The Unspeakable

I have the luxury of being semi-retired from my teaching career and so I have the luxury of designing my schedule so that I can take care of myself and also take care of others.  It is a good feeling.

This past week has been given to my before-sixty colon screening.  I wondered about writing a blog post about the process because I think that generally it’s viewed as a private subject…or that is the stigma of the past, at least.  Let it be known, I’m going to encourage the more healthy approach…this is a preventative step that all of us can take to better health and personal safety, so it needs to be demystified (to a point).  While I am tempted to post the three photographs that were snapped of the inside of my colon, I promised my father that I wouldn’t.

First, let it be known that the Forzani and Macphail Colon Cancer Screening Centre is an amazing facility and team under the umbrella of Alberta Health Services.  After receiving the necessary paperwork from your family doctor, off you go for a two hour information session about the process and the benefits of having a colonoscopy.  I had already completed a FIT test and with 75% accuracy, it is less invasive than the colonoscopy, but a bit messy, if you get my meaning.  (sidenote: for your collection, the saran wrap-over-the-toilet-approach can be unsuccessful…just saying).  I had passed that test with flying colours, but still wanted the 98% assurance of the colon screening.

The most inspiring event along the way was sitting in the lecture theater next to a similar aged woman.  She had sat next to her mother in hospital when she was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. She watched her own mother endure a huge fight for the last two years of her life.  This gracious daughter was so matter-of-fact about her approach to screening and yet held in her heart such an enduring story, that I could not help but feel motivated.

Everything I had heard from others was true regarding the prep being more unpleasant than the test itself.  I chugged my four liters of CoLyte (an intense laxative) as specified.  What is funny about this is that I spoke to the husband of one of my teacher-friends over the phone about all of this to minimize the anticipation factor.  He was so bang-on about his description of the experience that absolutely nothing was surprising. I really appreciated that.  Basically, you learn your own way of managing the taste, the amount and the experience.  After the fourth eight ounce glass I DID have a bit of anxiety, but I called up Health Link and they calmed my jets.

What worked for me….thinking about this being a medically amazing adventure…focusing on the benefits to my health…watching the birds nesting in the neighbour’s vent across from my kitchen window (visualizing a focal point)…breathing.  After each eight ounce glass, I swished my mouth with mouth wash followed by a swish of nice cold water.  The solution can leave a slightly metallic flavour in your mouth otherwise and create a bit of a fuzzy feeling on the tongue.  I kept myself well-hydrated on power drinks and the process was managed swimmingly. (You guys were all eating pancakes, bacon and sausage for Shrove Tuesday…my Lenten fast not only started early, but was taken to the next level!)

Very specific directions are given and excellent scheduling times, so that nothing in the process is surprising.  My daughter was generous and made herself available for the entire afternoon of the procedure.  I think it is such an important thing to be supported when experiencing a new event such as this, so hurrah for the care givers out there!

The day of the procedure, (Ash Wednesday) I was welcomed by a warm and friendly care nurse, Janet.  If it’s possible to make an unpleasant experience, lovely, this lady made my day.  She placed, on my tray, a juice box and some shortbread cookies as motivators to get all of this over with.  After a two day fast, these were exciting to see.  I informed her that “Yes, I WANT TO BE SEDATED…if not knocked out!”  Apparently some patients do this without sedation.  Wowsah!   When you are sedated, you DO have some recollection of pain, but it is muddled and after two twinges of this, I seemed to go off to sleep.  Air is injected (for lack of the proper word) into the colon so that the wall of the colon can properly be explored for the sign of any polyps (most times benign, but sometimes ugly).

I came out of la la land in a sort of euphoria.  Janet’s voice spoke to me about my cookies.  She had told me before hand that she would be letting me sleep for fifteen minutes and then would wake me for snack…so there were no surprises.  Time flew by. After the snack, a complete report (along with photos) is given and it turned out that 1. I had done an excellent prep and 2. my colon is in super condition.  I was told that my next screening could be done ten years from now.  I’m so grateful for this result.  I felt absolutely normal apart from some gas pains in my tummy.  At home, I was stooped over for a while as these pains increased in intensity, but once things started moving (inject laugh here), it was a breeze. (if you get my meaning).

I guess if I could give my readers any advice, it would be, if possible, book off of work on the day preceding the test (a fast day) and the day following…just be good to yourself and turn on your favourite Netflix binge.

The day after my test, yesterday, I began my spring litter clean up at Frank’s Flats.  The recent warm weather 8 degrees allowed for some serious picking to begin.  My daily litter pick always begins as a positive aspect of my Lenten journey.  I just wish that citizens would take better care of our landscape.  Some aspects of life seem to be unspeakable.  We are faced, daily, with challenges.  I hope that my post will remove some of the fear of the Colon Screening process.  I am grateful for the excellent program that is available to us in Calgary.

Second to that, I wish to challenge each of you to find a wee piece of land; a sidewalk that you travel each day, one edge of a park where you take your children to play…a place that you can regularly pick throughout the spring and summer.  If you are disgusted by something, then be proactive and take care of it.  Don’t grumble…just be the change you want to see.

February 19, 2015 Frank's Flats

February 19, 2015 Frank’s Flats


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