Tuesday, 14 December 2010
HEALTH: ME & MY COLONOSCOPY
NB: if the mention of bodily fluids makes you queasy, skip this posting.
So, two posts and 10/11 days ago I found out that my faecal smear test had come back as Abnormal. I should explain that these tests are sent out free to all UK citizens between 60-70 to test for bowel cancer in order to catch it early, courtesy of that bane of mad Americans to wit socialised medicine or, as it's known in the UK, the National Health Service. (Just to knock American stupidity for a moment: a few years ago some researchers asked a number of Americans what they thought of a few certain selected statements. More than a few responses were of the left/commie crap variety. The statements were taken from their own Constitution which they supposedly revere above everything except God and Jeezus).
In the letter informing me of the result was also the date of a consultation with a screening practitioner. How long did I have to wait before this happened? Um, four whole days. I went with Susan, was seen on time, and had everything explained very clearly to me by the young lady who also checked my relevant medical history equally thoroughly before giving me a choice of appointments at 3 different hospitals. I picked the first one at Sunderland Royal, my local, which took place today, a whole week later.
I'd like to say that I've been phlegmatic about the whole thing and I certainly attempted to put that kind of air but turthfully it was more show than substance. There was a very real chance -10%- that I had bowel cancer which if not caught early enough could kill me in a few short years. I had, given family history, been assuming I had at least another 18 active years ahead of me. Now I had to confront the possibility that it could be considerably less and I didn't like it.
It's certainly made me reconsider the way I go about certain things. On a trivial level, I have over 30 books I haven't read that I want to read but haven't because I keep buying more. That is going to stop right now. Today I began a biography of Howlin' Wolf which I'd picked as part of my leaving present from work over two years ago. There's music I haven't listened to because I keep buying more. And there's more personal stuff I'm keeping to myself.
Monday, yesterday, and my last meal before the colonoscopy was at noon. I had cheese on toast with Marmite followed by a cake. Two hours later I swallowed 6 sennacot tablets with water. At 5.00pm I made up the first sachet of laxative by filling a litre jug and mixing it all in. It took me just over an hour to drink it all. Twenty minutes before the next jug full at 7.00pm I had to dash to the toilet. Repeat until I went to bed at 11.00pm.
Then hurridly get up ten minutes later.
As I was due to start on the third sachet at seven the next morning, I got up early to feed Emmy the stray cat who's been living in a cage in my garage for nearly three weeks and change her cat litter. At lunchtime she was taken away to StrayAid where she'll stand a better chance of being re-homed.
I didn't bother getting dressed as I couldn't really go more than a few feet from the toilet and even then had a couple of minor mishaps. I thought occasionally about eating food and drinking red wine. A compulsive reader, while sitting on the throne and starting the previous evening I read bits of an illustrated history of slasher movies. When the time came to go to the hospital I'd pretty much read most of it.
The laxative did its job and my gut was well and truly flushed out and what I was passing looked like clear yellow urine. Surprisingly I didn't really feel hungry despite all I'd had in over 24 hours was the laxative and a few mugs of black coffee.
We got there early and managed to get a parking space after only five minutes. After signing in I pulled out a book to read -there was 15 minutes before my appointment and I was expecting to go in late- when my name was called. The registration process followed, then I was taken to a bed with a locker next to it, the curtains were drawn and I was told to strip, put my clothes in the locker and put on the hospital gown. That done I was handed over to the colonoscopy team.
I opted for a sedative, primarily because it would help relax my bowels as well as me, which went in my arm. I was told it would probably leave me with gaps in my memory of the procedure and the post-op chat with the nurse practitioner. And it must have done because, while the colonoscopy itself took over twenty minutes and I was watching it on the screen, my memory says it only feels like five. I didn't find it particularly uncomfortable either.
Once done, I was wheeled back to the cubicle to rest for half an hour. I fell asleep. After that, got dressed, had a cup of coffee (terrible) and a cheese sandwich (not much better), by which time I was feeling fine and went for the post-op interview with Susan, who had been waiting patiently for nearly two hours, in attendance.
Three polyps had been found and removed for biopsies. The doctor who performed the procedure believed them to be harmless and that I should be fine but that won't be confirmed until the biopsy results are in on Friday. I feel quite reassured but the jury's verdict isn't in yet.
On the way home I decided I had a mad hunger for fish and chips so we duly stopped off so I could get some. Back home, after feeding myself and the cats, I lay down on the bed and flaked out for two hours. The sedative won't be flushed out of my system until tomorrow so I've got to take care and avoid alcohol for another night as it reacts badly with it. Bugger.
As for that vile monstrosity of socialised medicine, all I can say is that I was treated like an intelligent individual, shown courtesy and consideration, given meticulous and prompt treatment, and it didn't cost me a penny. Shame about the lousy coffee but every complaint should be so ludicrously trivial.
Thank you NHS.