Now we’re rolling

October 25, 2007

Almost one hour to the minute after drinking my first dose o’ the prep, we’ve got some action. It’s a very strange sensation, I must report. (Perhaps this will be too graphic for some readers, but you are, after all, reading a colonoscopy blog.)

It doesn’t really feel like the diarrhea you get when you have the flu. For one thing, I haven’t had any cramps or desperate feelings of urgency. It’s been very… relaxed, I guess. (How unexpected is that?) And there’s really rather little in the way of sensation, overall, apart from lots of water leaving your butt. It doesn’t burn or anything, and right now I’m not experiencing any of the rawness (ick) that other folks have reported online. Of course, to paraphrase Karen Carpenter, I’ve only just begun.

More as it occurs, though something tells me that the operative phrase for the next few hours is going to be “more of the same.”


Initial measures

October 21, 2007

Okay, so my colonoscopy is scheduled for next Friday morning. Since hearing that I’m going…wait, actually, that brings up another issue. I can’t say I’m going “under the knife,” since I’m not having surgery. But let me tell you, the prospect of a colonoscopy sounds a hell of a lot more invasive to me than most surgery. And “going under the knife” sounds like such an active thing, like I’m actually doing something. With a colonoscopy, though, it’s bascially the most passive thing in the world: I will doze quietly while someone crams a rubber tube through my bowels and takes a gander at what’s going on. Even better, he might even snip some things out of there! Hooray!

Right, anyway. So once I heard that I’d have to submit to this, I started looking around the internet (like one does) to find out as much as I could about it. It turns out that there are a good number of gastroenterology docs and centers out there with some pretty good info on what to expect, how best to prepare for it, and so on. This British doc, for example, gives a pretty good hour-by-hour guide as to what to do. It’s not applicable for me, but still, if I were his patient I’d be pleased with this level of detail. Harvard Health Publications has this little online tract, though frankly it doesn’t tell you all that much that you wouldn’t know from your own doc’s instructions. (“Arrange a ride home”? No kidding, Harvard Health Publications. That’s not really ‘advice’ as much as it is ‘required’.) On the other hand, this doctor’s tale of getting a colonoscopy is a bit reassuring for us layfolk.

Then there are the bits of casual advice (like the very thing you’re reading), such as this. And of course there are ample message boards with readers offering their advice (like here and here), and the occasional blog entry (like this one). From reading numerous such message boards, I think I can distill their collected wisdom thus:

  1. Baby wipes are key.wipes.jpg
  2. Stock up on reading for the bathroom.
  3. Everyone has a different idea about which laxative prep kit is (a) best or (b) worst, and what the best mixer/chaser combination is for the various preps.
  4. Did I mention baby wipes? They seem to be the one great piece of advice that circulates only by word of mouth, and not through doctors’ “official” advice. What’s the deal with that, I wonder. If you can warn patients about constant explosive diarrhea during the prep, surely you can add a little heads-up about baby wipes?

And so it begins

October 19, 2007

colonblow2.jpgA few months back I began having some weird stomach ailments: a little bit of nausea every once in a while, but mostly a general feeling of, well, grossness. These kinds of symptoms, as my doctor told me, could signify any of a thousand different conditions, from heartburn to stomach cancer. I thought: great!

I had a blood test, a urine test, and, ultimately, an ultrasound (in the wee hours of Easter morning, oddly enough, as there weren’t a lot of people scrambling for that appointment time). All the results: nuthin’.

Finally I took this crazy breath test. You breathe into a bag, blowing it up like a balloon. Then you mix this little packet of powder with water and drink it (it taste like really crappy Country Time instant lemonade), then wait fifteen minutes and breathe into another bag. This simple test revealed that what seemed to be plaguing me was a visit from my friend Helicobacter (“H.”) pylori, the funny little bug that causes many stomach ulcers. (The breath test works because the H. pylori turns acid into carbon dioxide. The lemon-flavored powder creates a bunch of uric acid in your gut, so if the second bag you breathe into has an elevated level of carbon dioxide, it’s because H. pylori created it. Elegantly simple, and brilliant!) After 14 days of antibiotics, the bug was dead.

A colonoscopy scope. Awesome!But the gross feeling kept on happening. That necessitated a trip to the gastroenterologist, who did an upper endoscopy. That procedure was a little bit freaky to contemplate, but it turned out to be a walk in the park. All I had to do was fast after midnight the night before, then head to the hospital and wait around a while. They put an IV in my arm while I read a book. Then they wheeled me into a room, gave me some oxygen through one of those thingies in the nose, and the next thing I remember I was waking up in the recovery room, feeling relaxed and groovy. I spent the rest of the day lying on the couch, feeling equally groovy—awake and alert but very relaxed—, and was pretty much back to normal by dinnertime. The only funny side effect is that evidently I made the same comments to my wife several times, not remembering that I had said them to her already at least once or twice before earlier in the day. The amnesia drug they give you so that you don’t remember the procedure, you see, lingers a bit. Weird.

So I have GERD, it turns out. No biggie—I’ve been on an acid-blocking drug for a while now, which seems to be doing the trick. I feel a whole ton better than I did.

But then, about two weeks ago, I noticed a little blood on the TP in the morning. That’s happened a few times before—doesn’t it happen to everyone occasionally?—but it seemed to happen a few days in a row. That kind of freaked me out, especially after an ill-advised trip to WebMD, where I immediately realized that I have colon cancer, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, and quite possibly leprosy as well.

So, in short: I have to have a colonoscopy, next Friday. I’m dreading it, of course, as everyone seems to. From cruising the web I’ve learned a lot about other people’s experiences, but only in minor, fragmentary detail. This wholly solipsistic blog is all about my experience, which I will describe in far too much detail. From what I hear, the prep is far, far worse than the procedure itself (and given my excellent experience with the upper endoscopy, I have to assume that the downstairs version of that procedure will be about the same). Maybe someone out there, Googling “colonoscopy experience” or something similar, will come across this blog and find it useful, or mildly amusing, or inflammatory, or something else entirely. In which case, success!

colonblow.jpgAs you might guess, the name comes from one of the greatest commerical spoofs on Saturday Night Live: Phil Hartmann hawking Colon Blow, the breakfast cereal with the largest amount of fiber possible…except for Super Colon Blow, of course. (“It would take 2.5 million bowls of your cereal…”) You can watch this masterful bit of television here (Flash) and here (Windows Media). Warning: may cause abdominal distention.