The Punch in the Mouth

I’ve worked hard over the past few weeks on turning fear into a learning experience. I’ve had a lot thrown at me in a short period of time, and I still don’t have all the answers, but I’m farther ahead than I was.

Not knowing what was wrong with my stomach was a frightening thing. I knew it wasn’t supposed to be that way, and I kept meaning to call the doctor to discuss it. I put it off because I knew what the outcome would be – further testing. Why I was so scared of that is a mystery to me now.

One of my husband’s favorite expressions has always been, “sometimes running away from a punch in the mouth is worse than the punch in the mouth”, an inelegant way of saying sometimes it’s better to turn and face your fears down. It was time to stop running away.

Today I faced two fears down.

I finally got called in for jury duty. They were picking jurors for a two-week Federal Court criminal trial. No, I didn’t want to go. I was a nervous wreck over it, terrified that they’d keep me. It was problematic on two levels – the whole diverticulitis not making me a good candidate for sitting still for long periods of time and another change in personnel at work. I’d be leaving my employer in the lurch with no backup while putting myself through a lot of stress that wasn’t going to agree with my guts.

I was determined to make the best of a bad situation when it occurred to me that I absolutely didn’t have to. I asked my gastroenterologist for a written excuse – a “get out of jury duty” letter, something he was more than happy to provide for me.

I arrived at the Federal building at 7:50 am today – an ungodly time for a non-morning person. I sat and waited for an hour along with my fellow jurors. When they called us upstairs to check us in and settle us into the juror’s room, I pulled out my doctor’s excuse. The clerk asked me to sit on a bench off to the side, and I had to wait patiently while they registered all the other jurors in the pool. When she was done, she reviewed my paperwork again, and she released me! Just like that, I was free to go. I was back at my desk at work before 9:00.

Shortly after settling in for the day, my gastroenterologist called me, and I had to face my second fear. The rest of the biopsy results were back on my testing. In my small intestines, they did in fact find a polyp. He hadn’t seen it on the scope, but they grabbed it by accident when they were taking samples for the biopsy. He said it was benign, but I have to have another colonoscopy in six months to check that area and make sure it doesn’t grow back or turn into something more worrisome.

I know that I’m on the right track, and I’m actually glad I had the scans now. I’d rather find something early than wait because I’m scared of taking the prep – that was foolish. My stomach is slowly improving with more good days than bad, but it’s been a slow recovery. I’m down 12-1/2 pounds, and my clothes are loose, but this diet is not something I’d recommend.

I have an appointment at my primary care doctor’s office on Friday, and I’m seeing my oldest son’s doctor (my regular doctor is still out on maternity leave). In addition to the diverticulitis, the CT scan showed that I have two non-specific “bone islands”. Bone islands are described online as a common benign bone lesion – growths of bone where they shouldn’t be. I have to go in to discuss whether we want to do further scans. It’s amazing the things that get found when someone starts poking around inside a nearly sixty year old body, isn’t it?

I’ve had enough punches in the mouth, so to speak, this month to last me for a few years. I’m done now.

Images courtesy of Pinterest and

A Sensitive Subject

I’ve always had stomach issues. At fifty-eight, I should have had my first colonoscopy years ago. After all, one of the hallmarks of turning the big 5-0 is scheduling your colonoscopy screen. The doctors harass you about it every time you see them. I put mine off, not wanting to face the prep part of the procedure. 
The past few months my digestion has gradually gotten worse. I’ve had more and more problems, and nothing worked to fix them. On August 16th I ended up at the emergency department of one of the local hospitals. I went in at 11 pm and didn’t walk back out again until 5:30 am the next day. They did blood work, took specimens, and gave me morphine for the pain. The doctor thought it was infectious in nature, but it wasn’t. The tests all came back negative. 

My primary care doctor is on maternity leave so I followed up with the gastroenterologist earlier this week, and I bit the bullet and scheduled my colonoscopy for August 25th, the first opening they had, that very same week. 

I was terrified of the prep, but I have to confess it wasn’t bad. After the hospital visit, I was on a liquid diet. Then I gradually added in light items (puddings, Jellos, popsicles, crackers, white rice, grits, baked chicken breast). The day before prep day I went back to an all liquid diet (black coffee, gatorade, apple juice, bouillon, jello). I couldn’t have anything red or purple.

On prep day I woke at 4:15 am, and I was starving. Knowing I couldn’t have any solid food for another thirty-six hours was a little disheartening, but I was positive I could do it. I had planned to work until 3:00 that day and having something to keep me busy and occupied was good. 

I got home around 3:15 and had time to do a few things before I had to start the prep at 5:00. My prep was a medication called Suprep, and it was a split dose (two-day) regimen. 

On day one, you take the first six-ounce bottle of medicine and mix it with ten ounces of cold water to make a sixteen-ounce drink. Then you have to drink two more sixteen-ounce cups of plain water over the next hour. My doctor recommended I drink the first eight ounces, wait twenty minutes and drink the rest. It was also suggested I use a straw.

The worst part about the Suprep is the taste. It had a bad, fake fruit smell, and it tasted like liquified, children’s vitamins. It was hard to gag it down. I drank half at 5:00, waited twenty minutes and drank the rest. I also polished off the extra thirty-two ounces of water. I sloshed when I walked, and my stomach had begun to make ominous noises. 

By 5:30, the prep had begun to work. It didn’t hurt. I was fairly empty to start so the first part of the prep took just over three hours to run through me. For the first ninety minutes, I couldn’t leave the bathroom. It wasn’t horrible, just nonstop. My cat, Ginny, was worried about me. She stood outside the bathroom door, crying. 

I left the bathroom for good around 9:00 and finished the evening watching Frasier on Netflix. I went to bed at 11:00 and actually slept well. I got up at 5:20 and took my usual morning blood pressure medicines. I had water and apple juice. I went back to bed until 6:45 and then got up to feed the cat and do a few household chores before starting my second prep at 7:30. 

The second prep ran through me in just over two hours. I even took a power nap before I got up and dressed at noon. My son drove me to the gastroenterologist at 12:30. 

The nurses were great. I got into a gown, they put in an IV, and I got comfy in a hospital bed, covered by a blanket. My procedure was scheduled for 1:30. By 1:26, I was wheeled into the procedure room. The nurse gave me the conscious sedation medicine, told me I was going to feel dizzy, close my eyes, and try to go to sleep. 

I was for all intents and purposes asleep, but I could hear the doctor and the nurse talking the entire time. Unless I was hallucinating, they talked about someone the nurse was dating and dating experiences in high school. Towards the end, I did feel a slight pinch of pain in my belly, and I said, “Ow!” twice, but that’s all I remembered from the procedure.

I was awake as soon as I was back in recovery, but I wanted to stay asleep. And all that nonsense the comedians feed you about colonoscopies and gas and excessive farting? It’s just that – nonsense. Unless their experience involved being pumped full of air to visualize the colon and mine didn’t, I had no gas at all, and I heard only people’s voices talking around me. No one in recovery was passing gas.

The good news is that the doctor didn’t find anything bad. I have diverticulosis. The bad news is that he doesn’t think that is causing the problems I’m having. I now have to have another upper endoscopy (I had one four years ago). I go for that on Monday. I also will be scheduled for a CT scan of my small intestine. When we’re done, the doctor will have images of my entire digestive tract. 

I wanted to share my experience so that anyone afraid of this screening will understand that it’s not as bad as you think it will be. I feel much relief that after years of IBS and excessive endometriosis that my most worrisome area is in better condition than I expected it to be. Now if we could just figure out why it’s been acting up lately, we’d be all set.