Technically, it started last month. I paid a man $30 to talk about poop.
If you’re squeamish about poop, you probably should just turn around now.
I’m really not joking. There will be photos.
A thing about having cancer in your nether-regions is that radiation is pretty precise, but its not perfect. You fill your bladder to essentially lift most of your bowels out of the way, but you can’t rearrange your whole digestive system, and there’s going to be some collateral damage.
For anyone I haven’t grossed-out by explaining why I’m still home on disability, my digestive system took a hit during cancer treatment. For awhile, I had diarrhea basically all the time. It’s gotten better with a healthy(ish) diet, fiber supplements, and time to heal. At this point, it’s not a matter of “texture,” but time. When it’s time to go, it’s time to go. On a good day, I have maybe 15 minutes before it’s happening. Despite the urgency, it sometimes takes it’s sweet time coming out, and it’s common to go a little, leave the bathroom, and come back in less than 15 minutes.
I’ve tried no coffee (which was awful), less fiber, more fiber, more water, stopping some PCOS medication, and the texture of the poo may change, but I still can’t hold it. Even if I was not feeling the fatigue and had more physical stamina, most employers do not offer unlimited breaks for however long you need…and so I’m home.
The next step in trying to solve the poo problem was to go to the gastroenterologist. I paid $30 to talk about poop last month, and yesterday, I shelled out $600-plus to buy myself a colonoscopy.
If you’re not familiar, a colonoscopy is a procedure where a doctor fills your intestines with air and then puts a camera up your ass. They look for polyps, tumors, and signs of other diseases. Fortunately, they put your under while they do it. You “prep” for the procedure by taking a whole lot of laxatives and spend about 12 hours strapped to the John. You do all that while on a diet of clear liquids, so you basically hate everything. Colonoscopies are normally recommended for everyone starting around age 50, but if you have a family history of colon cancer, colitis, or Chrone’s disease, it may be necessary for you to join the party sooner.
When I scheduled the appointment, I was given a little packet with instructions for how to prepare for the procedure. There are some very specific steps, some of which seem a little ridiculous.
I was most amused by the specificity of “pacing” your Gatorade intake. They were smart not to tell you to drink 32 oz. of liquid all at once. I tried that during radiation once or twice and it’ll make you feel sick real fast, especially with no solid food to keep it from sloshing around. Still, setting a timer seems excessive. I will also say you have no idea how many nuts and seeds you eat until you can’t have them. I fucked up and ate granola bars and no one yelled at me, but probably try to follow instructions.
Because I’m dedicated to giving you all as much insight as possible, I made some notes while I was going through the process, and I have some tips for you at the end.
Day Before Procedure:
Noon: Crap. I didn’t realize I couldn’t eat all day. Fortunately, I’m lazy and haven’t eaten or made coffee. Should have read those instructions better. I would have eaten a bigger dinner. Liquid diets are bullshit. Would they notice if I had an egg?
1:00 pm: Rush to Target for supplies. Flushable wipes are v important.
2:00 pm” Take 4 little laxative pills. They said an 8 oz. glass of water prevents cramping. Drinking 24 oz. I am an overachiever.
2:30 pm: Nothing happening yet. Waiting for cramps. Something.
3:00 pm: Pee after chugging 24 oz. of water with the pills. Apply Aquaphor to ass crack. Pat self on back for buying the spray kind so I can reapply without fingers later.
3:05 pm: Realize I put a lot of Aquaphor on and now it feels like I shat myself. Rethink amount of moisture actually needed.
4:00 pm: Oh, there’s a little cramping. More bloating. Glad I put on loose sweatpants. Cat decided to snuggle. Very cute. Stepping on my stomach. Less cute.
5:00 pm: Dozed off during the movie. Kudos on setting an alarm so I wouldn’t miss out on my Gatorade laxative cocktail hour. Is that gas? Not just gas. Go time. Now.
5:15 pm: Glad I got baby wipes. Dog sniffed under the door and left. Drinking my Miralax now. This stuff doesn’t taste as bad as I expected. Mostly just Gatorade, but thicker.
5:30 pm: Drink more. Still not tasting bad. It’s a lot of liquid, though.
5:47 pm: It’s liquid already. My “poo” is liquid. Scrapping plan to do housework. This does not bode well.
6:30 pm: I want to die. It’s not the taste of the laxatives or even the pooping. I’m nauseous and my stomach is too full. Liquid sloshing around. Not good.
6:37 pm: Vomited clear liquid. Definitely no bueno.
8:16 pm: How long does it take liquid to work it’s way through your system? Shitting clear liquid is disconcerting. Farts can not be trusted. I want a god damn cheeseburger.
10:16 pm: Attempt to go to sleep.
12: 39 am: Wake up to “poop.” Yell at cats. Assholes are fighting and Mommy isn’t having it.
Day of Procedure:
5:00 am: Alarm going off. Fuck alarm.
5:09 am: Drag self out of bed. Grumble all the way to the fridge and pour the first of 4 glasses of Gatorade/Miralax.
5:16 am: Resist urge to go back to sleep. Must. Keep. Drinking.
5:22 am: Glass #2 down. Whisper yell at cats again.
5:31 am: Poop yellowy liquid.
5:37 am: Fuck instructions. Drink rest of Gatorade. I am a rebel. “Poop” again. Go back to bed.
7:26 am: Wake up. Panic. I’ve overslept. Look at clock. I’m fine. Almost step on dog on way to toilet.
9:00 am: Curse alarm some more. Snooze.
9:09 am: Drag self out of bed. Pet Felix. Poop. It’s all liquid now. So odd.
9:30 am: A room full of strangers is about to shove a camera up my ass. I should clean it. Take a quick bath then get dressed.
10:30 am: Leave for the clinic. Wonder what I’m going to say while I’m under. Anal sex jokes seem likely.
11:00 am: Arrive at clinic and sign waivers and shit. Do people actually die during colonoscopies. Instruct Boyfriend to have cliche “celebration of life” in lieu of funeral. I want to be turned into one of those tree-fertilizer things. Please remember to feed the cats. Good luck with Rando.
11:30 am: Nurse calls my name. We verify my identity. Do people use false identities to get cameras in the ass? She lets me take one last water crap. Seriously? You can’t get better TP? You’re going to force people to shit for a full 18 hours and give them sandpaper for their assholes? Bastards. I hope I get a survey.
11:35 am: Verify more info, change into my backless gown, then get IV started. Thankfully, they can use a smaller needle than the CT scan, and we get it on the first try. Officially starving. Might die. I don’t give a single fuck about “recommended foods.” I’m having a bacon cheeseburger tonight.
Noon: Nurse wheels me to the procedure room. Thought she was going to hit at least 2 doorways. They lay me on my side and give me the drugs. I am out.
The internet tells me it takes about 12 minutes to get the scope in 5 or 6 feet. Yep. Then, 12 minutes to get it out. roughly 30 minutes of looking up my ass.
12:30-ish pm: I’m wheeled, still unaware of anything that’s happening, to recovery. I am told I was responding to instructions, but I remember nothing. Boyfriend tells me he talked to the doctor. No polyps. He gave me a packet of info and…PICTURES! I will be very excited when I know what’s going on.
12:50 pm: I slowly become coherent. I am dressed. I remember nothing. Nurse sends Boyfriend for the car. I vaguely recall giving him my purse with the key. Pretty sure I got to ride in a wheelchair.
1:10 pm: Boyfriend is driving the wrong way. I am barely awake, but manage to turn him around.
1:30 pm: We arrive safely at Target. I buy buns and cheese for burgers, as well as some probably ill-advised purchases. That was a lot of trail mix, and not sure I actually needed those gummy bears. Surprisingly useful items, overall.
2:00 pm: Still very bloaty. Gassy, and also grumpy. Farts are still not trustworthy. I opt for a bowl of soup and sandwich. Cheeseburger later. Food has never tasted so good.
Day After Procedure:
I didn’t actually keep track of times, but I had coffee without any adverse effects. Poop is slowly regaining structure. Taking it easy, though. Gym probably not good idea.
Moisturize your ass. I had months of radiation and side effects to prepare me for this part. Before the laxatives work their “magic,” get a thick moisturizer all around your butt hole and butt crack. Regular body lotion isn’t going to be strong enough. You need petroleum jelly, Aquaphor, or some industrial stuff. Unscented.
Two words: FLUSHABLE WIPES. You are going to be wiping your ass a lot. I buy only premium soft, cushy TP, and it’ll feel like scouring pads after a couple rounds with Miralax. The wipes are softer and they often have vitamin E and aloe to soothe your bum. You’ll feel cleaner, too, when you’re wiping off the nastiness that is liquid poop. Shoot for unscented, if you can find them. You can thank me later.
They are serious about red Gatorade. It will stain your intestines and make it harder to accurately see what’s going on. Since red dye is used in a lot of colors, I opted for the G2 Cherry Frost (or whatever the fuck it’s called), and that seemed to be fine, and the taste was good. Miralax didn’t really change the flavor, but I don’t know about other laxatives.
Soup and a sandwich was a good first post-colonoscopy meal. You’re supposed to watch for blood in the stool afterward, though, so maybe don’t choose tomato soup like I did. It doesn’t come out red, but it doesn’t come out brown, either.
If you can, plan to just wear loose, comfy clothes for a few days. Avoid anything that’s complicated to take off (belts, tight drawstrings, any sort of overalls/bodysuit/romper). It’s not easy to hold straight up liquid in, and you don’t want anything between you and the toilet when it’s potty time.
And now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for…pictures of my intestines!