It’s been a while since I’ve been able to write. I’ve had some discouraging times in that with EVERY colonoscopy comes tubular adenomas. Those are the “bad” polyps, that if left in the colon, will become malignancies. I seem to be a super hero at making them. Yay me.
So, I became quite depressive in my mood knowing that this will most likely kill me at some point. That, coupled with the ongoing post therapy issues, often times proved to be too much for me emotionally. It’s been nearly 5 years. I know that 5 years out of 57 is nothing (not even 10% of my life) …. but in the past 5 years it’s pretty much all I’ve known.
What are the “post therapy issues” that I speak of?
- Urgency (bladder and bowel)
- Little to no control (sphincter has virtually no tone after being radiated)
- Loose stool
- Unpredictability of bowel movements
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Social anxiety because of all the above
After much consideration (and despair), I talked with my oncologist during my next scheduled appointment. I am blessed because he LISTENS to my concerns. He takes them seriously and does not dismiss them as soon as the words leave my tongue.
He suggested that I see a GI Surgical specialist. I was told that this physician is VERY good and that he could probably help me. Wonderful news!
When I had my appointment with Dr. Heiskell, I left his office in tears. Tears of joy. Of hope. This man explained to me what exactly has happened physiologically to my body! I understand it now!
A “normal” rectum has muscular tone. Mine has virtually no tone because of the radiation damage. A “normal” anal canal is about an inch to 1.25″ in diameter when distended. Mine, WELL … let’s just say … my miniature schnauzer poops bigger turds than I do. Truth! It’s called STENOSIS (narrowing of the canal because of scar tissue and decreased blood flow caused by radiation damage).
Now — back to the physiologic problem — in the body, your undigested (solid) waste is processed through the stomach, the small intestine (where it mixes with bile from your liver and enzymes from your pancreas), and then what is unable to be used/digested moves on to the large intestine. There, water from your stool is absorbed by the colon so it becomes a more solid stool. That stool then moves to your sigmoid colon (lower large intestine) where it is “stored” until you need to “go” and it passes through the rectum and out the anus. That’s in a non-radiated body.
Everything moves along great for me until things get to the sigmoid colon. And it stops there. And a “plug” forms. So I don’t have a bowel movement for days. TMI?
Oh, it gets much worse. Stop reading now if you don’t want to know.
I have to have 2-day colonoscopy preps because of the above. Why? Because of the plug formation, when prepping, everything runs clear (like the surgeon wants) but I’m not “clean” because all the clear liquid is going AROUND THE PLUG. Then, during the procedure, the colonoscopy has to be aborted because they cannot see past the sigmoid colon. The remedy is a 2-day prep. And it is horrible.
Because I have urgency on a regular day …. and no control on a regular day …. when prepping, I cannot leave the bathroom for the larger part of two consecutive days. I do manage to stand on occasion. But that is it. After drinking my laxative, I do not want to drink another ounce because I do not want to be in there one second longer than necessary. My legs will feel badly bruised. I get raw and bleed. Once I was admitted to the hospital with a critical potassium because I was so dehydrated. I get extremely cold so I take a heater and blankets with me. I take pillows to lay on the clothes hamper to have a collapsing nap when possible. My phone and lap top goes with me. I take anything to try to make the next 48 hours a little more manageable.
After visiting with Dr. H, I had hope because I now understood what was happening inside me. After he explained everything, he asked me to take Metamucil every day and a stool softener twice a day. I looked at the man like he had three heads! He must’ve seen that very look before because he said, “I know. You have incontinence problems and I want you to take a stool softener.” Then he added that after doing that for two weeks, he wanted me to drink a bottle of magnesium sulfate (a laxative) on my day off and to continue this weekly pattern until my next colonoscopy — which was scheduled with him in six weeks. I’ll admit, I wasn’t thrilled, but if it was going to FIX ME, I would do about anything.
Surprisingly, the recommended Metamucil and stool softener routine went well. Two weeks later, on a Sunday afternoon, I drank the laxative. I knew I’d probably be stuck in the bathroom for an hour or so and I got my “survival kit” together and closed the door.
9 H O U R S L A T E R , I W A S S T I L L T H E R E !
IT WAS LIKE A FULL BOWEL PREP AND I DECIDED THAT I’D HAD ENOUGH. I WAS NOT DOING THIS AGAIN. EVER. IF I DIE, I DIE.
Exhausted, weary and hugely discouraged, I finally was able to go to bed about an hour later. My husband and I always pray together at night and like every night, he asked if there was any special prayer needs that I knew of. Sobbing, I said, “just pray that I don’t wake up in the morning”. I had surrendered. I couldn’t do it again. I just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up.
But I did. I suppose God isn’t done with me yet.
“Don’t be afraid; Just believe” — Mark 5:36b