The reason for today’s post is if you have been following me on Facebook, you’ll know that I have just had a colonoscopy done, as I have a family history with bowel cancer. Dad has had two bouts of it, and his sister has had one, and both have colostomies due to their cancers.
I had my first colonoscopy seven years ago, soon after dad has fought through his first bout of cancer, at the suggestion of his surgeon. Generally Doctor’s will tell you you don’t need to start this process until you are fifty, but the good ones will actually start you earlier if you have a family history of bowel cancer. If your GP does not suggest it, don’t be scared to ask them for a referral to get one done, I had to when I was forty, it took a little convincing of my GP at the time.
So what is a colonoscopy? Well basically, it is the procedure of putting a camera up your bum, and looking at your internal bowel walls, and determining if there are any nasties up there. Now I don’t mean car keys, hamsters or aliens, but polyps or cancers. For polyps they will remove them straight away, (provided you have given them the consent prior to the colonoscopy!), and for nastier issues, they may have to make a decision to operate later.
They don’t use a camera this size of course, but it is great fun to tease people a little, or worry them possibly, that they will! The camera is a very small unit on a flexible elongated tube that can travel the entire distance of your colon, or large intestine. How far’s that? I’m not too sure, but I picture it working a little like a drain snake!!!
The advantage of a colonoscopy is that it is the most completing screening you can have of your internal bowel walls. The procedure itself is painless, well apart from the fact that you may feel a small prick at first. By this I mean from the anesthetist as he preps you for the procedure! The nurses get you to hop up on the operating table on your back at first, and the anesthetist gives you a sedative, that by the time you’ve rolled onto your side for them, has taken effect, and you’re asleep!
You wake up in recovery, where they check you out and make sure you have no issues or reactions to the anesthetic, and in my case, the surgeon came and spoke to me as soon as I was awake about what they found, which thankfully was nothing. Other surgeons may wait until you are in recovery, but this can mean that you have to hang around even longer in recovery, waiting for the surgeon to be free!
So the procedure itself really is quite simple, pain free, and over fairly quickly! The “difficult” part is the preparation for it! My surgeon sends out his instructions to you on what they want done prior to the procedure, because they need to have a clear field of vision up there, so you have to be empty!
My colonoscopy was on Wednesday, so my preparation actually started Monday, with diet modifications. Basically you have to cut out just about everything you like, so breakfast was some dry white toast with soft boiled eggs, lunch was some plain white bread with more boiled eggs! Tea was some boiled chicken, (hatched eggs!), with some peeled well boiled potato and pumpkin! I stopped all milk Monday too, so tea and coffee was black, and no sugar! Tuesday is no solid food at all, so I could have clear broth, sugar free jelly, water, clear juices etc. An exciting diet, but not the most exciting part of the day!
Tuesday I also had to start emptying the house! So at 8am I started with my first dose of Picolax, which contains two extremely effective laxatives, designed to cleanse the bowel prior to the procedure. Picolax is a great product, as it is a simple drink to take, being a powder that you mix into a glass of water. There are other treatments that require you to drink mass volumes of liquid at the same time, which can be extremely difficult to do! Picolax takes effect within about an hour of taking it, and boy, does it work!
To maximise the benefit of it, you have to make sure you drink at least a glass of water every hour, if not, even more! The more fluids you drink, the softer your stools will be, therefore easier to pass!!! And when you are emptying house, you want it to pass easy! My second dose was at 5:00pm, and was the same easy process as the first dose, and just required me to keep my fluid intake up, and my pants down! I’m not sure if it was just me, but the Picolax effects did not really completely pass until Thursday morning, so I am glad I took Thursday off too!
So what’s the downside to a colonoscopy? Well, I guess it takes a couple of days out of your week, but if they do find something nasty, it could save you years in your life! Another downside that we discovered in my family, and a point that I have repeated above, is it is only an internal bowel wall scan. Dad’s first cancer was colorectal, which means it was pretty close to the anus, so neither the sigmoidascope nor the colonoscopy returned any cancer results, and his second was external to the bowel, so whilst strangling the bowel, was not visible on the colonoscopy either. Other than that though, the procedure has been extremely successful in the early detection of bowel cancer.
Would I do it again? Yes, but not for another five years! As I have a family history of cancer, I have to go every five years, the “normal” interval is ten years for people with no family history.
So whilst not a cycling post, it’s certainly a post that means I will be able to keep on cycling for a while longer still!
Keep the rubber side down,