Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thoughts about colons

There are 2 kinds of colons. That I know of. One is a punctuation mark, and the other one ends in an orifice that kind of ressembles a punctuation mark.

This post is about the latter type of colon. Specifically, about the delights of ensuring your colon remains cancer-free.

I have a family history of colon cancer, on both sides. We've been diligent at getting screened, and the only person to die of colon cancer was 91 at the time - as they generally stop screening around age 80 on the theory that a colon cancer starting then won't have time to kill you before something else does, this should in no way reflect on said relative,s screening diligence. Although I have no idea if they screened or not!

Few things induce the ick more than the thought of a long anal probe. Really - admit it - you have to think for at least 2 minutes before you can come up with something that doesn't involve eating horrible things on Fear Factor. Maybe getting uncontrollable diarhea while in a toilet-free zone. That would be pretty bad.

So I'd like to blog my experience with said long anal probe. Because it wasn't that bad. Maybe I was expecting far worse, based on a couple of episodes of House, which as we all know is 100% medically accurate at all times.

The prep starts a couple of days in advance, with some dietary restrictions. I think it was seeds and nuts - they don't want them clogging the instrument. Neither do I. I'd like any probing to be as, um, smooth as possible. So I avoided seeds and nuts.

The next step is having a tiny breakfast before 8am the day before the procedure. This is your last solid food, and, for me far more sinister, your last hit of caffeine. So I got up early and had my normal bowl of cereal and 2 lovely cups of coffee. Fresh ground beans, French press coffeemaker - the usual.

Then I got to drink my first of 2 doses of Peco-Salex. I may be spelling that wrong. It's a fizzy orange drink, made from some powder. It draws liquid into the colon, thus inducing frequent bowel movements. So you can't go anywhere that is toilet-free, unless the scenario above with uncontrolled diarhea actually appealed to you. In that case, you don't need a colon inspection, you need psychiatric help. Good luck with that.

So the frequent liquid BM is actually not that bad. I mean, there is a finite quantity of crap in your colon, and even if you are a politician, it doesn't impact the shit in your head.

What is bad is hunger. We aren't used to hunger. OK, I'm not. Except in the gee I'm hungry let me get food kind of way. But hunger in the I can't eat until 2:00pm tomorrow is outside my experience, and I don't like it. This is coming from someone who frequently forgets to eat. Substitute a worse or better ability to tolerate hunger based on your own fasting experience, assuming you have any.

The second dose is not a big deal. You're pretty much empty. It's insurance for the gastro enterologist, who has no interest in, um, muddying their view with a poorly cleaned colon. I have no interest in a muddy view - I want a nice clean effective scope, so I was keen on following the instructions to the letter, so as to avoid a repeat procedure.

The next morning I woke up hungry. Wah, wah, millions of kids are used to that, but I'm a spoiled first world middle class type, so I am not. At least not waking up hungry and then not being able to eat. Spousal unit drove me to the clinic, I brought a book which had far too many food references (avoid Donna Leon if you're fasting), and eventually got to put on that delightful gown I'm sure was designed by Armani. Then a nurse stuck an IV into my hand - clearly highly experienced, it was not as painful as the ones I got when having my first child. The sedatives were lovely.

I was wheeled into the room with a monitor, doctor and nurse/aide of some sort. I wasn't about to start interviewing them. The monitor was positioned so I could watch, and I did. The drowsiness from the sedative lifted immediately upon insertion of the probe. But it didn't hurt, it's just that I could feel it. I felt full. But there was no pain, not even any real discomfort, it didn't last very long, and I was complemented twice on the quality of my "prep".

Oh, and if all you need to do is fecal occult blood testing, I used the technique where you collect the sample from the toilet paper. Googling techniques for stool samples is an, um, interesting insight into the ingenuity of humanity.

To sum up: colon cleansing makes you hungry, colon scoping is more boring than anything else, and the internet is full of odd ideas.