The Surprise Diagnosis


When the bleeding started, I thought it was temporary. I thought it was a natural result of taking a longer than reasonable hiatus from a generally healthful diet. The strain of working, an extra curricular 40-minute presentation with a powerpoint, and senior year finals would be over soon enough. I thought that once I got back to a regular diet, I would be back to normal in no time. I was wrong.


Diet Wasn’t the Cause

processed food deadlyWhile working horrific hours to get through the finish line of my last semester at Northern Arizona University, I completely stopped watching what I ate. I didn’t have time to shop for, wash, and prepare fresh produce.I didn’t have time to cook, no less clean up afterwards. My eye was on the prize — my “piece of paper” that said I was smart.

Even worse, I needed lots of sugar to get me through the crushing workload. For a few weeks, I lived on frozen meals, cookies, ice cream, and Panda Express. My body rebelled, inflicting miserable and bloody constipation.

After graduating in mid-May, it took a few weeks of a disciplined, healthful diet to relieve the constipation. but the bleeding didn’t stop. But by early July, common sense said a colonoscopy was in order.


Finding “Affordable” Healthcare

Knowing I needed a colonoscopy, I started where most people would start — searching participating providers in my health insurance plan. In my search, I stumbled on the “routine” versus “diagnostic” clause in my health insurance coverage (apparently this exists in most policies).

An annual “routine” colonoscopy is free, and a “diagnostic” colonoscopy starts at $1,850. What’s the difference? A “routine” colonoscopy becomes a “diagnostic” colonoscopy the moment any abnormality is removed. Given there was a strong likelihood that something would be removed, I was looking at $1,800+ out of pocket.

one million dollars$1,850+ just seemed outrageous, so I looked for providers outside of those participating in my high deductible Aetna health policy. It didn’t take long to find with a price tag of just $950. Their only participating provider in the Phoenix metro area at the time was Dr. Venkatesh at Tri-City Colorectal in Gilbert. His reviews were stellar, so I started the appointment process.

To offset the cost, I opened an HSA account. I found the best deal at Bank of America. When I made my first contribution, I noticed that my bank account was debited seven days before the credit appeared in my HSA account. This means Bank of America is floating bank-to-bank HSA contributions for at least seven days. This should be illegal.


Yay, Yay, Colonoscopy Day

colonscopy dayI didn’t have any problem getting down the prescription PEG (Polyethylene glycol) prep. It was the hands-down BEST intestinal cleanse I have EVER had! I was squeaky clean inside.

The colonoscopy was uneventful, except for the one inch polyp that was removed and sent to pathology. The doctor said it didn’t look like cancer, that I should be fine now. I thought that was the end of my ordeal. But it wasn’t.


The Fateful Call

bad news phone callAbout 10 days after my colonoscopy in late August, I received a call from the doctor saying that the pathology report found malignant cells in the polyp. This in and of itself was not bad. What was bad was that the malignant cells extended to the margin (where it was removed). This meant that there were still cancer cells in my colon, meaning I had colon cancer.

The doctor continued, saying that the next steps were a sigmoidoscopy to tattoo the location of the polyp, a PET scan to be sure it hadn’t spread, and then a colon resegment in which 10 inches of my colon would be removed. He went on to explain that the PET scan identifies cancer with radioactive glucose because cancer cells consume sugar at 19 times the rate of normal ells. That’s the moment when I knew how I had given myself colon cancer.


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