have had them, and I’ve selectively ignored everything they’ve tried to tell me about the experience. Nope. Not me. Not going to do it.
I stared at Dr. Caretto, the decidedly unattractive, definitely bogged down with med school loans, and likely gay doctor sitting before me. I wasn’t even supposed to be there. The only reason I was there is that my health insurance was running out and I didn’t expect to have any for a while. The internship I’d been working, the brass ring that gave me hours, pay, and benefits, was ending in two weeks. While I was still covered, I hit all the big ticket items – new glasses, dental x-rays and a night guard, a grueling pelvic exam, and here I was with the GP. And he’d just told me I’d have to have a colonoscopy.
“But there is an option you can consider,” he said.
Turns out there’s this new thing (new to me anyway, I hadn’t been to the doctor in 6 years). There’s a lab that can analyze your feces to determine if you’ve got colon cancer. It’s 99% reliable. There’s no overnight drinking of poison to clean out your colon. There’s no anal probe, and you don’t have to phone a friend to come pick you up afterwards.
You just have to poop in a bucket and send it to Wisconsin.
Dr. Caretto gave me a Cologuard brochure. “Read it over, let me know if you’re interested. If you are, give us a call in a day or two and we’ll call in a prescription.”
I wouldn’t leave the office until the prescription was called in.
The Cologuard kit comes in a cute blue and white box. The directions are easy to read and make the whole thing seem as simple and as natural as drinking orange juice with breakfast. It’s genius, really. Kind of like proctologist meets IKEA. The box comes packaged with everything in its place, the ‘collection cup’, a test tube, a bottle of liquid chemical, and a cleverly folded ‘seat’, that you unfold and place under your toilet seat. It holds the collection bucket (my words), so that everything goes where it’s supposed to go.
I loved this little kit. I loved it so much that I kept it on my coffee table for the better part of a month. Cologuard called once a week to make sure that I received my kit and to encourage me to submit my sample as soon as possible. I assured them that I’d get to it soon.
Truth told, it was never the right time. I did know that the right time would be in the morning around 7am, I’m very regular that way. But I also knew that if I had ice cream the night before, the consistency would be off. Same if there had been too much rice. And it said on the package not to collect the sample when menstruating, so that ruled out five days right there. I found the timing to be tricky, tricky, tricky with this Cologuard.
Then this morning I finally went for it. Well, I ‘went’, such as it was. Everything was fine. Seat thingy, collection bucket, perform the task, remove collection bucket from seat thingy (keep collection cup on a hard, flat surface), use little swab thingy to get small sample, put befouled little swab thingy in test tube. Pour bottle of liquid chemical into collection bucket to cover original sample, close the collection bucket (screw top on very tightly), put it all in a zip lock bag and place in original box. Fold the top flaps of the box just so and it’s ready for shipping with its own pre-paid label. Gorgeous.
Executed. No problem. Directions state that if you collect your sample on Monday, it has to be at UPS by Wednesday. No problem there, either. The reason my health insurance ran out is because I left a job to start my own business. I’d been in the process of starting my own business for over a month, so making a trip to the UPS store at 10am on a weekday fit right in my schedule.
On the drive over I commended myself. I’d collected the sample. Back up, I’d gone to the doctor in the first place. I’d found a way to be a responsible 50-year-old and get my colonoscopy without the angst. I’d even called my new insurance company to make sure that they’d cover it. All grown up stuff. I drove very carefully on the way over. The last thing I wanted was to wreck my car and have to explain to the officer why I had a bucket of excrement in a bag in a box on my passenger seat.
The UPS girl was none the wiser when I put the box on the counter. She gave me a tracking slip, and I got out the door without making the joke I wanted to make about “What Can Brown Do For You?” as it related to the contents of the box. I might be 50, but poop jokes never get old.
I pulled out of the parking lot and resumed congratulating myself for a job well done. Saw doctor, called insurance, sent sample… although that sample got sent over a month after I saw the doctor. I didn’t have the same insurance anymore. What if my new insurance didn’t honor the invoice because the doctor who prescribed the procedure wasn’t on their plan? What if my old insurance didn’t honor the invoice because I wasn’t on their plan anymore? I was in health insurance purgatory. I could not, simply could not, afford to pay for Cologuard out of pocket. I almost pulled over, but then I remembered that I was a responsible person who went to doctor’s appointments and collected samples, etc, etc, and decided to drive over to Dr. Caretto’s and get it all figured out.
Not much to figure out. Neither my old insurance nor my new insurance was going to pay to have my poop analyzed for colon cancer. Cologuard was going to charge me directly for their service. Oh hells no. No way. I had to stop UPS from shipping that box.
Of course I knew that 395 is under construction, and it would have taken an extra five minutes if I got on the that highway, so I defied Google Maps and rerouted to take Braddock Road. Braddock Road, as it turns out, is under more construction than 395, and I spent a wasted 20 minutes sitting in line, waiting for the construction worker to turn his sign from “Stop” to “Slow”. Then there were the lights. And why would anyone pull up to a light in the right hand lane if they weren’t going to turn right on red? Monster!
It was a different girl at the UPS counter. I waved my tracking slip at her. “It’s a cube-shaped box. It’s white with blue on it. It can’t get shipped. I NEED IT BACK!” Girly girl showed me the stack of boxes waiting for pick up. “If it’s not there,” she said, “then it’s already gone”.
It wasn’t in that stack. There were white boxes, there were cube-shaped boxes, but none of them were my box. “Holy crap!” I thought, and that made me laugh a little. The girl from earlier came out from the back. “My box!” I said. “I need my box and it’s not here!”
“It’s air,” said my girl. “Your box is going to be air-shipped, so it’s over there.” I went in the direction she pointed and by the grace of god, there it was. My box. I cradled it gently to my chest and took it out to the car.
I called the Cologuard people and told them about my insurance situation. The agent agreed that neither insurance would cover it, and that I would have had to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket if they had processed my sample. She commended me for intercepting my box. She said I did the exact right thing, and that not many people are as smart and responsible as I am. That made me feel good.
Now I have a box containing a bag containing a small plastic bucket of my shit in the foyer. The lady said I should disassemble the kit, recycle the box and the bag, and take the collection cup to the hazardous waste disposal facility. I guess I can do that. I guess I can unpack it all and separate it all and go to two different sites to dispose of it properly. That would put an end to the whole business. Although, that box sat for a month on my coffee table, now it’s sitting on the floor. I’m sure I’ll get to it soon.