How I got into this mess in the first place: part two


When I say that the real fun began when I had my first consultation at the GI clinic, I’m being somewhat sarcastic: I had no idea what I was in for, physically or mentally. But I’m also being serious, because this is where the funny stuff actually starts happening – you know, stories you can’t exactly tell at the dinner table, unless you have a really weird/awesome family. But I digress.

The doctor at the GI clinic scheduled me for a flexible sigmoidoscopy – a procedure in which a lighted scope on the end of a flexible tube is stuck up where the sun don’t shine until it gets to that first bend in your colon, also called the sigmoid colon. I refer those of you less intimately acquainted with your innards to diagram A:

(credit: WebMD, whom I blame for all of the paranoia in the first place.)

The tube can only go as far as that first bend, but the procedure is much less involved, painful, and disruptive than the full-blown colonoscopy we all are supposed to get when we’re nearly twice my age. Compared to the colonoscopy, the sigmoidoscopy takes about 10-15 minutes, does not usually require anesthesia, and can have you back on your feet and going on about your day in nearly no time. (You’ll be a little bloated and passing some more gas, but beyond that, it’s really not that bad.) So it’s a logical first step when you have unexplained rectal bleeding not directly attributed to hemorrhoids or other ruptures in the rectal wall. Additionally, the preparation for this procedure is much, much, much less horrific (and that is exactly the word I have in mind here) than the preparation for the colonoscopy: mine involved waking up a few hours earlier than normal and giving myself a couple of enemas. I’ll spare you the details here because they pale in comparison to what was to come later; while they weren’t my cup of tea, they certainly weren’t awful. I did find myself wondering what pleasure anyone might derive from the process, as more Internet research (*ahem* I TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THIS) led me to learn that some people use them in a sexual manner. Hey, to each their own; not my cup of tea, as I said.

But – and there’s always a but, isn’t there? HA! – this practice that I had read about was the only thing I could think of when I stopped by a CVS on the way home from school one fine fall afternoon. I had this weird fear of being spotted and mentally accused of being into something I didn’t even know I wasn’t into yet, so I grabbed the box and ran up to the counter as quickly as I could, dodging anyone in a five-foot radius. When I got up to the counter, I had the extreme good fortune to be waited on by the brace-toothed, freckled, cracking-voice teenage boy, who (bless his heart) managed to keep enough of a straight face to ask me if I wanted a bag for my purchase. I said “yes, please” with as much composure as I could, and watched in what can only be described as bemused horror when he put it in the single most transparent piece of plastic that CVS has the audacity to call a bag. I actually had to bite my lip to keep from bursting into laughter. Thankfully, I had my school bag with me, so I put the CVS bag in there and left.

Never one to not tempt fate, I then decided to stop by a wine shop and see if they had some beer I’d been after. They did, and I bought it, noting with great pleasure the thick brown paper bag in which my beer was packaged. In went the enemas with it, and I was so beside myself with internal hysterics that I almost wanted someone to stop me, inspect the contents of my bag, and draw the appropriate conclusions about the type of evening I was just about to have. Alas, no one did, and I was left to return home and surreptitiously place the bag in my closet, secretly wishing I had a policy of inviting houseguests to peruse my closet beer selection just to see the look on their faces when they found the thing in there that was definitely Not Beer.

(Why is the beer in the closet, you ask? Simple: it’s consistently the coolest place in the house, so stuff doesn’t go bad there. Short of a wine cellar, it’s the best place I can think of to keep alcohol.)

At that point, I was left to wait. And wait, and wait, and wait, and wait. I had my initial consultation at the GI clinic in late September, and due to scheduling issues couldn’t get an appointment for the procedure until the second week in November. At that, it was a first-thing-Monday-morning appointment, which immediately led me to make all manner of “gee, this week is off to a crappy start” jokes. But it was a six-week wait, and when you simply don’t know what’s going on in your gut and can only irrationally conclude that it’s eventually going to kill you, those six weeks go by so incredibly slowly. The bleeding didn’t stop, either, which did not alleviate my fears. To double my fun, now that I had an Actual Procedure scheduled, that meant that I probably had to start telling a few people about what had been going on, not only to keep them in the loop but also to get further information about my family’s medical history. So I did; the family I got more or less in one fell swoop, and the boyfriend I got as we were going to sleep one night. (That sounds… wrong somehow. Anyway…) I’m pretty sure I imparted a good deal of my anxiety to them, as the news was not met with indifference, but really all I could tell anyone then was that it was a wait-and-see situation. So I waited, and waited, and finally the day came to see.

As I’ve alluded, the procedure itself was not bad at all, though I was a little afraid of moving funny somehow while teaching my class later that day and playing for my students an unintended symphony. But, as I’d suspected, it was inconclusive; nothing was found, which I’d dreaded, and as such the colonoscopy was scheduled, which I had also dreaded. I mean, I figured I had another good 20 years or so before I even had to think about getting one of those, right? Continuing the trend of problematic scheduling, I was penciled in for the procedure about a week before Christmas, in the last slot on a Friday afternoon. Crappy way to end a week, eh?

(to be continued…)


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