September 7, 2000

It's All Behind Me Now

Two days ago (Tuesday) I had the colonoscopy test. This is where they pass a tube with some sort of camera-thing completely through the length of the large bowel, looking for trouble. If polyps are found they're removed on the spot, essentially preventing them from developing into cancer. My test was negative, as expected, but it's still nice to know that.

I've heard that everyone over 50 should be screened for colon cancer this way; I don't think that such a program is in place (not here in Quebec, anyway) as one of my friends requested the test and was refused. It was never suggested to Hubby, who is 52. The reason I'm privileged to have it at age 48 is because colon cancer was one of the things they found in the mess they took out of my father last spring. They think he's probably cured of it but since it tends to run in families, I'm now at the front of the line for screening.

(We have a grand variety of cancers in my family, and I'm not particularly concerned about this one; my family doctor told me since Dad was 84 when it was discovered, I don't really need to worry until I'm 74.)

The worst part of the experience definitely is the preparation. You need to completely clean out your system. The method varies but essentially, it's strong laxatives. The one they gave me (sodium phosphates) seemed to turn everything into liquid, and out it came. Unfortunately, so did everything I drank after that, so I remained very thirsty no matter how much I drank. The chemical is very salty (sodium is essentially salt) so I guess it dragged all the water through with it.

When Dad's surgeon, Dr. Whirlwind (as I call him) told me I needed to be screened, I asked that he do it. Any embarrassment I might have felt about making his acquaintance as a patient's family member first was outweighed by my trust in him as a doctor. Soon after we arrived in the waiting room he blew through and told me it wouldn't be long. Sure enough, they called me in right on time.

Once I got into the hospital gown, they took me into a room with much equipment (which I didn't want to scrutinize too closely) a gurney with space underneath for my stuff (clothes and purse) and a small computer-type monitor. The nurse told me what to expect, the same as I'd heard before from Dad and others that had undergone the procedure. She said that some cramping might occur at the start but it wouldn't be severe and I'd be sedated anyway.

Soon Dr. Whirlwind came in and asked me to lie on my left side. He inserted a small butterfly needle into the vein in my left elbow, and I can honestly say I hardly felt that at all. He began to inject a clear liquid (valium?) which caused tingling in the back of my throat; he said that was normal. Then he injected a milky-looking fluid (demerol?) and the room started to spin.

I don't remember too much after that. I don't remember the beginning of the procedure. I did feel cramps, worse than they'd predicted but not unbearable. It was like a bad attack of "nervous stomach" - which is perhaps what it was. I breathed deeply when they told me to (a la labour pains) and vaguely recall hearing "give her some more demerol" followed closely (in my mind) by "The procedure is over. You're fine. Rest now."

About a half hour later I awoke in the hallway and listened to a conversation between a volunteer and another patient who was coming out of the sedative. Another half hour after that I was sitting up and sipping orange juice. Then they let me go.

I arrived back home at 4 PM and slept until 7; even then I was groggy and queasy for most of the evening. By the next day I was completely back to normal (for what that's worth).

Hubby accompanied me to provide transportation (driving oneself is not allowed) but Dad insisted on coming along as well.
He finally admitted that he felt "guilty" that I had to go through all that. I told him that I was thankful that the screening was available to me now, and that even if he had passed on some bad genes, it certainly wasn't his fault. It surprised me that he felt that way but thinking about it, it's fairly obvious. He went through so much that I don't want him to have a single unnecessary negative emotion!

I've posted a few more of my aunt's stories, in the Coming to Canada section

I'm also updating the weblog once or twice a day, with minutia. (That's a good journal name, but it's been used at least twice that I know of!).

Linque Du Jour:   CIA World Factbook 2000

Finally updated!

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