Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Your mission – if you choose to accept it: become a bug.

No, I’m not asking you to grow six legs and live in an anthill in your front yard. As I was thinking about Gut Inspired’s topic of the month of medical choices, a million things came to mind but I finally distilled my thoughts into a word: ‘bug’.

The best patients are bugs – we bug doctors, we bug nurses, we bug pharmacists. I know what IBD really stands for, but I think it should also stand for ‘I Bug Doctors’. Bugging someone has such a negative connotation, but we have to remember that the regular social laws of conversation and friendship don’t – and shouldn’t – apply to our doctors. We don’t have to agree with them all the time, we can say no, we can ask for a second opinion, we can even get up and walk out. I’m in no way saying to be mean or rude or disrespectful to your doctor, but at the end of the day, he/she is YOUR doctor and is accountable for your body and your future.

Example #1) The summer that I got really sick before my surgery, something just felt wrong and different and broken. I bugged my GI for a scope and managed to get in on a cancellation list. Lo and behold the colon was dying. I was a bug and it worked.

Example #2) The surgeon wanted to do a J-Pouch because he thought it might be colitis and that as a young girl with IBD, I would never want an ostomy. Wrong, I didn’t care about an ostomy – I wanted one. I just wanted to feel better and never go to the bathroom again. I bugged for a permanent ileostomy, he agreed. I was a bug and it worked.

Think of it this way: if you were buying a house, you’d do a lot of research first. You’d look at different houses, talk with different realtors, ask your family’s opinions, check out the neighborhoods, and get someone to inspect the house. You’d take time to think about it in relation to your life and if it were near school or the hospital or your friends. So why then do we not apply the same scrutiny and effort to making medical decisions? All too often we get a precious few minutes with our GI and we are expected to decide on medications right there on the spot.

In my own experience, I’ve found that doctors try to make the right decision for you without knowing you. They mean well, and they certainly want to see you get better, but they have no way of understanding you as an individual if you don’t speak up. Doctors and nurses are usually surprised when I tell them I have a permanent ostomy, they ask why I don’t have the J-Pouch and I tell them it wasn’t right for me. They make assumptions and judge the values they think I have based on my age and gender – but they don’t know me and only I can make the best medical choice for myself.

Here is my final metaphor for this post – choosing treatments is like choosing to wear skinny jeans (I promise I’m going somewhere with this). Skinny jeans may be the most fashionable thing to do, it may be the most popular thing to do, everyone and their dog may be wearing skinny jeans and look great in them. But maybe you don’t want skinny jeans, maybe you want to shop around for sweatpants or cargo pants or heck, maybe even army pants. The point is everyone is different and different things will work for them. My pediatric GI once told me, “You’re not responsible for having IBD, but you are responsible for helping yourself get healthy”.

So be a bug, be the very best bug you can be, your bowels will thank you for it.


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