My First Colonoscopy

Warning: This may be a little too much information for some. I find it funny that almost a year ago, Tiana crowned herself the winner of our inadvertent competition on gross-out bodily function blogging, and specifically mentioned that to top her period-blogging I would need to do a live blogging of a colonoscopy. I was too sedated to do a live blogging, so this is a night-of blogging.

Bishop takes rook-pawn, Tiana. Your move.

Before

The first (overnight) laxative is to clean out your colon of all solid wastes. It doesn’t kick in overnight, it starts working in about an hour, which means you aren’t going to get much sleep.

The second laxative (magnesium citrate) makes your intestine absorb water through osmosis, so that you start passing liquid for a more thorough cleaning. The magnesium citrate wasn’t as bad tasting as I expected (sort of a chemically sour lemonade), but that, along with having to drink ten glasses of water to make it effective, did make me slightly nauseous.

When liquid comes out of you from this end, it doesn’t make a nice contained splosh. No, it goes everywhere. I lost track of how many times I went to the bathroom, and used almost two rolls of toilet paper in two days. And when you wipe this many times, even three-ply, ultra-soft toilet paper feels like it’s coated in diamond dust and dipped in acid.

I was able to get through a decent chunk of my novel, The Last Light of the Sun, and learned from GQ how to “Work That Tan”, why Shia LaBeouf is the upcoming bad boy of Hollywood, and that Rolex makes a $37,500 nautical watch.

You really don’t feel like doing anything but lie around when going through this. As such, I was able to finish God of War 2, and unlocked the awesome Cod of War costume, which still makes me laugh every time a Greek soldier addresses Kratos as “My lord!” when he’s wearing it.

During

Every person I spoke to who had a colonoscopy said that it was a breeze. Not so for me.

Pretty much as soon as they injected the sedative into my IV, I passed out, only to be awoken by bouts of agony. I’d say that for the entire procedure I was only conscious for about two minutes in total, but those two minutes were not fun. I don’t think I would have woken up if it wasn’t for the pain.

Part of the discomfort is supposed to come from injecting air into the colon so they can better see the colon. I couldn’t tell if it was that, the instrument they used to do it, or the endoscope itself snaking into my colon, but I felt a sharp pressure on both the anal cavity, and inside the colon.

I remember screaming through gritted teeth, grabbing the handles of the bed, swearing, and thinking that I should have better manners before passing out again.

At one point, someone also had to hold me down, and uttered comforting words, but I couldn’t make out what he said.

After

Since the colon is inflated with air, I was warned that I’d be passing gas for a while after the procedure. This is true, and very involuntary.

I have severe ulceritive colitis, which is an inflammatory bowel disease. The doctor showed me pictures of my colon; the right side is fine, but the left side is so inflamed that it’s black, red, and bleeding. All the information is being sent to another specialist, whom I’m very glad to be able to see soon.

I was pretty groggy for a while after, partially because I hadn’t eaten in two days, and partially because of the sedative. Every time I stood up, I felt like I was going to pass out.

Right now, I have to take 12 pills a day, one of them being prednisone, a steroid to suppress the overactive immune system responses, the other being mesalamine, an anti-inflammitory drug to bring the swelling under control. These drugs are scary. The side effects are pretty bad, but the doctor judged the benefits to outweigh the potential risks.

I may have to take pills (considered “maintenance medications” to prevent relapse) for the rest of my life. While I feel this lowers my quality of life, it’s much better than dealing with the flare-ups and side effects of colitis. Aside from that, the only cure is to have part of my colon removed in surgery, which I really don’t want to do.

The diagnosis of having a chronic digestive disease is not great, but I’m very relieved to have an explanation of the mystery pains, along with a treatment plan.

I hate, hate, hate being alone when I’m feeling sick. My stomach still feels very funny and unsettled. So Julie came over last night to hang out a bit and to take my mind off everything, and watch some Robson Arms.

31 comments

  1. I had totally forgotten about the gas part!!! Now that I think about it the nurse did come in and tell him that if he was having difficulty passing gas he should get on his hands and knees and stick his behind in the air so that it would move. And because I am from the south and my theory about toilet humor and southerners is that they go hand in hand, I am giggling all over again at the thought of it. (sorry!) Thank goodness you now know what your issues are and are on a road to finding something that will work. Things are looking up!

    • It’s funny that you mention the gas-passing position, because it sounds just like a posture in yoga that my friend does for the same purpose.

  2. Oh that wasn’t so bad! More insightful than gross really! I think you and Tiana should reign together as gross-out champions.

    • I guess if information doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger. :)

  3. Not pleasant from the sounds of it, but at least you know what’s wrong now and can treat it. Here’s hoping the medication won’t have any of the negative side effects and you’ll just be able to feel better :)

    • Yeah it’s still early for me being on them, and nothing too major so far. I think if I had an allergy, I would have experienced an adverse reaction already.

  4. The cure for the toilet paper=sandpaper issue is DEFINITELY a removable shower head wand thingy. It also comes in handy for other things *wiggles eyebrows*

    So I guess you are winning but that is only because my placenta tour video is on Brent’s computer, is too big to upload as-is and I don’t have any method of transferring it to my mac for editing FOR NOW! So you are safe… but don’t rest easy my friend.

    • But doesn’t that mean you’re essentially showering your lower half several times (over two dozen, in my case). I imagine that the constant water and toweling off would lead to a major case of dry skin. Now I know why some countries use bidets.

      If you have real placenta footage, then YOU WIN…I TAKE YOUR WORD FOR IT!

  5. hey man sorry 4 OZ like doc visit
    on the other hand u know whats going on in my opinion i would get the bad part teaken out over pills everyday people go under the knife 4 alot less i say risks r nill go 4 the gold buddy

    • I would generally agree with surgery over pills, but a colon-removal operation has TERRIBLE consequences, since the colon is what stores feces. Instead, the poo would go into a bag that you wear, that needs to be emptied. I so don’t want to go that route.

  6. I admire your courage, both for going through the whole procedure and telling your readers about it. I’m the scaredy type and would rather not know, out of fear that I might have something very serious — a mindset that is probably a disease in itself. But if I ever do decide to seek medical attention, I’d probably go the “alternative” route.

    • I was thinking of posting pictures actually, more for my own record than anything, but got some feedback on how appreciative people were that there weren’t any visuals.

      I used to be the type who would rather not know too, but the pain just got so bad that I decided the venture into knowing was worth it. Hopefully you don’t get to that point some day.

  7. I was kinda half hoping for some pictures. Ha ha, ah well.
    Glad to know that you’re on the road of get-better, dude. You have the bravery equivalent of a naked Viking in battle, to have someone to shove a camera up yours, and tell the whole world about it.

    • A naked Viking in battle…that’s a funny image, as I’m probably the least Viking-ish person I know. Maybe a Scot with a kilt on. :)

  8. I’m definitely glad that after reading this that my digestive engineering appears to be able to take on just about anything without a problem. For some your procedure might sound just like ‘something you go through’; for me it’s the epitome of a nightmare. (And Oh, A $37,500 WATCH???). There’s a Pulp Fiction joke in there somewhere….

    I think you might consult someone in alternative medicine on a restorative food plan strategy; that’s what any good Californian would do. Sounds limp I know, and you definitely need to heal first. But staying on meds for good isn’t necessarily your only path, I should guess. Remember, your liver has to hold up for the rest of your life, too. Having had immune response related junk, I know something about that. Take care of ALL of you.

    How to work a tan …. ha!!!

    Very relieved for you that it’s nothing more serious.

    • I totally envy those with iron stomachs. My friend is one of them, and I jealously watch him eat anything (even foods I wouldn’t dream of mixing) without a problem.

      I’ll probably find out more about Traditional Chinese Medicine, but I don’t think it has a direct solution, aside from practicing Tai Chi to calm the mind and body.

      • I don’t mean natural alternative meds even; Check out yin and yang foods with someone. What things go with what.

      • Ah right…I’ll have to look into that. I’m pretty sure that most of the food I eat right now is yang, which is why I try to drink so much tea (which in yin). Ginseng and lingzhi is also supposed to help balance the two.

  9. you HAVE the pictures? I want to see!!

    • Sorry, no pictures. I was thinking of asking for them, but I think it would just scare me unnecessarily. Maybe one day, when I have this under control.

  10. ya ok haveing to wear a bag o poop sucks go with the pills

    • I’m glad you see it my way. :D

  11. hey jeff,

    sorry to hear about your diagnosis. but don’t worry; i’m a pharmacist in australia and have seen a lot of patients with the same condition who live perfectly well-rounded lives despite having to be on tablets/enemas all the time. and you’re right about the surgery; i think tablet popping beats pooping out of a stoma (hole in stmoach) anyday! a bit more hygienic too, no doubt.

    good luck with the pill taking!

    • Thank you very much for the information. I’ve never had one, but I’d really rather not go the enema route though, so I’m hoping it’s one or the either!

  12. You were so brave to confront the problem directly.

    For chronic diseases, Chinese medicine can be quite effective, and it’s certainly much less disruptive to the system, compared to western medicine, even though it may involve a relatively lengthy course. Hey, isn’t Tai Chi also good for the immune system ?

    Special dietary regime can be very important too, I’m not sure if your doctor has told you what food to avoid and what food is preferred.

    A chronic disease takes some patience and determination to cure. With a young body like yours, it will cure.

    • I wouldn’t say brave, just fed up. The pain got pretty bad before I decided to seek more medical help, because I was so frustrated with my previous doctors.

      Tai Chi is definitely something that’s recommended for those with ulcerative colitis, so I’m already on that path. I don’t believe there’s any specific food that can trigger a flare-up though, because it’s different for every person. I’ll have to figure this out on my own.

      Unfortunately, there’s no cure for this disease, aside from removing the entire colon. The best I can hope for is time that the disease is in remission, which is what the pills are supposed to do. Remission can last years without flare-ups, so that’s my goal.

  13. jeff,

    i’m glad you finally have a diagnosis that takes you out of the dreaded “somatic zone”.

    i’m w/ xibee on the idea of seeking out alterna-med info. chinese medicine is one such path, but i would suggest that you also look for online patient support and advocacy groups. i have an auto-immune thyroid condition. i’m finally on the road to recovering my health thanks to my yahoo group buddies who told me what tests and medications to ask for – and no thanks to multiple doctors, who first dismissed my symptoms, and then even post-diagnosis, denied that the symptoms were thyroid-related. funny, on the right thyroid meds, in the right dosage, those “unrelated” symptoms are all disappearing.

    i’d be very surprised if your condition didn’t have some dietary component. i wouldn’t expect your tyical allopathic doctor to know anything about that, though. again, i’d seek out a patient group (or two). don’t be deterred by the wackiness you will likely encounter in these communities; just go with what sounds plausible to you. you may also find, as i did, that some concepts prove to be less wacky than they initially seem. of course, nothing beats the wackiness of the traditional mainstream md’s that repeatedly told us both that there was nothing medically wrong, right?!

    • Thank you so much for sharing this information. With life-affecting conditions like this I’m going to try as much as I can to alleviate the symptoms, so I’m definitely not ruling out alternative medicine. The internet has become such an amazing resource for this; even though people aren’t MDs themselves, they can offer support and suggestions about the way to approach Western medicine.

  14. Hey Jeff,
    Has anyone suggested you take some massive doses of vitamin D3? Living in Canada, you are particularly likely to be deficient and it is great for many things, including IBS, colon cancer, the list goes on and on and includes ulcerative colitis. It couldn’t hurt and it might help. I’m in Washington State and I take 2000iu a day from Oct to April. They even recommend 3000 or more now. I helped my son with a college term paper about Vitamin D or I wouldn’t know this myself. Good luck!

    • I’m going to ask my specialist about that next time I see him. Thanks for the tip.

  15. I see a lot about the disease and the results of testing but I am trying to find someone that can shed some light on taking care of the ostemy site it self. A friend spends a great deal of time cleaning the site and the bag but still has trouble keeping down the redness and trying to treat the skin to stop soreness. She also has a problem with blood oozing out. Sometimes there is a lot of blood. Her Dr. said it is just a small vessel that breaks once in awhile. Even when the bag has been taken out for cleaning there can be sudden gushes that end up all over the bathroom. Anyone with these problems? How do ou handle them. Good ideas will be appreciated.

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