Bowel Cancer Awareness Month – Day 8 – The Truth of the Colonoscopy

Cancer & Me, Colosto-ME

A colonoscopy is a simple procedure where a tiny camera is inserted in to the colon so the doctor can see exactly what is going on in the large intestine.

Before the Procedure…

You have to drink what can only be described as a minging drink, which will act as a laxative to empty the bowel.  This allows the doctor to get a good look at the intestine lining.  I’m not going to lie, it’s not the most pleasant experience (especially when you have a colostomy), but it’s a lot more pleasant than  having cancer or whatever illness you are being checked for, trust me!

Top Tip – Stay at home when you take the drinks so you can be near your own toilet, things do get moving quite quickly and frequently.

At the Colonoscopy…

You may be offered gas and air or a sedative, I have done both and I would definitely recommend the sedative.  It makes the procedure much more comfortable.  The sedative is given through an injection in the back of the hand.

Top Tip – Do not worry about the procedure.  I remember being so freaked out by the thought of having the procedure but in truth, the thought of having a colonoscopy is immeasurably worse than the reality.

The camera is entered through the rectum, so you will lay on your side so the doctor can insert the camera.  Or if you have an ostomy, the camera will be entered through the stoma.  Pictures from the camera are shown on a TV screen so you may be able to look – should you be so inclined?!

They Looking For…

Any irregularities in the bowel lining.

Polyps, which are small growths that the doctor can remove using a small polyp remover that is on the end of the camera.

Top Tip – You won’t feel anything if they do remove polyps, so don’t be concerned about that.

After the Colonoscopy…

You will be given a little time to rest and relax and allow the sedative to wear off.

The doctor or nurse should speak with you and let you know how the procedure went, as well as if they removed any polyps or tissue for biopsy.  Results from a biopsy can take a few days and they should be able to let you know exactly how long and how you will get your results when they speak with you.

Top Tip – In my case, they discovered a large cancerous tumour and I was taken aside so the consultant could speak with me privately and give me my diagnosis.  I had my husband with me and appreciated having the support when getting the news.  If possible I would try to have someone you trust with you.

You will not be able to drive if you have had a sedative so arrange for someone to take you home.

Occasionally having the procedure can cause some problems to the large intestine…  

I have had 3 or 4 colonoscopy’s now and have never had a problem but do speak with your doctor if you experience any of the following…

  • Abdominal pain – particularly if it becomes gradually worse or is different from any ‘usual’ pains that you may experience.
  • A high temperature.
  • Passing a lot of blood from the rectum.

Colonoscopy’s really are the most effective way to see if you have any kind of growths in the bowel.  CT and MRI scans only show part of what is going on inside the intestine.

If you are genuinely concerned about a bowel condition, make sure that your GP refers you for a colonoscopy, nothing else will really give the insight needed.

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Nicola B and the TWO Big C’s

Cancer & Me, Colosto-ME, Journey Back to Health

photo copyObviously the first one is Cancer.  But I have another big C, in a lot of ways it is a bigger C, certainly to me, so big that I often don’t really speak about it.  The other big C is my Colostomy.

For those who don’t know, a Colostomy is when you have part of your large intestine removed and what’s left diverted through the abdomen wall.  There are occasions when the procedure can be reversed but not in my case.  Truth be told, I struggled with finding out I needed a colostomy more than finding out I had cancer – cancer I could deal with, this I couldn’t.  I thought it was the absolute worst thing that could happen to me and I went into a very strange denial, praying it wouldn’t happen right until I woke up from my surgery.

I actually said if I didn’t have kids I would prefer to die than have a Colostomy.

I have never hidden the fact I have a colostomy but I’m not overly vocal about it either.  Why?  Embarrassment essentially.  It still has a terrible stigma and I was beset with fears about the things I wouldn’t be able to do and what people would think when they found out. My worst fear bring that people would think that it/I was minging. A fear that derived completely from my own thoughts and perceptions about it what living with a colostomy meant.

There are over 175,000 Ostomates in the UK

Why talk now? Once again I had a fantastic opportunity this week.  I was contacted by a wonderful woman, Thalia Skye, who works with Coloplast (the company that creates & manufactures my ostomy wear) about working with them to remove some of the stigma by talking about it and and letting people see that I live a completely normal life, that is undefined by the fact I am an ostomate.  Done through blogging, tweeting, vlogging – basically everything I love doing, and talking more openly about things people don’t talk about.  Anyone who has read any posts on my blog will know this is completely up my street.  I couldn’t have replied quicker saying yes, yes, yes!

photoSo last Friday at the crack of dawn I headed up to Coloplast UK HQ in Peterborough.  They were just the nicest people working in a way that can directly benefit thousands of ostomates lives.  Although they are a manufacturer they are researching and finding ways to make life for ostomates easier, more comfortable and less of an issue so they can just get on with living.  They truly have a passion for what they do and I loved the thought if working with a company who is continuing to develop easier ways for people like me to live.

I meet wonderful ostomates and it was so nice to meet such inspirational people going through the same yet also unique experience.  The tales that bought people to having an ostomy were as heartbreaking as they were poignant.

The bigger picture of why one has an ostomy can get forgotten.  In my case, it means that I no longer have cancer.  In other people’s cases, they no longer have a life-threatening and debilitating illness.  One person told me how her surgeon told her ‘either you have a bag or end up in a bag’.  Although this wasn’t delicately put, it serves well to remind us that it is what someone is facing going into ostomy surgery.  Without this operation, they will die.  Yet to some (myself included) having it is still unbearable. As I said before, I thought if I didn’t have kids I wouldn’t go through with the operation (I will always laugh thinking of my sister saying, what about me, aren’t I worth living for!)

The thought of having an ostomy is immeasurably worse than the reality  

I never thought I would get used to it, yet only a few months after surgery I was telling someone who needed a colostomy that it was nothing to be afraid of and I was managing OK.  I was shocked as the words came out of my mouth, I couldn’t believe I was saying it and that was when I realised – it was true!  I could, and was, doing this.  Do I wish I didn’t have it?  Of course.  But on the whole is it perfectly manageable and there is nothing that I did before that I can’t dophoto copy 3 now.  And that is what this campaign is all about.  Letting everyone know that life stays the same, your alive (yay)!!, more comfortable than before and to remove the stigma.  The dream is one day soon an ostomy is considered as normal and inconsequential as glasses or a hearing aid.  I recon we can do it!

As soon as I have more information about the website I will of course let you know but until then keep talking, listening and caring for everyone going though anything.

A little more compassion can never go amiss.