If you're living with a chronic illness, you're in the right place.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Test Anxiety

6:47 AM Posted by Tiffany Taft , , ,
T-minus 3 days until my next endoscopy.  You'd think with the sheer volume of times I've been through medical testing, it'd be no big deal.  Yet here I sit, waiting for Tuesday, 9 am, to arrive so I can get my esophagus checked out to see if this diet I've been on is actually working at a physiological level.

"Good evening, Clarice."
 I want to think it is, I am better.  But I still have some symptoms depending on what I eat - rice, for example, takes a bit to make it down the ol' pipe.  It could be something as simple as there's some narrowing going on from the inflammation I had so I need a dilation, or my gastroenterologist will every-so-carefully stretch my esophagus back to it's normal width with some type of tool that I don't even want to think about.  It probably belongs on Game of Thrones or something.

Full disclosure, I've watched about 3 1/2 episodes of GoT.  Enough to hate Joffrey like the rest of the world.  That's about it.

At least this isn't my gastroenterologist.
I do get propofol for sedation, so there's that.

My worry is she's going to see not much improvement and that while I feel better, the diet isn't right.  There might be other foods that could be causing me problems, so I could face another 6 weeks of eliminating even more foods and having yet another endoscopy.  I honestly have no clue what the plan is, and that makes it easy for me to go down the "what if" rabbit hole.

I tell people all the time not to go down that rabbit hole, or if they do, don't spend a whole lot of time there.

Medical testing is stressful, whether you're new to the whole thing or have been in the system for over a decade, as I have.  We say anxiety decreases with exposure to feared events because we learn that we can manage through situations that seem almost catastrophically bad and come out the other side relatively OK.  But for some reason medical testing is a different animal, and research backs up the negative effects it has on the body.

According to a 2011 American Medical Association article, between 8% and 26% of abnormal test results are not discussed with patients in a "timely" manner, even with the use of electronic medical records.  Depending on who your doctor is, patients can wait over a week for results, which may not be explained well or even left on a voicemail.

I remember when I was being worked up for Crohn's disease and the tests I went through, sometimes 2, 3, 4 times.  It was before the popularity of MyChart or other patient portals, and it was excruciating in terms of the wait, the phone tag, the anticipation.  I hear stories from clients about this dance with the health care system and the anxiety it creates.  For people seeking a diagnosis, waiting to only find out everything is normal can be a harder thing to hear than "you have [insert illness here]." I know that sounds strange in a way, but it also makes complete sense.

A few years ago I wrote about the Catch 22 of normal test results.  You can check it out here.  For Tuesday, I don't think I've wanted test results to be more normal in my life.  Here's hoping.

No Whammies!