Friday, December 14, 2012

The Final Frontier.


Aren't you excited to read this?

I bet you are.

I'm gonna give you a play-by-play on what to expect should you ever need to have a colonoscopy.

First off, you need to know that the preparation is the worst part of the whole thing.  If you can get through that, it's smooth sailing.  When I had my first scope done in 2011 I was feeling extremely anxious, so I did a bunch of research.  A phrase that stuck with me was that the prep was "an indignity best suffered alone".  

Boy oh boy, is that ever true.

Last time I sent my family away for the evening.  I don't remember what they did, but I have vivid traumatic memories of what I was doing.  I had to drink 2 gallons of water mixed with some horrific powder that tasted and smelled of burning salted plastic.  The instructions I was given were to drink 1 cup of this vile solution every 10 minutes.  

I dare you to try to drink 2 gallons of even your favourite drink that way.

I think when it finally started working it had less to do with the laxative effect and more to do with the fact that my entire digestive system was packed full of this stuff and it had to go somewhere.

It was awful, I was gagging the entire time.  Not having my family witness my reaction to all of this was quite a blessing actually.

This time, I was prescribed a different prep.  I learned when I tried to fill the prescription at the pharmacy that it wasn't covered under either my or my husband's drug plans.  So I had to pay cash for it.  Something about that feels like adding insult to injury.

I was on a clear-fluid only diet after breakfast that morning.  I had to take 4 laxative tablets at 2pm, then mix a sachet of powder with 150ml of water and drink that, followed by 4 cups of any clear fluid over the next 2 hours.  About 6 hours later, I had another sachet of powder to mix and drink, followed by another 4 cups of clear fluid.

The powder smelled and tasted like some sort of artificially sweetened mutant orange tang.  It wasn't delicious, but it was a heck of a lot easier to get down than the other stuff.  Looked disgusting though, and when you stirred it, it got hot for some reason.

My yummy drink.

Although the paper work said it would start to work within 2-4 hours, it kicked in within 5 minutes for me.  Who knows if that's because my system is already messed up.  I did laugh about the instructions in the pamphlet to "make sure you have access to a toilet during treatment".

The next few hours were pretty predictable.  It involved a lot of dashing to the bathroom.  The purpose of the prep is to get your system all sparkly clean so the camera can see what's going on.  So by the end of it, you're passing nothing but mostly clear liquid.  If you've never experienced peeing out of your butt, well, you're not really missing much.

Since the second dose of the drink was taken so close to my bedtime, I had a bit of difficulty settling down for sleep.  But by 1am the worst of it was over.  I slept fairly well, starting to wake at 5am again with needing to use the washroom.

Breakfast was some white cranberry juice, then I could have nothing by mouth until after my procedure at 1pm.  I filled up my time shopping for slippers that I could wear at the hospital.  I ended up taking the bus there, as I couldn't drive myself back after being sedated.

Arriving at the hospital, I start the long waiting process.  They check you in, you wait.  They give you stuff to change into, then you wait.  They call you in to insert your IV, then you wait.  All in all, I waited about an hour.

The worst part of the hospital stuff was the way I was systematically stripped of all of my dignity.  It seems that staff there are not so aware of the experience from a patient's perspective (or maybe if they are, they're just desensitized to it).  I remember feeling this way last time as well.

The worst for me is always the fact that you have to strip down completely when you put on the hospital gown.  I asked before why I couldn't keep on at least my bra, as they were not going to be working anywhere near that area.  They said it was in case there was an emergency and they had to access my heart.  Ok, I guess, but the level of dignity I would feel if they just allowed me to keep that one article on would have made a huge difference.

Next is the fact that you're supposed to put all your clothing and belongings in a giant plastic bag, which you then tote around with you from waiting room to waiting room.  The idea is to ensure that you have all your stuff with you the entire time, so it stays safe.  But it's just another subtle message that can be interpreted in a dehumanizing way.  Your stuff is trash.

This is *my* trash!  Hands off!
After the waiting, when it's your turn to see the doctor, they call you into the room.  There's a stretcher, some flat screened monitors, a table and some other medical stuff.  What looks like a hose is hanging on a hook (it's not a hose of course, it's the scope).  They ask you what procedure you're there for (haha, wouldn't that be a surprise if you made it all the way to that point and then they accidentally gave you a colonoscopy!), and then settle you on the stretcher, knees up against your stomach.  Your gown is nicely arranged around your butt, exposing it to everyone in the room (a doctor, a nurse, and a resident in my case).  Then you get the meds (they use 2 different kinds, explained to me as one to make you sleepy, one to make your memory blurry).

From what I understand, many people fall asleep and don't remember any of the procedure.  Me, well, I'm way too stubborn for that.  I have a bit of an irrational fear of people doing weird things to me while I'm sedated, so I fight it like crazy.  I gave them the heads up this time that I wanted to stay awake, so I don't think they gave me as much as last time.

Suddenly it's all happening.  I watch it all on one of the monitors.  As the scope loops its way through my intestines, it reminds me of my babies rolling around in the later stages of my pregnancies.  Which isn't a bad feeling, really.  At some point I turned my head and sighed.  The doctor asked me if I was bored, and I'm not sure what I answered but it struck me as a funny joke. Once in a while, when the scope hit a place where the curves are sharper, there is some pain.  I make faces, the nurse notices and pushes on my belly to help guide the scope.  They take biopsies (which is a bit surreal to watch) and then it's over.

I ask some questions about their findings, the doctor says that there is inflammation up to 30cms in, a big difference from last year when it was only 5cms in.  I'll get more of an understanding at my follow up appointment next week, as well as (hopefully) the results from the biopsies.  So it's not my imagination that things are getting worse, something that feels validating and discouraging all at the same time.

But now it's done, and it's time for planning for next steps.  I have a consult with a naturopath next week as well, and I'm hoping that something they can offer me makes more sense than just taking different and stronger meds.

Until as usual.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this. Max goes for his scope next month so I'm glad that I have an idea about what to expect.
    I'm also glad that you are feeling validated (even though the reason may not be great)