A 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.
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!
As 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.