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Take control of own health

Sat., Nov. 28, 2009

DEAR DR. GOTT: I recently read your article about diverticulosis and would like to share my experience.

In early 2006, my primary-care doctor suggested I have a colonoscopy. Although I was only 46 at the time, she had concerns, since my mother had colon cancer in 2000 and my father died from melanoma in 1995. Let me stress that, at that point, I had no problems, but I felt it was a precaution I should take, so I scheduled an appointment with a local gastroenterologist.

As I was coming out of the anesthesia, I remember him telling me that I had diverticulosis, but it was only one sac and, at that time, it was not a problem. He didn’t find any polyps.

Within three months after the procedures, I began to experience diarrhea. The same gastroenterologist told me that with the diverticulosis, he was sure I wasn’t eating properly. He gave me a generic diet to follow and sent me on my way.

The diarrhea continued to worsen even with the diet change . I returned to the specialist and was made to feel as though it was my fault because I wasn’t eating as I should. He never ordered any blood work or any other tests.

By spring 2007, I had had enough and went to a hospital associated with a university. The gastroenterologist I saw there immediately ordered blood work. Within a week of the testing, his office called and said he saw something in the results that concerned him. He wanted me to have CT scan as soon as possible. The next six weeks were a frantic race to save my life.

By this time, my diverticulosis had become diverticulitis, which was inflamed, infected and had ruptured.

When I was finally healthy enough for surgery in September 2007, I had 2 feet of my colon removed and was given a temporary colostomy bag. I was 48 at the time. It was not cancerous.

In January 2008, the colostomy bag was removed, and I was back to normal. I am now as healthy as ever, even more so given the past several years of suffering – I lost my job, my insurance, my home and my self-esteem. I hope that you will print or share any part of this letter to keep others from being taken down the same road I was. Diverticulosis and diverticulitis can be very serious. They should be taken as such by the entire medical profession.

DEAR READER: I am printing your letter because it is a powerful reminder that patients have to take responsibility for their own health. You were more than correct in seeking out another specialist in order to get the answers you needed. Thank you for sharing, and I am truly glad to hear that, despite your ordeal, everything is now back to normal.


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