‘Why are you saying thank you? I just stuck a camera up your bum’
I guess gratitude takes many forms and I was just relieved it was all over and relieved it was all clear. So thank you seemed a perfectly appropriate thing to say.
So often in life, the fear of something is way worse than the thing you’re actually fearing. We all struggle with nerves from time to time but genuine phobia is exhausting and can be very debilitating. It lies to us and robs us of daily life. I have a severe fear of being sick called emetophobia, and whilst I can usually function on a daily basis without it interrupting my life too much, there are times, usually when I’m anxious or stressed when it can rear its ugly head and control my behaviour quite dramatically. With my pending colonoscopy (part one of the story here ) coupled together with a high incidence of norovirus in Orkney in the last couple of weeks, I found the week leading up to my scope very difficult. I was anxious about the scope even though it was my second, I was anxious about catching a sick bug and I was anxious about being too unwell to get the scope and having it post poned until after Christmas. I was also a little anxious about the result. even though it was a routine thing as a result of my mum’s cancer history, you can’t help but wonder. So all in all I was a mess.
It turns out I’m not alone, many people have anxieties and fears, but I still felt like a freak. In order to cope and prevent catching the sick bug, my hand washing escalates and I become acutely aware of every surface I’m touching. Getting over the threshold of the door and joining the outside world with all its hidesous sick bugs can be a real struggle. I have a very supportive husband who knows how draining it is and lets me cry on his shoulder at 3am. He, even offered to sleep in a different room for the last few days until my scope was over incase I was worried he might get it and pass it on. I have also discovered recently that he monitors the speed at which the soap goes down so knows if I’m having one of my phases!
While it’s difficult for me to talk about my weirdness so publically, I wanted to use it to stress to you how ridiculously anxious I had become about my scope, and how negative our thought processes can be. And it probably explains why now it’s all over I am high as a kite, partly due to drugs and partly due to relief. In fact, the experience ended up so positive that I’m left wondering what in the heck all the fuss was about and I feel a bit stupid for making such a scene.
But now I’ve explained to you how hard it was, I can tell you what happened (not too graphically you’ll be pleased to know) and those of you facing a scope at whatever age, can hopefully draw strength from it, knowing that if a big anxious, scaredy, cry baby like me can do it and come out smiling, there it ‘scope’ for anyone!
Part one of my blog left you at two days before, where I was on a low fibre diet and preparing for ‘prep’ day. As I was having my procedure done on the mainland of Scotland I caught an early flight down to Aberdeen and arrived at the hospital mid morning. Unfortunately they were incredibly busy so there was a lot of waiting around, but eventually at about 1.30pm I was taken to my room and given my Picolax sachets. These are to be taken several hours apart and usually started in the morning. The only difference with taking them later is you are ‘feeling the effects’ several hours into the night.
Most people say prep day is the worst day. If you can manage your prep day you can manage your scope I promise you. Prep day is basically enforced diarrhea for several hours. There’s little else to do other than get through it and drinl plenty of fluids. But by the end of it you feel washed out and tired.
It was my birthday and I put something on Facebook about what a great day I was having and why. I quickly became the butt of everyone’s jokes.
and there was much hilarity at my expense.
‘don’t worry Sarah there’s light at the end of the tunnel’
‘poor you, what a bummer’
‘I wonder what size of sedative its going to take to take you down? *remembering certain wildlife documentaries’
‘Good to be kept in the poop I mean loop about things’
‘I bet it’s been a moving day’
Oh yes, the wise cracks kept coming
But it was all in great humour and helped ‘pass’ the day. I did have a little cry to myself at one point though, just because by ten pm I was completely washed out, on my own and this had been my birthday tea.
You’re alowed clear soup and orange jelly and you MUST keep your fluids up. A good prep day makes for an easier scope so it’s worth sticking to the rules. Unfortunately whilst gin is a clear fluid it’s not considered appropriate for your Picolax prep day. I asked on behalf of all of us…..
On the morning of scope day, things weren’t quite so funny any more. I woke up, (having woken up for the loo several times through the night) and had a last drink two hours before procedure. I made my way over to the ward and gave my name in at reception. There were others already there and people make very little eye contact. We all look washed out and grey and everyone knows what the other has been through in the last 24 hours and what everyone is about to endure. So I obeyed the silent code of ‘let’s never speak of this again’ and sat down. I was the youngest there, and it’s not often I can say that any more. But bowel cancer, whilst usually found in the over 50’s, can occur in the younger age groups as well, especially if there is Lynch Syndrome. But I’m not a doctor and don’t want to go give anyone wrong advise so that’s where I’ll stop.
My name was called and I was taken into room to answer questions. I promptly burst into tears so I think the nurse got the gist of the way the next ten minutes were going to go. She was lovely though and talked me through every thing.
”Did you have a good or fair result from the Picolax?”
”OH MY GOD!!”
”Ah, I’ll put good”
The endoscopy specialist who was going to be doing the procedure came to see me whilst I waited in the little changing room. (my mum calls it the broom cupboard, not because it was actually a cleaning cupboard but because there was room enough only for two chairs) She had obviously been warned ‘we’ve got a cryer’ but was absolutely lovely. She explained that I would not be sleeping through the procedure in spite of my protests and I cried again. I was going to be given a sedative and a pain killer which worked in conjunction with each other and I would be able to follow instructions. I was terrified but had come this far; and having gone through the ghastly prep and had two children, the second of which I had no pain relief at all, I decided the sooner it was over the better.
When I signed the consent form I was told I could withdraw consent at any time. So if I decided half way through the procedure I didn’t want to carry on any more I could just ask her to stop. I figured this is a bit like a poor man’s I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here except there would be no yellow plastic meal star or pay packet at the end of it. But colonoscopies are a necessary evil, so chin up and press on.
Readers, it was FINE.
FINE FINE FINE FINE FINE
If you are anxious about your colonoscopy, and I hope I’ve stressed to you enough that I was in a total state about it, then please take it from me….. There was nothing to worry about. I was sedated, yes, and aware of what was going on and able to folow instructions, but comepletely relaxed. I even broke my own rule and opened my eyes to look at the screen. This was the very screen I couldn’t bear to look at even when it was switched off because I was so frightened of waking up. But I opened my eyes and said
”Is that my colon!?”
”yes and I’m almost at the top”
There is a fair amount of discomfort as air is pushed in to allow the camera to pass through and round the corners but just whinge your waythrough it like I did 😉
Before I knew it the whole thing is over and I was happily hearing the words ‘as healthy as can be’ I was eurphoric. Partly because it was all over and partly because it was all clear, and I can honestly say it was a very positive experience.
I was taken to recovery for observations for half an hour or so then was given a drink and biscuit and free to go. But I was under strict instructions not to drive, use machinery, cook or even sign important or legal documents for 24 hours. I didn’t realise at the time but I was pretty high for the rest of the day. (I was highly entertaining on social media so I’m told) You have to have an escort home and are not allowed to be alone for the next 24 hours, so a friend of mine flew down to escort me home and we had a fun day, mainly with her trying to keep me under control. I’m very grateful, to her. If she hadn’t’ve come I think I could have easily ended up on a plane to Barcelona or something.
In my case, genetic testing will decide the frequency of these scopes now. But I don’t have to fear them any more. They aren’t pleasant, especially prep day. But they are far more preferable to having an undectected nasty. That said, I don’t think I can stomach any more orange jelly for a while.
Don’t die of embarrassment.
Get your butt seen.