This past week was a busy one for me, with several medical appointments. I took most of the week off from work to accommodate the appointments and to give myself a bit of rest in between. To sum up the week, I had a colonoscopy on Tuesday, another exam and consultation with the surgeon on Wednesday, and then a CT scan on Thursday.
The colonoscopy revealed a few more polyps, which were removed, but was otherwise clear. The surgeon said the tumor is lower than I was originally told and is recommending 4 to 5 weels of radiation therapy, then another 4-6 weeks of recovery, prior to the surgery. I haven’t learned the results of the CT scan yet, but it’s supposed to help them determine what stage the cancer is in and whether it has grown through the wall of the colon.
That’s it in a nutshell. For those who want to know more details about my adventure on Monday and Tuesday, read on.
Back to the Beginning
I spent Monday on the infamous clear liquid diet again. The clear liquid diet does allow for such delicacies as chicken broth, apple or white grape juice, 7-Up, water and even Jell-o! Just nothing with red dye is allowed (I’m told it can mimic blood in the colon). Having no real food makes it more difficult to manage my blood sugar, so I had to check it more frequently.
The latter part of the day I embarked on a wonderful adventure called “drink the Colyte.” Same tune as “Kiss the Girl” (from The Little Mermaid) but much messier. Colyte, you see, is really polyethylene glycol and electrolytes solution. It smells rather benign (no pun intended) and tastes like a mildly salty chemical solution that induces gagging.
The first glass-full isn’t too bad. But one has to drink an 8-10 ounce glass every 10 minutes until a half gallon is gone. By the end of the last glass I would have preferred driving a metal stake through my head and sticking my finger in a live socket. You don’t know what kind of inner strength you really have until you fight the urge to vomit after drinking Colyte.
Thankfully, I endured the ordeal and was thankful to be able to drink clear liquids and eat Jell-o again. Strangely, nothing happened from the Colyte. Perhaps I was backed up. Perhaps my will is stronger than the foul elixyr. Perhaps I was just fooling myself. Whatever the reason, I went to bed and slept as poorly as ever, grabbing an hour or two at a time.
Fool Me Once, Shame on You…
The next morning (Tuesday), four hours before the procedure I got to do it all over again. The Colyte, that is. You see, the prep for the colonoscopy consists of drinking a total of one gallon of that stuff. Thank goodness! I didn’t know what I would do without that urge to vomit competing with my desire to beat colon cancer. Oh, but the second round of Colyte consumption didn’t nearly as smoothly as the first.
Without going into detail, I was half way into the second gallon when I felt a rumbling in my lower abdomen. I know what that is!, I thought. Sure enough, I was right. I can make it to the bathroom from the couch, I also thought. After all, it’s only a few feet away. I was wrong. Those few seconds between when the synapses fire, sending a thought to your head, and the Colyte has blown its way through your system to exact it’s hellish revenge on he who dares to consume it were sadly all too brief.
I will spare you the details. Some will accuse me of sharing too much already. I tell this tale both to amuse (someone reading this will appreciate it, I’m sure) and to educate the unprepared. Should you ever have to drink the Colyte, be sure to stay in very close proximity to a restroom, preferrably one with tile or linoleum floors.
Fast forward several hours and I am laying on the gurney in the medical gown, as the nice lady with a heavy accent playing the IV nurse asks me a barrage of questions. I must have made a funny face a few times because she repeated several of the questions. All the while she was setting things up, fiddling around, checking my vital signs and what not, as if on autopilot.
I was experiencing some anxiety over the procedure, as evidenced by my heart rate of 104. You see, I’ve never had any kind of major surgery or invasive procedure (excepting last week’s sigmoidoscopy) and I was a little nervous. The nurse’s command of English (or lack thereof) was not inspiring confidence or settling my nerves, I must say. Anyone who has worked in correctons will know what I’m talking about.
My nervousness was interrupted by the nurse’s voice.
“Didoo dinka ada Kool-ate?” she asked.
“What?”, I said followed surely by one of those funny faces.
“Didoo dinka ada Koo-ate?” she asked again.
“Kool-aid?” I looked at her, puzzled.
“No, de Kool-ate. You know, the Kool-ate. Make you go to da bathroom.”
“Oh, the Colyte? Yes, I drank it all,” I replied, glad to be over that hurdle.
“You danka ah?”
“Yes, I drank it all.” I was now starting to get annoyed.
“Ada to Kool-ate?”
This had to be a joke. I started looking around for hidden cameras. I then looked back at the nurse and leaned toward her a bit.
“Yes, I drank all the Colyte. All of it The Colyte, I mean. I drank it.”
Now it was time for the IV. She inserted the needle in a vein atop my right hand, taped it down and attached line from the saline bag to the IV.
“Is it cold?” she asked.
“No,” I replied. “Should it be?”
She seemed to ignore my response as she continued on in autopilot. This was yellow flag number one.
Two other nurses came in and identified themselves as the ones who would be administering the sedative and pain killer during the procedure. They were much easier to understand and they were very kind and reassuring, explaining what I would likely feel as each of the drugs was administered.
“The sedative will put you in kind of a twilight,” one said. “Most people get sleepy. Some people don’t remember the procedure at all afterward.”
That was my kind of drug, I told her.
Twilight Never Came
Fast forward to the procedure room. There was the doctor and no less than four nurses in there. I laid on my side on the table, with several tubes and monitoring wires running here and there. One nurse with a loose grasp of English pronunciation tapped on the IV needle and asked me if it hurt.
“Ow,” I said. “Yes, it stings.”
“He says it stings,” she said to one of the kind nurses.
“Does it still sting today,” one asked. What? Does it still sting today? Everything that’s happened so far, as near as I could tell, was happening “today.” But the stinging subsided so I told her so. There was some brief discussion about whether they should re-insert the IV needle. They asked me if I wanted it re-inserted. My thought was that I was not a medical professional and I didn’t know what to say.
“I don’t know,” I said. Ultimately they decided no. That was yellow flag number two.
I answered a few safety questions from the doctor and off we went. The doctor ordered some amount of sedative and pain killer to be administered and then he started. The problem was, I wasn’t feeling anything. That is, I wasn’t feeling anything from the drugs. I was feeling everything that was going on.
If you’ve never had a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy let me try to sum up the experience. Something like a flexible roto-rooter tube is inserted into your rectum that blows puffs of air to inflate the colon walls so the doctor can see and manuever the scope better. Your insides react by contracting and cramping intensely. Enough so that it’s hard to communicate using anything other than grunts to indicate pain.
While experiencing the cramping and pain it dawned on me again that I was supposed to be sedated. And I was supposed to be on pain killer. Near as I could tell I had neither because this experience was worse than the previous procedure I’d had a week or so prior.
“Psst!” I tried to get one of the kind nurses’ attention. She bent toward me.
“When does twilight come?” I asked.
From behind me I heard the doctor answer, “You’re there.”
I looked back at the nurse and said, “No I’m not. Trust me.” She just looked at me, patted my arm and told me they’d given me the maximum dosage of both drugs. That was yellow flag number three.
…The More You Toot the Better You Feel…
Fast forward 15 minutes or so. I was in the recovery room and Marge was brought in. I was told to pass as much “air” as I could to avoid future pain and cramping. I was being told to fart. This was something I could do, and gladly so.
There is something surreal about having several adult females standing around praising a grown man for farting. After a particularly productive “expulsion of air” I heard giggling from the nurse’s station.
“Doctor’s orders,” I said.
My hand was still sore where the IV needle had been. I wouldn’t find out until later, from another medical professional, that the needle was likely inserted into – and through – the vein, into the meat of my hand. That would explain why I wasn’t feeling the effects of the drugs.
During a short consultation with the doctor he said they’d found (and removed) three more polyps but that everything else was clear. That was good news. Oddly, I remember thinking, “Whew! Only one tumor!” I laughed out loud from the relief. Marge looked at me funny and asked if I was okay.
“Considering I underwent a colonoscopy without the benefit of any drugs, I’m doing okay.” I laughed again. I still had the consultation with the surgeon on Wednesday and the CT scan on Thursday but for now I could focus on something else. Like my empty stomach.
“Come on,” I said. “Let’s get something to eat.”