You Should Get That Checked Out: Some Considerations

1. High school. I’ve been getting my period for four years but it’s never been normal, and I’m worried. This despite the fact that irregular periods in high school are actually more normal than regular periods in high school. I must be the outlier. There must be a reason. That reason must be cancer. Bloodwork. Ultrasound. Inconclusive. Everything looks normal, if it lasts a few more years, get another checkup. Oh I will. Cost: No idea. I didn’t think about things like “money” back then, only HEALTH. (Paid by parents.)

2. College. Abdominal pain. Am I stressed? Uh, it’s college? Time of my life? Totally not stressed, except about fact that this dull ache is probably cancer. Student health refers me to gastro specialist, who orders a colonoscopy. Results inconclusive. Pain eventually goes away. Cost: ??? plus my mom took off work and drove to my university town and booked a hotel room for my colonoscopy because she is a wonderful mother and then afterwards she bought me so much stuff from Whole Foods, it all must have been  additional hundreds on top of that why are my parents so great I don’t know. (Paid by parents.)

3. College. I’ve been running everyday for five months because if I skip a day I don’t trust myself to start again and my legs have been hurting for awhile but I’ve just been running through the pain. But now the dull ache in my shins has turned into a feeling not dissimilar, I imagine, to a knife, stabbing my bones, repeatedly. Student health refers me to to a sports medicine doctor who diagnoses stress fractures but wants to do an x-ray anyway, which confirms stress fractures. Go to physical therapy for months. Cost: Physical therapy is expensive. Specialists are expensive. And yet, ??? (Paid by parents.)

4. California. First job. Hard job. Stress job. Adult acne cannot abide. Go to dermotologist and ask for magic creams but first must have a bunch of bloodwork in case of cancer. (No. cancer.) Am finally written prescription for an antibiotic and some topical creams that bleached all my pillowcases. Insurance doesn’t cover any of this, what are you kidding. When I ran out, did not renew. Cost: Several hundred, paid by me, probably still (Visa).

5. Oregon. Abdominal pain (“Is it acute?” “I’d say acute-ish.”) Doctor orders ultrasound to make sure it isn’t a slowly leaking appendix. It is not. Maybe a pulled muscle from doing crunches after having not done crunches for a very long time. Cost: $4,000 (and still did not meet deductible!) Paid in installments over two years.

6. Virginia. Tooth ache. Terrible, awful tooth ache. I’m about to pull a Tom Hanks in Castaway to get rid of this toothache. Except it’s not one tooth. It’s all the teeth. After it doesn’t go away for 2 weeks, go to dentist to get it checked out. “Have you been under a lot of stress lately?” “Maybe.” “You’ve been grinding your teeth. The pain is from clenching your jaw. Maybe drink some camomile tea, listen to some relaxing music.” Cost: $300. He cut me a deal.

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30 Comments / Post A Comment

cawcawphony (#2,990)

But also:
Oregon. Abdominal pain. Maybe it’s gas? I’ve never felt this way but don’t have insurance, so yes, it’s gas. Drink Pepto, Mylanta, pop some Gas-x, etc. Go to bar to drink away pain. When I have to leave early because my stomach hurt so bad I knew it was time to do something. No, Mr. Doctor, I am 100% certain it’s not menstrual cramps but sure, do a pelvic exam anyway. Two CT scans later I’m rushed into surgery because my appendix burst. Five days in the hospital, surgery, anesthesia = $???

Somehow I am the luckiest person on earth- the hospital had me fill out a one-page form and ended up covering the bill 100%. Since I made about $900/month I consider myself blessed that I am not still paying this off. In my head it’s because it was a Catholic hospital, but for all I know every other hospital would have cut me the same deal.

selenana (#673)

@cawcawphony Was it Providence? I have friends who work there.

cawcawphony (#2,990)

@selenana Maybe? I don’t even remember and just tried to figure it out. It was about 10 years ago in Portland. It wasn’t Good Samaritan- a friend in a similar financial situation also had an appendectomy and had to pay the big bucks. Wherever it was, the doctors and nurses were great (I had one of those morphine buttons) and there were Jesus’ on crosses.

nogreeneggs (#154)

@cawcawphony Why do doctors assume if you are a lady with abdominal pains it is automatically a problem with your lady parts? I too went to the hospital with acute abdominal pain (that I assumed was constipation and tried to cure with Pepto) and my doctor (a lady) assured me that I: had an ectopic pregnancy even though all 3 of the pregnancy tests they gave me were negative; had ovarian cysts and/or a twisted ovary even though my pelvic exams and external/internal ultrasounds were clear; and finally “I just don’t know what’s wrong with you man, guess I’ll send you home” – doctor lady.

Luckily a surgeon had seen my CT-Scan and prevented me from going home and dying from a ruptured appendix. Since your appendix burst, I’m assuming they covered your bill to avoid a malpractice lawsuit.

themegnapkin (#444)

I am washing a steak knife in the sink and my hand slips. I feel the blade slicing through my finger like sausage, then bounce off the bone. I live alone and am horrified, so I go to the emergency room (it is the weekend, my doctor is not available). They laugh at me and basically tell me I must have used my finger as a pretext to get access to the emergency room (??) because nobody comes in for something so stupid. [Nobody but me, I guess.] $100, because I am insanely lucky to have good insurance.

kellyography (#250)

@themegnapkin Jeez, your ER people are terrible. I have gone in to the ER for way more minor things than that because I didn’t have a GP, or because it was a weekend, whatever. Never have I heard such crazy shit. My ER copay is like $25 or $50, though, so if you don’t mind the wait and/or paperwork, it’s even cheaper than a specialist copay.

Madeline Shoes (#1,324)

@themegnapkin well, obviously you just wanted access to the emergency room because it is a wonderful fantasyland of fun, more awesome than Disneyworld!

Beans (#1,111)

I have horrible pains in my lower abdomen for 24 hours and feel slightly feverish. Assume it’s bad lady cramps, take Advil. Be woken up from the pain the next AM and decide it’s worth looking into. Drive self to the ER, discover I have appendicitis. Have appendix removed, friends come and visit me and update my parents on my cellphone. Go home with lots of drugs the next day. Cost, $15,000. Cost to me: $0, because I have health insurance. Whenever people talk about not needing health insurance because they’re young and healthy, I always ask if they’ve had their appendix out.

PrettyNicola (#692)

@Beans The problem is, I also have health insurance, but the cost to me would still have been multiple thousands of dollars, because my health insurance is kind of shitty. I don’t know who these people are who think they don’t need health insurance, but I know lots of people who can’t afford the kind of insurance that brings $15000 bills down to $0, unless it is because the hospital absorbs the cost because the patient is poor.

nogreeneggs (#154)

@Beans Yup my answer for why health insurance is “because some of your organs could try to murder you any second, with no warning.”

In addition to me having appendicitis, I also know two women who are late 20s/early 30s that just had their gal bladders removed because of infection. I never realized that was a thing that could happen to young, otherwise healthy people but there you go.

Oh and my appendix surgery cost $27k with only a 1 night stay in the hospital (lol). I paid $300, $150 copay for both the hospital and the actual surgery…which still seems like a rip off because obviously I have to have surgery in a hospital but whatever.

oiseau (#1,830)

The whole (Not. cancer.) thing – This lady who I work with had a cough/throat tickle/occasionally hoarse for years and didn’t think it was anything to be worried about. She finally went to the doctor and it turns out it WAS cancer. She had chemo and seemed to be on the path to recovery but last week had a complication and she died yesterday. She was 35 and had 3 young kids. She didn’t smoke or anything. It was really sad to hear about it and scary – sorry to be such a downer. Get insurance if you do not have insurance!

@oiseau But what about people who can’t afford insurance? Tough luck, just try not to get cancer? Is that how it works in a user-pays system?

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

oiseau- Yes, insurance is expensive if you don’t have it through work, and even then it can be crap. I looked up individual plans last night and the cheapest plan I could find was $113 a month with a $7,500 deductible. How is any of that okay? Don’t tell poor people to get insurance. Tell the people in charge of our health care system to make it affordable to be healthy!

Megano! (#124)

I totally did #2 in college, except I was convinced it was appendicitis.

blueblazes (#1,798)

Been bouncing between #2 and #5 for years. Starting to wonder if you can have chronic mild appendicitis as opposed to acute one-time appendix-bursting appendicitis. Let’s call it $2k in exams, ultrasounds, and blood tests. I haven’t been scoped yet, but I suppose that would be next if I continued with the diagnostics. Instead, I discovered that I can manage the pain with 800mg of ibuprofen every 4 hours or so on the bad days. That constitutes a cure, right?

LHOOQ (#1,634)

@blueblazes Until you give yourself an ulcer from the ibuprofen.

@blueblazes what side is it on? I would recommend a scope – chronic abdominal pain’s not normal! (BTW, not a doctor, don’t even play on on TV).

TARDIStime (#1,633)

$4, 000 for an ULTRASOUND?.
You Americans make me feel like the world’s luckiest mofo, seriously. I had one of those things on my ankle once and it cost my mum like almost no money. Like, less than $10.
And this one other time the doctor prescribed me some pills or other and they were like over $200 without PBS, and then I went and picked up the pills and it was about $15.
How does your govt not get it?

hopelessshade (#580)

@TARDIStime The government totally gets it: they don’t have to shell out time and money on single payer. The citizens who think it would be a treasonous idea to have single payer are A: wealthy enough to have insurance or B: crazy enough to think that the guv’rmint would institute death camps, etc. Soshulism!

grog (#2,222)

Logan, RE: #6. If you’re still grinding and haven’t gotten one yet, you should think about an occlusal guard for sleep (maybe that’s what the $300 was for?). You’ll drool a lot and it can be kind of uncomfortable, but it stopped my grinding and wake-up headaches. Custom fit from a dentist are around $200-$300, but you can probably buy one at the drug store for around $20.

Unless you were grinding during the day, in which case: tea, music and meditation.

lizard (#2,615)

@grog i just want to have tea music and meditation as a cure for everything. it sounds lovely

hanitsirk (#3,248)

Today I was just referred for an ultrasound to check out a breast lump. I am freaking the fuck out because a) I’m a hypochondriac, but also b) I just quit my job (with insurance) here in the States to take another one in the UK. Luckily my worst case scenario involves moving back to Canada (where I’m originally from), and being taken care of by my parents and government health care once I clear the three month “I’m moving back” period.

LHOOQ (#1,634)

@Kristina H@twitter Hi girl, don’t freak out! Something like 85% of breast lumps turn out to be nothing upon investigation, and even the remaining percentage are not necessarily cancer. Just get the ultrasound done as soon as you can, but seriously, there’s a reason that doctors are beginning to suspect that mammogram screening programs do more harm than good. Also, you will be eligible for free treatment on the NHS as soon as you move to the UK.

navigateher (#555)

I was in the hospital last week for two days. They did countless blood tests, chest x-rays, I had three different kind of specialists see me and they even gave me food. When I left and asked about how I pay the nurse informed me that they’ll just send an invoice. For approx. 28 euros. I consider myself a very happy taxpayer indeed.

lizard (#2,615)

@navigateher lol hospitals in the US give you food too.

navigateher (#555)

@lizard No really? They do?

In other words, I didn’t get this comment, but thanks anyway!

Stacy H@twitter (#1,155)

I had abdominal pain in the appendix-y spot for 13 years. I have had every test there is – blood work, CT scan, colonoscopy, everything. Went lactose free, tried different diets. No help. Two years ago I started taking Cymbalta. I have had only two days of stomachache since. (That’s expensive enough on its own, but that’s another story…)

LaNocciola (#2,880)

At this point, I’m starting to think Logan and I are the same person. Her columns on depression are the clearest explanation of how I feel that I’ve encountered and now I find she has the same teeth grinding and long-term unsolvable abdominal pains. I think the abdominal pain is exacerbated by anxiety, if not completely caused by it. I don’t know what the cure is.

ImASadGiraffe (#982)

@LaNocciola I had anxiety and depression give me IBS-like symptoms. Once I saw a therapist for the anxiety and depression my abdominal and intestinal pain started going away. I definitely think there is a relationship between the two.

Used to have heinous periods – eventually went to the doctor, got magical (BC) pills, which also helped my skin, I think.

Never went to a dermatologist about my acne. Runs in the family – my mother suffered through it as a young ‘un and presumably figured I should do the same.

Recently got my first eye floater (black speck in my vision). It’s all downhill from here.

Probably going to need to get my wisdom teeth out at some point. My bank account weeps.

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