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A 3 hour tour? No, just 20 minutes. (updated)

June 25, 2009

Remember Katie Couric’s famous colonoscopy? At the time I thought, “Ewww, why show that on tv?!” Now I know why . Women talk about their labor pains, men talk about their vasectomies, but few talk about their colonoscopies. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women, but extremely treatable if caught early enough. We should be talking about colonoscopies.

COLONOSCOPYlarger image here

Three years ago, I had reached a milestone birthday that my doctor wanted me to celebrate by having a colonoscopy. I was too busy, or so I told her. The fact is, I’m not good about anything where I don’t have control over the outcome.  It’s a bad trait, I know.  I eventually came to realize that it was a false sense of control. So last month, I made arrangements for a virtual tour of the colon. Thoughts of how colon cancer turned lung cancer ravaged Tammy Faye’s body and how bravely Farrah Fawcett fought her battle against anal cancer helped me realize that sometimes the steps to controlling one’s life are not always things that we look forward to.

It started w/ a brief consultation with the doctor, who sent me home with written instructions. I was shocked – there was no “Go Lightly” stuff to drink. Actually, it was a mixture of Gatorade and laxatives. Everyone that I’d spoken to had told me that the Go Lightly was the worst part, so I was kind of happy – relieved? – about the Gatorade. I was not to have solid food that day and at 3 PM, I began the process. Drink, rest, bathroom, drink, rest,  bathroom, drink, rest, bathroom, bathroom, bathroom….

Oh, what a process it was! And it processed for about 9 hours. Plus a couple of hours in the morning. Just as soon as I left the bathroom, I’d be lucky to make it halfway down the hall before turning around. Needless to say, it was imperative to have good reading material.

I was supposed to drink 8 oz. of the Gatorade every 10-15 minutes until it was all gone. Three-fourths of the way through, I got a little nauseated – it felt like my stomach was going to explode. I took a half hour break and then finished.

I was afraid to go to sleep that night. Fears of having to go, “Honey, you need to get up so I can change the sheets,” kept me awake. I finally drifted off around 1 AM. It was uneventful. I woke up before the alarm, took a shower, brushed my teeth, and debated on what to wear. Jeans? Shorts? Tennis skirt? What do you wear to a colonscopy? Won’t find that in Harper’s Bazaar. I wore a pair of shorts and carried along a pair jeans, just in case.

Off we drove to the surgical center, where a combination of Versed and Demerol awaited me. Funny thing though, I wasn’t nervous. For 3 years, I had dreaded this and now that it was here, I wasn’t nervous. Go figure. My biggest fear was that I would say something totally stupid after being given the Versed. Not about a camera going where no cameras should go.

They call me back after about 10 minutes to the prep area where I changed clothes – into a marvelous gown (it was warm – I usually freeze) and a nice thick blanket. Everyone is smiling, being very warm and friendly as I’m poked. I freak over the blood pressure cuff (remember, I can’t control that – it is what it is), but it was 130/80 and that was without my morning meds.  A nurse looks for a suitable vein for an IV, eventually deciding that my left hand will do. She tells me she’ll be with me in recovery. Very nice, pleasant.

Another nurse shows up and having a last minute panic, I ask if it’s on my file that I’m allergic to Penicillin. Check. She takes me into the room where the procedure will be done. I’m surprised – it’s just like an examining room but a little larger. Kind of dark. Maybe a lamp and the light from the tv. I guess I was expecting an OR type room.

The dr. comes in and asks how I’m doing, etc. Nice guy. Everyone is nice. There are 4 of us in the room: me, the doctor, a nurse, and someone in charge of the pictures I guess? I’m on my side and the tv is in front of me – large enough to where I can see clearly without my glasses, and I ask if I get to watch. That kind of depended on how I responded to the Versed and Demerol.

They gave me one dose and it just made me a little light-headed and I was commenting on the picture, and they were like, “You’re seeing that?” Oh yeah. It was cool. But, I think that they wanted me a little more relaxed, so they gave me another dose. And while it relaxed me a little more, I was still cognizant of what I was seeing. I was like, “Oh, that is so cool!”  Watching the twists and turns was amazing. I love science, so to be able to see and be aware was an incredible insight.

It was not painful. At no time was I in any pain whatsoever. None. There was some discomfort as air was put in – it kind of felt like my stomach was stretched really tight – but it was only for a couple of seconds each time.  I was talking what seemed like the whole time. It was maybe 20 minutes total.

Findings? Nothing major. No polyps, no precancerous anything. I have a very mild case of diverticulosis. I didn’t know that I had it – that’s how mild it is. No cure or treatment, just eat a high fiber diet – which is what I’ve been doing for the last 8 months anyway. Unless something comes up, I’m good for another 10 years.

Although I didn’t drive, I felt well enough to stop at the store and pick up some good things to eat – remember, I hadn’t eaten at all the day before. We came home, I marveled at my colon pix, and fell asleep.  I took a day off from my “no meat” rules and had a bowl of chili for dinner.

If you’ve reached a magic age (45 – 50) and haven’t had a colonscopy, schedule it now!. If you are having any bleeding, bloating, or discomfort, don’t wait another minute to have one. They told me today that they are seeing colon cancer in younger people all the time, so don’t think that your age keeps you safe.

A note about health care – I have insurance, pretty good insurance. However, even though this is something that my carrier has also been recommending me to have, it wound up costing me almost $200. C’mon guys, quit listening to the lobbyists, get of your a$$e$ and REFORM!

American Cancer Society

How sad (and ironic) that the day I finally have a colonoscopy, Farah Fawcett passed away. She was so brave throughout her ordeal.

**Update** Three days later, and I’m still doing well. No after effects.I’ve read up on the diverticulosis and I’m hoping that the high fiber diet I’m on will prevent it from progressing to diverticulitis.

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2 comments

  1. Kauli, Great/informative post. Thanks for using my illustration with link back.


    • I think if we can somehow find a way to laugh at things that scare or trouble us, we come through them much better. You are truly very talented. But then, you already know that! : ) Thank you for helping us to smile at one of those worrisome things.



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