Two Things I Learned From My Colonoscopy

First, I need to find a less awkward way to tell medical staff that I had top surgery. Second, I need to learn how to ask for help when I need it. Third, no one wants to hear about my colonoscopy.

my-butch-colonoscopyWhen you see a new doctor, you fill out a form and list all of your surgeries. I’ve had surgery to repair a torn meniscus (knee), to remove fibroid tumors, to remove my uterus (partial hysterectomy), and to remove my breasts (top surgery). The nurse at East Side Endoscopy didn’t know what I meant by top surgery, so I told her I had a bi-lateral mastectomy. She asked if it was for cancer, and I said no, and left it at that, but I felt her question dangling, unanswered.

I only had gotten three hours of sleep, and I hadn’t had any coffee, and I nearly said cosmetic, but I caught myself. My transition, no matter how ambiguous it is, no matter how much it has to do with how I look, is not cosmetic. I’m still angry that my health insurance refused to pay for top surgery. They claimed it was not medically necessary. I couldn’t find the words to explain to the nurse that top surgery is gender confirmation surgery or to tell her which gender it confirmed.

I’d like to find a phrase that is clear. That isn’t pathologized. That doesn’t sound like a euphemism. That tells the truth.

I’m trying to convince myself to meet with a cardiologist. There will be an EKG with sticky electrodes on my chest, right near my scars. There will be a discussion about previous surgeries. There will be questions. My total cholesterol level (282) is the only thing standing between me and testosterone. I want to get it under control so that the only thing standing between me and T is me.

I kept forgetting that I’d scheduled the colonoscopy, and that I needed someone sign me out (and presumably take me home). Normally, I rely on Donna, however, since she broke her ankle, is using a walker, and is barely able to get in a taxi with my assistance, it seemed unwise to make her come with me, or sign me out. I nearly cancelled and rescheduled it. I didn’t want to ask anyone else to pick me up.

I suck at asking for help. I have three friends who would do anything I asked, but I hesitate asking. I don’t have family other than Donna, and in the back of my mind I think you only ask your family for help.

It is a holdover from childhood. “You got yourself into the problem. You get yourself out of it.” I’m good at figuring out how to do things by myself, but some things, like being signed out of surgery, are impossible. I hate asking someone to give up a day, and a day’s salary. I hate making a request that is difficult to refuse. I don’t want to inconvenience anyone. I don’t want to be an obligation.

instant-deliveryI don’t live in a tight-knit community where people practice mutual aid. In my New York, if you can’t do something yourself, you hire someone to do it for you. You can get anything delivered, almost instantaneously. It is a service economy. I considered Craigslist, but then I came to my senses. Plus, I couldn’t figure out what to look under. It turns out you can hire a home health aide to take you to and from medical appointments. I asked a friend.

I make an exception for Gracie. When Gracie needs an extra walk, or to stay with someone overnight, or to make an emergency trip to the animal hospital, I am able to ask for help and get it from my dog-owning friends. But, it is different if the help is for me. I need to get over this, and bark for help when I need it.

Notes: Mutual aid is a term coined by Peter Kropotkin, a Russian anarchist. Mutual aid societies were popular in the U.S. amongst immigrants; some groups were based on your profession/trade and others were based on your country or town of origin. Amish barn raising is a form of mutual aid, as are freecycling programs, and babysitting cooperatives.

I’m rereading this article from the New York Times on how to ask for help….

The colonoscopy went smoothly. The doctor cut out a polyp and sent it off to the lab. I’m hoping he will tell me that I don’t need to come back for another 5 to 10 years.

18 thoughts on “Two Things I Learned From My Colonoscopy

  1. Lesboi

    You could just simply say that you had reconstructive chest surgery and leave it at that. If they ask more you could say you had a couple large benign lumps removed. I’m half joking here but in truth I’m not so sure much more than that since it has nothing to do with a medical condition and there were no complications from it. If you want to be really slippery you could call it a radical breast reduction. No one blinks an eye at augmentations or reductions and the only other question they may ask is about cancer being the reason and you just simply say no. The rest is none of their business unless you want it to be.

    Liked by 3 people

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It is a two pronged monster – first what to write on the form (I put top surgery, but the nurse was not familiar with the term) and second, what to say when asked about it.
      The hysterectomy is easy to put down, and no one has ever questioned “why”. I might opt for breast reduction with chest contouring.
      I don’t mind giving a medical history – it gave me an opportunity to tell the anesthesiologist that I get nauseous and that I wanted to be “out” for the colonoscopy – no need to watch the procedure.

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  2. Mrs Fever

    I think that NYT article was spot-on, particularly in the question of power balance. Nobody likes to feel beholden, and even if we don’t have the kinds of friends who would expect anything in return, it’s hard for many of us to shake the feeling of ‘owing’ someone else. I know for me, family members (kin) are *not* the people I want to go to when I need help. The only true family I have is my spouse, and when it doesn’t make sense to ask for help from that quarter (as in your situation currently, with Donna in recovery), I figure it out for myself. I have a whole history with hospitals that makes me uncomfortable, but I sometimes wonder if my aversion to seeing doctors (in small clinics, in their offices, seeking naturopathy, etc) is related to my fear (yes, I think that’s what it boils down to: fear) of asking for help. Hmmm… Something to ponder.

    Re: cholesterol… I remember you were planning to focus on diet and exercise. Are you taking any medications?

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m taking fish oil, and I cut shellfish out of my diet, and reduced my cheese intake. I’m talking myself into Lipitor if the cardiologist that I haven’t yet called recommends it.
      I’m screwing up my courage to ask my closest dog run friend to take me – otherwise Donna said she’d come with me in a taxi – mostly for show since she’d be useless if I actually needed assistance….

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  3. jerbearinsantafe

    I have been three times to have a colonoscopy, not the most pleasant procedures, particularly the preparation. I have to go for a fourth within a year or two. Thankfully I have a wonderful friend who helps me out in situations like this. I know how intimidating it is to broach sensitive subjects with people who may be judgemental. Just remember that the one thing health care professionals should be is non-judgemental.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Fortunately, I heard back today from the gastro guy and my polyps came back clean, so I don’t need to go back for 10 years! Hopefully they will improve the prep between now and then.
      I’m spoiled by having a partner who usually takes care of things like this – but I am pouty about having to make my own arrangements.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Spoke with the gastroenterologist this afternoon, everything was clear, and I don’t have to go back for 10 years!
      In dog training, I’ve been told “no rewards for bad behavior” and in this case I am rewarded for having put it off…

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  4. Accidentally Gay

    I have the same exact problem. I can help all my friends, put myself out for whatever is needed. However, I cannot ask people other than Jello or family for help. The hard part is my brother lives over a 100 miles away with no car and my parents health is at end stage and they can’t help.

    That leaves me with just Jello. I have other friends, but I just can’t get myself to ask. I am sure it is because during childhood it was always about only trusting family (or friends that were so close to family that we considered them family). Most of my friends now have grown far away enough from me that I don’t think they really fit in that category of family like that.

    I am working on it (Jello gets on me about it), but I feel like we are kindred souls when it comes to that. I just can’t ask for whatever reason.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It really threw me for a loop not to be able to count on Donna. She also makes all of our social arrangements (yes, it is traditional relationship in that regard) and if it wasn’t for her I’d probably be a hermit.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I can ask Donna for help, but that is about it. I have a lot of anxiety/fear of being vulnerable. Donna can ask total strangers for help (or directions), and almost never gets turned down.

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  5. anexactinglife

    This is a sore spot for me – asking for help, not a colonoscopy 🙂 Reading Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking really helped me get my head around it. As AP would say, “Just Take the Fucking Donuts.” You’d have to read the book for context!

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thank you for telling me about this. I just watched Amanda Palmer’s TED talk, and then reserved the book through the NYPL. It was also interesting to read the critiques of her, and the critiques of the critiques. Now I have to watch her music videos….

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  6. George Davis

    Can you get someone to go with you to the cardiologist just for support? Would it be easier for you to call ahead and let people know about your top surgery?

    I’m thrilled the colonoscopy results were good and really hoping you can get to the cholesterol.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      The colonoscopy and the cholesterol are all because I went to the LGBT health clinic in NYC to get testosterone, and had to get a complete physical (which I’d managed to avoid for about ten years).
      I’m fine with going to appointments by myself – it is just that the top surgery revision and the colonoscopy require a friend to accompany you because of the sedation. I think the issue is that they don’t want the patient driving, but I live in NYC and would take a taxi home – but they still insist…
      My next post is going to be about struggling with this – I finally managed to ask another friend to go with me – but it was ridiculously hard for me to do it.
      The procrastination about the cardiologist is more about not wanting to face up to taking Lipitor…(and now for another chorus of why I hate being middle-aged and how unfair it is).

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