Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What a ride

Before I forget, I have two more things to say about the colonoscopy prep.  1)  It dehydrates you.  This should be intuitive, since you are ingesting ungodly amounts of salts (laxative), but it's not because you are also consuming an ungodly amount of hydrating materials (liquid diet).  So try to drink EXTRA liquids despite the bloating and nausea and being just plain sick of liquids.  2)  Laxative-induced things do not stop coming out of your colon prior to the procedure.  I was feeling a bit embarrassed as I prepared to head to the clinic, stopping in the bathroom one last time at home in an attempt to evacuate things for the last time.  I wasted no time telling the nurse about this issue, in case the procedure would have to be rescheduled, but she said that this non-stoppage is the case with everyone.  The doctor will continue to suck out material during the procedure.

I would have been more comfortable, both physically and mentally, if I had known these two tidbits going in.  I hope they help you out someday.

On to the procedure itself.  The nurse insisted going in that I would be slightly awake but that I wouldn't remember anything.  Well, I have news for you, nurse:  if I'm awake, then I'm remembering.  Maybe not all of it, maybe not perfectly, but I'm remembering.  This is a well-trained steel trap up here (except when recalling movies--then it's an aluminum sieve).  And so it is with great delight that I report that I was awake during the whole procedure, and with a perfect view of the monitor!  I got to watch the camera go in, sucking up green slime along the way.  I got to feel the camera bending around the primary curves of my colon.  It tickled.  I heard the doctor ask about giving me more drugs (either percocet or fentanyl), but the nurse commented on my cooing, "Why?  It sounds like she's on a roller coaster!"  Dr. Gastroenterologist got the camera up to the proximal end of my colon very quickly, but he was slower on the way out.  There were several pauses to examine and photograph areas, followed by very swift movement to the next spot.  Then it was over, and without any pain or discomfort from the scope itself.  The nurse wheeled me to the recovery room and told me that I couldn't have anything to drink until I passed gas.  They pump a lot of air in there during the procedure so that things stay open.  So I rolled around until one enormous volume of air moved from within to without.  Then I got grape juice and hot tea.  My delightful mother-in-law helped me to get dressed while we waited for Dr. G.  In his street clothes, he came and gave us the report that there was absolutely nothing abnormal in my colon.  Huzzah!  I asked him whether there could be something abnormal on the outside of my colon that his examination would not have seen.  He said not likely.  Then I asked him what would happen if this same area shows increased metabolic activity on my next PET scan.  He said he wasn't sure, but I wouldn't be seeing him again.  He probably didn't use words quite so harsh, but this is the essence of what he said.  Then he backed out of the room as fast as he could.

Clearly he was banking on the fact that I wouldn't remember any of this.

Also, he gave me a sheet of paper containing 4 pictures of my colon.  Huzzah!  However, these were all stock positions of typical colon landmarks.  They were not photos of the region shown to be questionable on the PET scan.  What gives?  I could have told you that there was nothing wrong with my colon landmarks.  I want a picture of the questionable site.  Not seeing for myself the appearance of questionable sites is what got me into this mess in the first place (recall original ultrasounds of the left breast).

Needless to say, I was not very pleased with Dr. G.  But this shouldn't be surprising, because I'm rarely impressed with 1) procedural doctors (doctors who perform and bill by procedures), and 2) doctors I only meet once.

OH!  The nail in the coffin for Dr. G actually happened before any of these disappointments, right after I met him, right before he injected the drugs into my system.  I was lying on the procedure table, getting-to-know him, sharing the fact that I'm a microbiologist currently studying the microbiota of pigs.  I imagined talking a moment of shop with him, expressing our mutual affection for those amazing bacteria within.  Do you know what he said?  I was so upset that I don't remember it word for word, but here's the important part of the quote:  "...nematodes..."  NEMATODES!  Nematodes are WORMS, not bacteria!!!!  This calls for a survey of my non-scientist readers:  do you know that nematodes are not bacteria?  I don't care if you know nothing about either organism, but I'm pretty sure that you know that they are less related to each other than we are to primates.  Well, maybe you didn't know that analogy in particular, but now you do.

And finally, on to issues of recovery.  I am not feeling tip top today.  I worked almost a whole day, but came home early due to what I'm calling seasickness (nausea and dizziness) in addition to fatigue and tingly hands.  I called Dr. G's office but guess what?  Neither he nor his nurses work on Wed. afternoons, the day after their procedure day (shake head here).  I spoke with the gastroenterological nurse on call, and she told me to go to the ER because it sounded neurological.  Sigh.  So I hung up and called Dr. Oncologist.  She said to sleep on it and call her in the morning if it's not better.

In the interim I have come up with my own hypothesis:  low iron/malnourished.  This could lead to decreased hemoglobin in my blood, decreasing the oxygen to my brain and extremities (i.e. my phenotypes).  This would also make sense given the fact that I didn't eat for over 30 hours and my female parts are doing female things (i.e. my monthly bloodletting).  So I ate lots of green vegetables for dinner and I'll take my vitamin in the morning.  Maybe Dr. O will have other suggestions when I present this hypothesis.

Longest post EVER to say that my colon is FINE.  I will celebrate in due course, when I'm feeling better.  What an EXPERIENCE.

And while I was writing this, one of my favorite songs in the universe came on Pandora.  I hadn't heard it in ages.  So here it is for you.  "Into the mystic" by Van Morrison.  Turn up your bass.



  1. Another day, another triumph. Spectacular story-telling, per usual.

    While I'm sure you're happy that the testing is over, as a regular subscriber to your blog, I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed ;) Oh well, I guess pictures of the little ones will have to do...

    Love you like a sister,


  2. Isn't Nematodes an 80's band? No wait - it's a famous quote from the 2000 movie: O Brother, Where Art Thou?..."We thought you was a Nematoad!"

    Glad you got a clean report. Don't loose too much sleep over poor bedside manner but you're wise to question ignorance...someone had the low passing score in microbiology class, could have been Dr. G - hope your strength is back soon.

    1. I didn't know that O Brother could be improved, but I think you just did! Brilliant!

  3. We'll another hollow victory of sorts. It would seem obvious by the ending
    Toad would it not? Better times ahead. I love you and your self healing.

  4. " "...nematodes..." NEMATODES! Nematodes are WORMS, not bacteria!!!! " --> my favorite part! I laughed so hard, Heather!! Only you can write a post about colonoscopies and make it so damn funny! Hope you recover quickly. Sadly, I've been experiencing many of the same symptoms as you (hence my absence at yoga) but they've occured naturally and without the aid of foreign powders and liquids. :(


  5. Heather, what a hoot you are. And, yes, I do know that nematodes...are worms. We use a very strong "medicine" to help rid our horses and sheep of nematodes. Many it's the occupation that makes gastroenterologists this way. The guy in our hospital that does the "procedures" has the personality of a "nematode". Maybe it's genetic!!! Thanks for the laughs and the wonderful news. I love ya! Aunt Andrea

  6. 1. First things first, huzzah for a healthy colon!

    2. Can I just tell you how much I adore your writing? Why isn't everyone more upfront with these things? I appreciate the colonoscopy FYIs for the future. Q had one last year, and he does not recall the three hours following the procedure (including a very deep philosophical discussion we had while I was driving him home).

    3. Although I cringe at the Dr. not knowing nematodes were worms, I burst out laughing at work. (nerd salute!)

  7. Thanks for the props, everyone! I enjoy telling my stories, and I'm glad that I can make you laugh without grossing you out. Nerd salute, indeed!