Yeah, after all my obsessing about it, I kind of left you guys hanging, didn’t I?
I had my Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Wednesday morning a week ago. Preparation for it actually began some days in advance, what with not being able to take aspirin or ibuprophen. Fortunately closing weekend of Assassins went off without either headache or major injury. I did receive a scare when my friends Julianna and Wendy cornered me at the closing night party and told me in no uncertain terms that I shouldn’t have the procedure: it was painful, it was unnecessary, it didn’t do what it was supposed to do, etc. Kind of put a damper on the festivities, you know?
I had all day Monday to stew about it, and actually gave some serious thought to cancelling my appointment. Finally I decided to tough it out. Beginning Tuesday morning I started my 24-hour clear liquid diet. For breakfast I had green tea and black cherry jello, which I like. For lunch I had chicken broth and a soft drink. For a mid-afternoon snack I had more jello (orange, this time). By dinner time I was extremely cranky. John had volunteered to go out for both lunch and dinner so I wouldn’t have to cook and then not eat, but I declared that would make me even more miserable. By feeding him, at least I got to smell solid food. For dinner, I had two laxatives, beef broth and more jello (black cherry again – I don’t like it so much any more). The laxatives kicked in around 10 PM, which made for a less than relaxing evening, you know? I went to bed around midnight and slept until 5 AM, when the laxatives decided give me a fun little nudge. I crawled back into bed around 6:30 and slept until the alarm went off at 8 AM. Time for my first enema.
Have you ever had an enema? Better yet, have you ever had a self-administered enema? They are not fun in any case, but a self-administered one requires some real gymnastics. You can either lie on your side or kneel, and then stick the enema up your backside, as in this picture. I know, it looks like a sock puppet taking a snort off an extra-long baby bottle. What I want you to observe is the angle of the hand and bottle in relation to the sock puppet. Sort of in a straight line, yes? I am here to tell you that things don’t line up quite that nicely – not in the laying-on-your-side position and not in the kneeling position, which is what I chose. Not unless you’ve got an arm like an orangutan. Try it. I dare you.
Look at the nice man’s face. He looks a bit sleepy, doesn’t he? Kind of peaceful, doesn’t he? That is not how my face looked when my sock puppet had her first sip. First of all, a Fleet enema that’s been in an air-conditioned bathroom is COLD. In the second place, my sock puppet must not have been thirsty because it kept trying to spit the stuff out. Cursing, I force-fed the sock puppet and then had to remain kneeling on the cold tile floor, because the good people at Fleet want you to try to HOLD THE STUFF IN “until the urge to evacuate is strong (usually two to five minutes).” Hell, I don’t think I made it to thirty seconds. And the really fun part? I got to do it AGAIN. The prep for the sigmoidoscopy calls for not one, but TWO Fleet Enemas.
I got dressed (in loose-fitting pants, just in case the laxatives and the enemas kicked in again) and drove to Kaiser Permanente for the procedure. The lab tech who made the appointment with me told me to go to the wrong place, so it took a couple minutes for me to find the right office. Then I waited about ten minutes. I rubbed some good-smelling lotion on my hands because I figured it would be helpful to have something nice to focus on during the procedure. Then a nurse called my name and brought me into the back room. She took my blood pressure (elevated – what a surprise) and then I got to take off my lower garments, lay down on a table on my left side, and cover myself with a paper blanket. There was a blank TV screen facing me. A friendly-looking older lady came in and told me her name is Jackie and she’ll be administering the sigmoidoscopy. I can’t see what she’s doing but suddenly the TV in front of me comes to life and I see the room swirling past as she turns on the camera and checks it. This camera-on-a-cord is what’s going inside of me (look up at the picture at the top of this post – kind of looks like a choo-choo in a tunnel, doesn’t it?). Jackie tells me I may feel some discomfort as the system blows air into the large colon as the camera passes upward. I smell the lotion on my hands and brace myself as Jackie starts the procedure.
I won’t go into too much detail, except to tell you that it didn’t hurt. Ever. There was, indeed, some discomfort (I felt like I was having a bad gas attack) but Jackie advised me to press on my abdomen if it got too bad. And I also got to watch G-TV (All Guts, All The Time). I was pleased that the inside of my colon was fresh, pink and pretty, unlike the outside of me. In all, the procedure took about fifteen minutes. When it was done, I told Jackie what Julianna and Wendy had told me, and with equanimity she replied that the procedure is different for everyone. I asked Jackie specifically about Wendy’s claim that the procedure wasn’t useful because it only looked at half the large colon. Jackie went to a poster on the door and showed me the track of the camera (just like above, except with me she was able to go further up – “I was able to look around the top right corner,” she said). She said that since most colon cancer occurs in the lower half of the bowel, the sigmoidoscopy is 90% to 92% accurate in diagnosing colon cancer. To look through the entire large colon requires a colonoscopy, but even then it only raises the percentage of diagnostic accuracy to about 96% or 97%.
So the good news is that, other than the prep, the procedure wasn’t too bad. The even better news is that my innards are in good shape. The best news of all is that I don’t have to have another flexible sigmoidoscopy for five years, for which my sock puppet and I are grateful.