Yesterday’s colonoscopy went well. While I will have to wait for the pathology results from the biopsy, the doctor found heaps of diverticula (not for the squeamish) in my colon. The preliminary diagnosis is diverticulosis and my recent problems put down to diverticulitis flare ups.
From what I understand so far, the general treatment/prevention approach is maintaing my usual high fibre diet unless I have a ‘flare up’. If a flare up occurs then I’ll need to go onto a clear liquid diet until the symptoms subside before moving onto a low fibre diet and then slowly increasing the fibre. If things don’t improve then there are more extreme dietary and surgical options to consider.
I am blessed to have a good friend who has similar issues and he has been great in sharing how he is balancing his intake as well as praying for a positive outcome.
Most pleasingly of all, given the 48hrs of fasting and cleanser-glugging, the post-procedure report ends with a resounding ‘The quality of the bowel preparation was good‘. I feel that, at the very least, there should be a certificate or a badge to recognise my bowel-preparing skills, one that I can display next to the one I got in 1974 for cycling proficiency.
Going into all this, I wasn’t 100% sure on what the procedure or the bowel preparation stuff was going to be like. Despite some intensive Googling, I hadn’t found a decent first person account. This was fortuitously remedied by our lovely friend Anne who emailed me the following account, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning humour columnist Dave Barry for the Miami Herald, just as I was consuming the first two litres of Glycoprep.
After reading it, I can unequivocally state three things:
- A truer account of bowel preparation you will not find
- You’re unlikely to read a funnier account of bowel preparation (I wish I had written this)
- Unlike, you should not read about bowel preparation whilst actually doing bowel preparation; I did and it was almost my undoing in more ways than one.
I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy.
A few days later, in his office, Andy showed me a colour diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis.
Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient manner.
I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn’t really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, “He’s going to stick a tube 17,000 feet up my clacker!”
I left Andy’s office with some written instructions, and a prescription for a product called ‘Glycoprep’, which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave oven. I will discuss Glycoprep later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America’s enemies.
I spent the next several days productively sitting around being nervous.
Then, on the day before the colonoscopy, I began my preparation. In accordance with my instructions, I didn’t eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavour.
Then, in the evening, I took the Glycoprep. You mix two packets of powder together in a one litre plastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a litre is about 32 gallons.) Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because Glycoprep tastes – and here I am being kind – like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.
The instructions for Glycoprop, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humour, state that after you drink it, ‘a loose watery bowel movement may result’.
This is like saying that after you jump off the roof, you may experience contact with the ground.
Glycoprop is a nuclear laxative. I don’t want to be too graphic here, but, have you ever seen a space shuttle launch? This is pretty much the Glycoprep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when you wish the toilet had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another litre of Glycoprep, at which point, as far as you can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.
After an action packed evening, I finally got to sleep.
The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I was very nervous. Not only was I worried about the procedure, But I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of Glycoprep spurtage, I was thinking, ‘What if I spurt on Andy?’ How do you apologise to a friend for something like that? Flowers would not be enough.
At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the heck the forms said. Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.
Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle, called a cannula, in a vein in my left hand. Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down.. Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their Glycoprep.
At first I was ticked off that that I hadn’t thought of this, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no choice but to burn your house down.
When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anaesthetist. I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew that Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. I was seriously nervous at this point.
Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anaesthetist began hooking something up to the cannula in my hand.
There was music playing in the room, and I realised that the song was “Dancing Queen” by ABBA. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that could be playing during this particular procedure, “Dancing Queen” had to be the least appropriate.
‘You want me to turn it up?’ said Andy, from somewhere behind me.
‘Ha ha’, I said. And then it was time, the moment I had been dreading for more than a decade. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.
I have no idea. Really. I slept through it. One moment, ABBA was yelling ‘Dancing Queen, feel the beat of the tambourine’, and the next moment I was back in the recovery room, waking up in a very mellow mood.
Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I felt excellent. I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that IT was all over, and that my colon had passed with flying colours. I had never been prouder of an internal organ.