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Sunday, May 03, 2015

Gut Feelings, Part 1

April  12, 2015

I’ve lived with weird gut problems most of my adult life. So much so that I can tell you exactly where every public restroom along any given route or in any public building is and how long it takes to dash to it from point A, B or C.  Eating out was a problem because I was never sure just what might trigger an attack. But I learned to live with it and life went on more or less normally with a minimum of embarrassing incidents and accidents.

Some time back, though, I began to develop other problems. I hate going to the doctor and rarely do so unless something seems broken, so I self-diagnosed myself with bleeding hemorrhoids and constipation. Last month, I decided that hemorrhoids didn’t last that long without letting up and maybe a doctor should check me out.  Our family doctor had died within the last year so I ended up going to a new doctor I’d never seen before. He did a blood work up, then donned his latex gloves, well lubricated, to do a digital rectal exam. That was SO much fun! He figured I was about  20 years overdue for a colonoscopy so he had his nurse schedule one with a gastroenterologist. The colonoscopy was scheduled for three weeks away. Meanwhile, the results of the blood test showed I had no anemia but I did have high cholesterol so he phoned in a prescription for a statin without discussing it with me. The more I read about statins, the less I liked the idea, and it seemed my levels were not in the danger zone, so I decided to delay starting them until after we saw what turned up on the colonoscopy, and then he and I could discuss whether there was some other way to get the cholesterol levels down without the statins. That at least took my mind off worrying about the colonoscopy.  I had heard so many horror stories about that particular procedure that I was ready to call if off more than once during that three week wait.

I got a little package in the mail from the gastroenterology clinic telling me my procedure was scheduled for April 8, this past Wednesday. In the package was a prescription for a laxative with the  innocent sounding name of Nulytely, plus instructions to buy another over-the-counter laxative pill.  I was to go on a clear liquid diet on Tuesday, the day before the procedure, take two laxative pills at 2 PM, mix up the wonderful prescription powdered drink with warm water, then pour half of it out (I was beginning to like these directions already!) then divide the remaining liquid, refrigerate it and begin drinking the first half, which amounted to a liter, at 6 PM, drinking a glass full every 10-20 minutes until the first liter was gone.  Then I was to wake up at 3AM and drink the second liter. That sounded doable.  I mean, how bad can two liters of a mixture of polyethylene glycol, table salt, potassium chloride, bicarbonate of soda and lemon-lime flavoring actually taste? 

As it turns out, it really didn’t taste all that bad- unlike the blue Gatorade I bought to supplement my liquid diet- now THAT was gross tasting stuff!  The first liter of the prep stuff wasn’t so bad. I had read all kinds of horror tales about the prep and how it was the worst part of the whole thing, etc. but I’d also read some helpful hints on the Colon Cancer Alliance site. They suggested checking with your doctor and going on a low fiber diet five days before the colonoscopy, which I did. One of the forums had some helpful advice about buying Depends, in case you couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time.  That turned out to be very good advice, because once that stuff hits, it hits hard and fast. Mostly I camped out in the bathroom- even set up the charger for my Kindle and downloaded a few books to keep me occupied. More advice was to get the softest toilet tissue you could find and some baby wipes, along with some diaper rash ointment. All those hints paid off in spades. In an attempt to fool my stomach into thinking it was getting solid food, I ate lime Jello.  If I never see another bowl of lime Jello it will be too soon! That first round of the prep liquid really wasn’t all that bad, except for the fact that every time I moved or walked I could hear all the liquid I’d drunk sloshing around and I was pretty much glued to the toilet seat. I think I flushed at least ten pounds of my already skinny self down the toilet! Given that the adult human body is 55-60% water, I figured that if this colon cleansing kept up much longer Mr. G. would open the bathroom door in the morning to find a collection of bones  surrounding the toilet, with all the flesh and muscle liquefied and flushed away!  I was finally able to feel confident enough, with the added security of a Depends, to go to bed, with the alarm set for 3 AM.

I didn’t need the alarm. The sloshing and rumbling kept me awake and by 2 AM, I’d convinced myself that sleep wasn’t really necessary. At 3AM I drank the first glass of the last liter of prep stuff. It wasn’t going down quite as easily as it had the night before, and try as I might I got only half of it down before it tried to come back up. By then it was 4 AM and I figured if I wasn’t supposed to drink anything after 4, we were done for the morning. I was well on the way to flushing away what little was left of myself and became concerned that the trip to the hospital could get kind of messy.  Mr. G. must have felt the same way, because when I went to get in the car, I saw that he had covered the passenger seat with an old packing quilt, “just in case”.  So there we were at  6:15 AM in the car, going down the driveway when all of a sudden  water began to pour into my lap! It had rained heavily for a few days, and oak catkins had clogged up the drainage channels for the moon roof causing the deluge.  I had Mr. G stop the car so I could get in the back seat.  The roof still leaked in the back but I didn’t feel in danger of drowning back there.  As it turned out, the quilt was a good idea for protecting the seat- but not in the way Mr. G. had planned. :-D  My first thought was that this is a most inauspicious start to the day! However, we arrived at the hospital without incident. The “procedure” will be the subject of my next blog entry.

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