In February 1996 my grandmother (Grandma Country) died of colon cancer. This wasn’t something the family talked about. Everyone thought she was going to be fine, even though sections of her colon had been removed and she was getting weaker every day. Cancer took her life on February 29, 1996. I had an opportunity to say good-bye the day before. As I laid by the makeshift hospital bed in the living room of that beautiful mid-century home, I thanked her for all she had done for me; much that no one else in the family knew about.
I bring this up because I have always been told that the risk of colon cancer can run in the family. My father mentioned this in his final years when he went for a colonoscopy. I never knew the results of his test and he died a few years later in an airplane crash. I had no familial data to determine whether colon cancer could be passed down the family line.
During my last yearly physical my doctor suggested that since I had turned 50 and because I had history of colon cancer in my family, I should schedule my first routine colonoscopy.
That took place today.
Being a bit worried about the experience and especially about the outcome, and being a geek through and through, I did a lot of reading about the procedure online. I visited several forums, read about experiences, read about outcomes, etc. A lot of the things talked about the same thing: the prep was worse than the actual procedure.
A week before my appointment I had to stop eating corn, seeds, and nuts. This made me a little insane as we went to the movies last Friday night and I couldn’t have popcorn. Popcorn is my favorite food. My mother raised us on soup and popcorn. Popcorn was an ever-present side dish. Steaks could be grilled on the patio and brought in for supper and there would be a bowl of popcorn on the table next to the grilled steaks. It’s what we did.
Three days before the procedure I had to stop eating high-fiber foods. The instructions said no fruits or vegetables, full stop.
The day before the procedure I moved to a liquid diet. Nothing red, nothing purple, and only liquid. I drank chicken broth for all three meals. I know green jello well. I drank 7-UP and apple juice. It wasn’t as bad as giving up popcorn and I could deal with it.
Last night began the final step of prep: drinking the gallon of lemon-lime “stuff” that would help me clean my bowels. The instructions were simple: eight glasses, each 10 minutes apart, until I was through half the gallon. Because Imperial Measurements are completely random, I thought that meant four glasses to get through 32 ounces in a half gallon. Ha ha! There’s 64 glasses in a half gallon because a gallon is 128 ounces. So much for that. But I dutifully drank all eight glasses, had my moments in the bathroom that don’t require a great amount of detail, and surprisingly I felt well enough to attend a showing of “The Book of Mormon” at the Oriental Theater with the family. The stories I had read online talked about bringing multiple laptops to the commode, screaming in pain, and writhing in agony, but I had none of these systems. A bunch of liquid came out, I wiped, I flushed. Relax on the couch for a few moments, rinse, and repeat.
I didn’t need to hit the washroom during intermission last night. The accounts online were way overrated. Probably to increase hit counts.
This morning I finished the gallon of lemon-lime stuff starting at 4:00 a.m., did the bathroom thing a few times and had time for an hour nap before heading to Northwestern Medical Center downtown. I was in the office on time and the doctor came in to visit shortly before I went into the procedure room. The worst part of the whole experience was the IV port in my arm and that wasn’t even that bad.
I told the nurse injecting the sedative into the port that I would remember her name and say nice things about her in my blog. I also warned her that I talked in my sleep and asked her not to hold anything against me. She giggled and I passed out; that was the last thing I remember.
I barely remember being in the recovery room, aside from Dr. Lee coming in and telling me that I had NO polyps in my colon. They had found nothing but a very clean colon. I had done the prep very well and I made it easy-peasy. “See you in 10 years”. Next thing I knew Earl was at my side smiling and then we were home.
There was lunch and some travel in between but I am definitely having gaps in my memory. The sedative lingered a bit; I slept a few hours and then all of a sudden things were back to normal.
Except I stopped worrying. I did a lot of worrying for nothing.
I don’t know if tendencies for colon cancer get passed along generational lines or not. Dr. Lee told me he wasn’t worried about that history. No one else in the family has signs of colon cancer (that I’m aware of).
I’m just happy I had a clean bill of health today. I’m occasionally told I’m full of crap. I have the pictures to prove that statement false.