Colonoscopy 101

I’m in my early 30s, but with a history of colon cancer on both sides of my family and a series of digestive issues my doc recommended a colonoscopy. I took to the internet and got scared by horror stories. Mine wasn’t something I’m hurrying to repeat, but it wasn’t the nightmare I imagined. Here’s my play-by-play:

1 Week Prior: no popcorn

3 Days Prior: cut back on other seeded items (hearty bread, tomatoes, raspberries, etc.) – I ate a kiwi 48 hours before my procedure and I saw a kiwi seed in the toilet right before my procedure, so best to stop all that sooner rather than later.

The Day Before: Only clear liquids. I debated miso soup (I’m a vegetarian so chicken broth or jello weren’t appealing), but didn’t want to have to redo it all so decided to not push it. The entire day I consumed: coffee, tea, ginger ale, root beer, apple juice, lots of bubbly water, lime popsicles and lifesavers. The rule is nothing red/purple and nothing that isn’t a “clear” liquid, meaning it’s got to be very thin.

My appointment was Friday morning, and I took all day Thursday and Friday off. I didn’t start my purging meds until around 4pm, so I technically could’ve gone to work. I’m not sure if I would do a half day in the future. I was really bored at home – normally if I am spending that many hours at home I’m baking or cooking or at least snacking. I think I became extra hungry because I couldn’t indulge in my normal habits. Going to work might’ve distracted me, but I also was having trouble focusing since I was pretty hungry, so maybe staying home was the right choice. I did just cue up the Netflix and read some simple books as I couldn’t really do anything more complicated.

The Prep: my kind was a giant jug of powder I mixed 4 liters of water in to and shook up. I put it in the fridge a few hours before I started drinking it. I set a timer to go off every 15 minutes to keep me accountable to the task of finishing 8 oz that often. I experimented with straws, glassware, mixers and chasers, and nothing really helped. I’m a girl who can drink a lot quickly, but the combination of texture and mental blocks prevented me from downing it as fast as I wanted.

The Evacuation: about half way through the intake process my bowels started with the outtake. I’d read about people spending all day on the toilet, and my experience was frequent but brief. Almost every three minutes I’d get a strong sense of urgency, run to the bathroom and feel like a squirt gun spray out my ass. It would shoot out and I’d feel empty. I’d pat dry, return to my drink only to run back in another few minutes. I’d read about chafing so I went easy on the wiping, and did follow the suggestion of adult baby wipes for soothing/cleaning. I didn’t wet wipe every time, but it was nice to treat my anus while I was ravaging it. (Also, if you use those baby wipes, I don’t care if it says “flushable” – it ain’t. Please don’t flush wet wipes or tampons or anything but bodily waste and tp! #environmentalrant). I’d also read about people shitting out everything they’d ever consumed – mine was almost exclusively a highlighter colored clearish liquid – but I have bowel issues so that’s why I was doing this at 31.

The aftermath: that shit (not actually shit) shot out of me extremely quickly. So much so that there was some blow back. Remember to wipe under the seat and maybe take a nice shower.

Sleeping: I was really nervous I was going to shit the bed. I was so uncomfortable I woke up about every 45 minutes (thanks fitbit!) to run to the toilet. I then had my phone alarm wake me at 4:45am to take the final round. I was pretty empty at this point and had less violent evacuations. I read an engaging book while slurping the end of my slurry. I actually ended up going back to sleep for about an hour before getting up and readying for the procedure.

Day of: what to wear is the biggest question for any new venture in my life. I went with comfy loose layers. I actually packed an extra pair of undies and sweat pants as I was terrified I’d shit myself in the car on the way to the hospital, but I miraculously came away without a stain in my drawers. Also important for this day is the fact that you can’t consume anything at all. I felt so icky I didn’t want to eat anymore, but the no water was pretty awful.

At the hospital: I did a potty dance in the waiting room, but they wanted me to use a specific toilet and led me down endless halls. They said not to flush and not to throw my tp in the toilet. When I came out they inspected the glowing clear liquid and pronounced me ready for action. I got gowned up and given a needle in my arm for the happy meds. The doc came in and asked if I had questions, and then I waited for the room to be ready. I again had to pee out my asshole and so snuck to the toilet and had to wipe left handed due to the IV in my right. Awkward.

Procedure: I got the double feature of colonoscopy and endoscopy. They didn’t put me under but gave me enough loopy meds that I basically blacked out. There was music playing. And a video screen with a throbbing grey orb that must’ve been my colon. I have a vague memory of giving a French pronunciation lecture. Then of a nurse shaking me in a different room and telling me to get dressed. I did not want to get dressed. I laid there. The nurse returned and said for real to get up, and did I want to telephone my ride or should she? In Minnesota it’s a law that you can’t leave a colonoscopy alone. The bf was going to pick me up and I wanted to call him, so I said clearly “muuuhgluuuhfle caaaalll.” The nurse said “ok, you want me to call?” which is not what I meant, but I thought laying still would actually be cooler than using technology or even my mouth again, so I said “mmnyeah.” As she left to call she encouraged me again to dress myself. I thought I could maybe do it so I got up and took off my gown. Hung out naked for a bit and then tried to get dressed without falling over. It was stressful. Once I had clothes on they felt super hot so I sat on chair with my head between my legs for a while. That felt ok, but when I straightened up I decided it’d probably be good to throw up. I stumbled to the garbage and heaved for what felt like 15 minutes. With no solid food and very little liquids, I still managed to heave up a fair amount of bile. The nurse came back and sat me down and told me not to drink or eat for a while. I felt extra super gross. Like I hadn’t eaten in 36 hours or drank in 12 and had just had a camera down my throat and up my butt and gotten drugged. Which is what had happened. The doc came back and asked if I remembered everything we talked about after the procedure. I had absolutely no memory of talking to him at all. He gave me a print out of everything and told me to rest up.

Afterwards: got to my ride and while we had originally planned to go feed me, I just wanted to lay in bed. We went home and napped for about an hour with frequent Gatorade sipping to reinvigorate me. I finally rallied to be taken to the nearby Nepalese buffet where the smells and options encouraged me to fill my colon back up.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a fun use of your PTO. Overall it was unpleasant, but I am glad to have done it. If/when a doctor recommends I get a colonoscopy in the future, I certainly will do it again, and go in knowing I didn’t shit myself the first time.

Best of luck with your procedure (I can’t imagine you read this much unless you’re about to undergo one) and let me know if you have any questions!

pots

I just replanted most of my potted plants. When I turned over some they were entirely root bound, the pot was basically filled with just one tangled root. Others barely extended an inch under the surface, hardly needing any space at all. I don’t know enough about plants to tell the difference until I get my hands dirty.

I’ve twice bought a giant bag of potting soil and left it out in the sauna/shed behind my duplex, only to have it disappear. I gave up and just used fresh compost from my kitchen scrap pile this time to supplement the dirt already in the pots. One of the biggest plants now has multiple little volunteers sprouting beside it.

I feel like there’s a lot of metaphors resting just below the surface here. Somewhere mingled with my decomposing avocado scraps.

protecting yourself

I am taking a six week meditation intro course. It’s hard and frustrating and maybe not for me. But sometimes I really like what the teacher has to say.

He told a parable I had to share. You’re an early human. You’re walking around and you keep stubbing your toes and scrapping your feet. What do you do? Cover the entire world in a mat? Weave a giant rug to protect your feet everywhere? In order to put it down you’d still cut yourself. What you should do is wrap up your own feet so they are protected. Once you’re safe you can look at clearing rocks or setting up mats for the world, but you have to care for yourself first in order to do the work.

Get some nice shoes. Or nice protection for whatever part of you is exposed.

getting away from it all

I am on this two month trip for lots of reasons. A restart, a recharge, a reboot, a reevaluate.

And a realization that I’m still me half way around the world.

I have an endless list of things I’ll do once I get myself together. Blog more, floss more, do my sit-ups, quit checking internet sites addictively, etc. I thought being in a town where I knew no one, and had no firm obligations, I’d have all the time and could knuckle down and get shit done.

This is not the case. At all. I’ve actually gotten less reading done than I do at home. I still buy ice cream treats when it’s hot and I don’t need them. I’m still me.

So how do I actually restart my approach to everything?

 

meditation and loneliness

In yoga class yesterday laying in svasana, the teacher talked about letting go of things in your head. She talked about how hard meditating is, which you hear a lot if you go to yoga classes as often as I do. But then she pointed out that this is because people are just plain uncomfortable being alone with themselves.

I was reminded of that study saying people get so bored/anxious when left entirely on their own, they choose to give themselves electrical shocks rather than listen to their brains.

I’m in a new city. I don’t know many people in Brisbane. The night before that yoga class I’d sat in a park alone for an hour. It was really hard; the first time I felt truly lonely on this trip (2.5 weeks in of 10 weeks).

I’d just read yet another article on internet addiction and letting go of the constant need to check. I have a data SIM on my iPhone and while I’d like to say I’m succeeding at limiting screen time, I’m mainly worried the battery will drain and I won’t be able to find my way home so I keep it on airplane mode most of the day.

I spend more time with me than with anybody else. Why then is it so painful to have nothing but me around? Can’t I hang out with just me?

I am going to try to make more friends and to email my grandma more. But I’m also going to practice being alone. It’s ok for it to be uncomfortable. That’s where the growth happens, right?

how to speak Australian

I’ve been collecting words and phrases, I’m sure I’ll add more to this as I go.

Dodgy – suspicious, similar to sketchy or shady in the US
Grotty – dirty, needing a shower, similar to yucky
Willy Willy – a small tornado
Comfort Stop – using the loo, as in “I need a comfort stop” instead of “I have to pee”
“I wouldn’t be dead for quids” – I enjoy being alive in this moment
Beanie – a knitted hat, as worn in winter, while skiing etc.
Widow Maker – a gum tree, as their branches drop unexpectedly, and to disastrous effect
Rooting – colloquialism similar to “banging” or “shagging”
Bum bag – a fanny is something else here, so a fanny pack would be pretty impolite

And my favorite new thing: drop bears. An entire species I didn’t know about before. Luckily I’ve been warned and will keep an eye out.

There’s a also different words for things like raisins, bell peppers, and most brand names (like Sharpies, Saran Wrap etc.) but that’s not quite as interesting.

Australian Packing List

 

I’ve been slowly accumulating travel toys and ideas for a while so I didn’t buy much for this trip. Here’s everything I’m taking for two months of Australian spring backpacking:
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Osprey youth backpack (REI tried to talk me in to a woman’s size, but I know my short self and my light packing ways)
Fjallraven Kanken day pack – rolls up super small and carried in the Osprey for flights
LeSportSac shoulder bag – not really made for traveling, but I like bright colors and zippered pockets are nice

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Camping stuff! Tiny sleeping bag, silk sleep sack, inflatable pillow, metal bowl and mug, bamboo silverware set, plastic plate, sponge, dishcloth, travel towelimage (2)
Bike helmet, REI hat, thin winter hat, scarf, jacket, raincoat and umbrella
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Hoodie, jacket (again, oops!), two cardigans, two tanks, two tees (one long, one short), two leggings, two jeans (one long, one short), one pair bike shorts and five dressesimage (4)
8 travel undies, 2 regular bras, 2 soft/sports bras, 1 bikini, 2 handkerchiefs, 4 pairs socks, gym shorts and tee for sleeping
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All the clothes bundled up, plus two more stuff sacks for organizing, flipflops, waterproof trekking shoes, sandals
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Toiletry bag: deodorant, emergent-c, meds (malaria, traveler’s tummy, sudaphed, ibuprofen, Dramamine), band-aids, keeper cup, sunglasses, ear plugs, eye mask, toothbrush, paste, floss, headlamp, safety whistle, lock, bug lotion, lotion, hair foam, bar shampoo, razor, brush, clippers, mirror, tweezers, barrettes and elastics, sealants, alarm clock, wet wipes, tide pen, safety pins, sewing kit, chapstick, mascara, nail polish
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In my big purse: multi outlet adapter, candied ginger, protein bar, kindle, tablet computer, iPhone case (and phone, used to take picture), tin of hair supplies, real books, notebook, pens, gum, wallet with coin holder and US$, passport, water bottle.

Learning to ride a bike

I didn’t grow up in the nicest area. It’s a really nice neighborhood now, but my parents were the first wave of rehabilitating it.

This means there weren’t any other kids around. And there were people who’d take things. The year I was born our next door neighbors’ house was broken in to on Christmas Eve and their presents were taken. They moved to the burns. We stayed. Having no where I could get to on bike, I didn’t have much interest in learning. Eventually my bike (training wheels still attached) was stolen. My hippy parents never pushed anything on me, and I was more interested in a billion other things so they didn’t bother buying me another bike to ignore.

Flash forward to my early 20s. I realized that lots of cool people rode bikes and there were lots of reasons I should at least know how to do so. I enter a contest on Bicycling Magazine’s website – wrote an essay explaining I’m 24 and can’t bike.

After a month I got impatient and bought a beater bike off Craigslist. I returned home that day to find out I’d won a new bike. Two bikes in one day!

The bike I won is a Raleigh Coasting cruiser. Trying to find info about it to reference, I see that Oprah gave it out during one show, and then this long article about why the program failed.  I am exactly what Bicycling Magazine and Raleigh wanted to happen. Apparently not enough of me to keep the bike in production, but the pretty design and ease of use (no hands! Coaster breaks! Automatic Shimano shifters!) eventually hooked me.

It did take me about a year to actually be able to ride it. Some fights with the then boyfriend, a very bruised crotch and self esteem, and a lot of giving up and restarting. I live next to the best urban bike path in the country. The next summer I’d walk my bike down to the trail and practice early weekday afternoons when it was quietest and slowly mastered balance and propulsion.

I started only biking in protected bike lanes, slowly adding bike lanes on streets, quiet side streets, and eventually busy streets to my repertoire.