Monday, January 31, 2011

What To Expect When You’re Unsuspecting (Or The Things Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You)

I started physical therapy for my gut last week. I was hoping to write a post about it once it was over, but that is at least six weeks away, and I really needed to vent about the experience.

I really didn’t know what to expect going in, but I assumed that you just lay on a table and someone palpated your stomach in such a way that it would get things moving. Not so. Are you ready for this? Brace yourselves…

Someone takes their finger and sticks it up your butt. And they manipulate the muscles that way…

(Read until the end. I promise, it gets better.)

I had no idea. And this is partly my fault. I did not ask my GI doc what physical therapy would entail. Mainly because I didn’t want to know the answer, because if I had known the answer, I probably would have refused. And because, at the time, anything, well, almost anything, sounded better than having to have surgery.

But shouldn’t someone have warned me? Shouldn’t I have had the opportunity to escape before I was knee deep in the situation? Given the tests that my GI doc has sent me for, I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised, because they go from unpleasant to unpleasant-er. But don’t good doctors tell their patients what to expect from therapies and treatments? I’ve said it many times before: my GI doc is an uber-specialist, but the more time I spend under her care, the more I think it’s time to jump ship and find someone else.

Don’t get me wrong, the physical therapist was kind and gentle. But when someone’s got their finger up your ass – I’m sorry, but I don’t know a nicer way of saying it – at some point you just have to dissociate, like your body is there, but your mind is not. That’s the only way to get through it.

Modern medicine continues to disgust me with some of the antiquated methods it seems so hell bent on using. Really? In the 21st century, we really have no better way of dealing with a barely active colon other than to stick something up there, especially since I thought the goal was to get stuff out?

Some of you may be shocked by my openness here. But the truth is, there is no privacy anymore. No matter how depersonalized I felt things were in the past, this experience beats them all. I’m sharing with you all because I feel like I have a relationship and rapport with my readers. And because I’ve opened myself up in far more intimate ways to a total stranger.

I feel violated. Like a piece of meat that has to lay there and take it. I am just a specimen. My feelings and emotions don’t matter. I should remain mute. My boundaries have been crossed, and now there’s no way to go back.

As patients, are we allowed to have boundaries? Or being chronically ill, is it simply a fact of life that our boundaries will be tested?

When I went to my first rheumatologist appointment, and he had me get 27 tubes of blood drawn, that certainly tested my boundary of breaking out into a cold sweat for just one tube. In that moment, I had to grow up, and I had to accept the situation because I really had no choice. Had I resisted, I would have probably been considered non-compliant, and refusing something that was directly related to being diagnosed, would have seemed contradictory.

So should I just expect that from now until forever my boundaries will be tested and my threshold for what I am able and willing to handle will continually go up?

Have you ever found yourself in a compromising situation that you can’t get out of because your doctor put you there?

I so did NOT sign up for this!

And don’t worry, the irony of the fact that my physical therapist’s last name is BUTTS, isn’t lost on me. Only in my life would something like that happen. And I have to say, there needed to be some humor in this situation.

And a friendly warning: Don’t get caught unawares, because someone might just come and stick their finger up your ass. Yes, apparently there are people who spent years being educated on how to do this. And they enjoy it! Well, maybe they don’t enjoy it, but they don’t dislike it, either. There are no ifs, ands, or butts about it.

Okay, I’m going to stop now…


  1. This sounds like the opposite of fun.  The exact opposite.  But I hope it helps you.  And I think you have every right to feel upset - they should have given you SOME idea what to expect AND 1) acknowledged it was uncomfortable and 2) expressed regret for your experience.  I'm so sorry.  I hope either communication with your current GI specialist improves or that you can find someone new with both diagnostic/technical skills AND people skills.  And I hear you about feeling helpless in some way about what we are expected to endure - I think sometimes medical professionals forget that not only are many of these tests and procedures new to us, but also very different when done TO and not BY you.  (And I did giggle at the name Butts, so thanks for that.) 

  2. You know I feel for you and wish things to improve as soon as possible, butt...sorry, I couldn't help myself either.

    What I value most about this post, Leslie, is your frankness about being human and what that still means regarding our healthcare in this century. Thank you for offering not only this little window into something as personal as your experience here, but for also bringing into the situation the emotional need for humility and humor.

    Otherwise, we'd all be crying constantly and that is no way to get through our days.

  3. So, I'm a physical therapist, and I have NEVER EVER EVER been taught or heard of anyone doing THAT!!!! I have heard of women's issues PT specialty where you treat people for urinary incontinence and things. I've been taught how to massage someone's belly to help mobilize things if they are constipated. But never, ever have I heard of that! I think maybe nurses might do that, maybe. I'm so sorry that nobody warned you. And the PT should have given you an option to not have it done. Can't they find other ways to help you? We do encourage walking for constipation. But that's the amount that I would ever venture into that area of problems.

    So thanks for enlightening me on my own profession. All I can say is WOW, and no I don't think I would go back. You do have rights to refuse things, especially when you feel it invades your privacy. I hope you get the help you need soon.

  4. Wow. I'm horrified. I hope at least the PT explained what s/he was going to do before doing so. But I can imagine feeling like I had no other options when the PT explained what was going to happen.

    I totally grok the disassociation necessary for some medical procedures/experiences. That's the only way I got through my colonoscopy prep as well as the experience itself.

    You're so courageous for baring your soul here on your blog. I'm truly grateful, even if reading about this experience made me want to curl up into a fetal position. (What can I say -- I have issues, and my you-know-where is one of them.)

    I'm thankful that at least your PT was gentle. It kind of reminded me of one of Duncan Cross' posts about a surgeon who was anything but gentle when he did a brutal exam on Duncan.

    I hope it helps. Are you ... going to go back?

  5. Thanks, all, for your support. I am trying to be open-minded about the process, and trying to let my anger give way to acceptance. Because that's what we chronically ill people do, right?