For 25 years, Jodi lived an incredible life, enjoying all the basics and then some. Married to a successful doctor, she had never worried about healthcare. But about a decade ago, Jodi and her husband split, and she was left with almost nothing — including no health insurance.
“I was going from the lifestyle of the rich and famous to cleaning houses, scrubbing toilets, and going to the food bank to feed my son, who has autism,” Jodi said.
With no health insurance, Judi did her best to stay well through a patchwork of social services. She received medical care at clinics and urgent care offices, and she sought out free mammograms during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“It sounds so irresponsible, but I did everything that I was supposed to do, but I fell through the cracks,” Jodi said. “My biggest fear was if I got sick, not only do I have no health insurance, I have no one to take care of my son.”
During one clinic visit, the staff asked Jodi, 61, if she had been screened for colorectal cancer recently. It’d been over a decade, so they handed Jodi a FIT test — a test that identifies the presence of blood in stool, a symptom that can indicate colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal issues.
“Within an hour of leaving the clinic, the head resident said they had found blood in my stool and were concerned,” Jodi said. “They wanted me to go for a colonoscopy.”
The only problem: The clinic had no gastrointestinal doctors on staff, and they didn’t know how to connect Jodi with a low- or no-cost colonoscopy option.
As many people do when confronted with a question, Jodi turned to the Internet. She found the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. For patients who can’t afford a colonoscopy, the Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s screening assistance program funds many of them every year — including Jodi’s.
Jodi was worried because she had been feeling ill at the time of the FIT test, probably because of stress, she said. But she was even more worried about who would take care of her son if something happened to her.
Marielle, a certified patient navigator with the Alliance, assured Jodi over our Helpline that false positives do occur with FIT testing, that a colonoscopy would provide definitive answers, and we could help her respond to any outcome.
“I cannot tell you how compassionate and helpful they were,” Jodi said.
The doctor’s office that performed the procedure was “immaculate,” Jodi said, and they got her in right away. “And they didn’t make me feel bad about not having insurance,” she said.
In the end, Jodi’s colonoscopy found polyps — tissue growths that are sometimes precancerous — but a biopsy showed hers were benign (not dangerous).
“When I got the results, I literally cried. I cannot tell you the sense of relief,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how many hours you work, it’s a terrible thing to not be able to take care of your health, it really is. I felt such a sense of relief not just for me, but for my son.”
Jodi’s struggle to take control of her health is not uncommon. A third of eligible adults are not getting screened for colorectal cancer, many due to lack of insurance, and the problem could get worse due to COVID-19.
Olympus is partnering with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance in 2020 to raise awareness of colorectal cancer screenings and help people get screened. Allies who want to learn more about screening and screening support can connect with our Patient and Family Support Navigators today.
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