The Cat and the Hat


It’s fun, really it is.

If you’ve attained the magic age of 50 or beyond, you too can have a colonoscopy. In short: the doc knocks you out, puts a camera up your colon, and has a look around checking for polyps.

Admittedly you are under house arrest the day before, restricted to the loo for some number of hours to prepare, fast so long you could eat the plastic flowers on the pen when you finally get to the doc’s office, and other dubious experiences.

Of course, if you don’t have insurance coverage (never mind a horrendous deductible) or cash, you have to pay  out of pocket for this invasive, early-detection colon cancer exam—that’s how we do it here in America.

Question – How  can a doctor do this all day long?

Answer – Butts are a high-priced specialty item on the American healthcare menu.

Here’s how lucrative it is. A report released by the International Federation of Health Plans revealed that a colonoscopy in the U.S. averaged $1,185. The same procedure in Argentina costs $413. In Switzerland, it runs about $655. In fact, colonoscopies provided a compelling case study in a June 2013 New York Times article, “The $2.7 Trillion Medical Bill.” Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the article stated that 10 million people get the procedure each year, adding up to more than $10 billion in annual costs.

The Alternative

The alternative is a DIY procedure—the fecal sample kit—along with the good news. These tests are not only routinely performed in other countries, they’ve also been proven to be just as effective for early detection by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force.

Why am I bringing up this subject? Because my latest keystone kop’s adventure of “getting the sample” will hopefully make you laugh yet consider this affordable option. Here’s the basics from the American Cancer Society—my underlining: Collecting the samples: Have all of your supplies ready and in one place. The kit will give you detailed instructions on how to collect the samples.

Here’s How it Went for Me

  • At the lab, a guy answering the phone while also helping me asks “Do you want a hat?” I’m picturing maybe a ball cap with I did it! above the brim. “Sure,” I say and he throws into a LARGE bag this plastic hat that fits over your toilet bowl.  I don’t find it something I might want to wear, not even in the rain, and alas it’s a no-return item.
  • Day One (of the three day process) – no problem with the supplies, directions, or my readiness to provide said sample. Day Two – same, things are going swimmingly. Day Three – almost there when our cat, Violet,  paws open the bathroom door and spies the tissues on the floor. Wow – great fun sliding around on these! And ends by sitting on them! Eventually she gets bored and leaves while I’m about to pass out waiting to provide my last day’s worth. I’m done.
  • Two problems – One – what if the lab finds cat hair in my sample? Two – it’s Sunday and it’s not to be mailed back to the lab (like my old lab’s policy) but delivered IMMEDIATELY to the closed lab! All that for naught as my granny would say.

I am happy to report that the second attempt was successful and now hip to the lingo, I pass on the hat. I planned my 3 days accordingly and delivered my kit back to the lab on a Friday and met a friend for coffee to celebrate.

Unfortunately we were in a crowded coffee shop and my story of the first try with the cat, the tissues, etc. had us both gasping while the man next to us (trying not to listen, but who can pass up a story like this?) fails to turn the page in his small paperback until we regain our composure and go back to talking about writing and books.

The lab results come back negative, which is positive – good news until next year.

One more thing – I like to find graphics for these blogs. Trust me on this – the Google Images for stool sample kits just didn’t have that much appeal. So here’s the only image I think you might like to see – Violet, our cat!


Source of the data: International Federation of Health Plans 2012 Comparative Price Report and a June 2013 New York Times article “The $2.7 Trillion Medical Bill,” using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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