Let’s just get this out there: if you’re embarrassed or grossed out by so called “bathroom talk,” this may be a post you want to skip. But, as the book says, everybody poops. So maybe talking about it is sometimes ok. It can certainly be funny. So here I go.
Bathroom talk is pretty much my first language. I know what you’re thinking– didn’t you say that science was your first language in your last post?! Good point! And bonus points for observational skills! But here’s what you may not know: the thing I studied for so very, very long in grad school was STDs. Gonorrhea and chlamydia to be specific. Boom. Bathroom talk. But I digress…
I love to run, but my intestines seem to resent me for even trying and I end up in frequent, urgent need of the facilities. (Euphemisms… something else I’m good at.) Twice, I didn’t make it. (J, you know who you are, I’m so sorry for all the jokes! I can totally relate and you can feel free to take a shot or two at your convenience!) At least one of those times I made it to the woods. The other time it was blessedly dark. I have been frustrated and I have raged. I have seen doctors, read books, searched the internet (wowie zowie, right?! the internet is pretty sure I am dying), and finally managed to get an appointment with a gastroenterologist who ultimately recommended that I undergo a colonoscopy and endocscopy to try to locate the source of the problem. Cool.
(Well, not so cool when the doctor who actually did the colonoscopy turned out to be someone I work with on a regular basis professionally. Pretty sure I’ll never be able to look him in the eye again. Thank goodness for email.)
The procedure was pretty much a piece of cake. Yes, even the prep. You know things have gotten out of control in your life when drinking a gallon of laxative is more pleasant than your basic every day experience. (No cramping! No pain! You know it’s coming! What’s not to like?!) After the procedure I was truly hoping for the worst—obvious inflammation, a biopsy result indicative of something real, but also treatable. Anything to slap a label on. Someone to tell me that the craziness of my intestines was not just a figment of my imagination. But, alas, that was not the case. All of the biopsies from the small and large intestine came back negative, no indication of what could be wrong. From here, we will proceed with a lactose intolerance test. (Ummmm… yeah. I’m lactose intolerant. I don’t need a test to tell you that. Give me some ice cream and you’re going to want to leave the room within 30 minutes. Guaranteed. But I’ll do the test, whatevs.) So that was disappointing to say the least.
But wait… there’s more…
During the procedure, the doctor also removed a polyp that proved to be a precancerous tubular adenoma and you’ll be scheduled for routine screening colonoscopy every 5 years from here on out. Ok, bye.
Literally, that was the end of the conversation. Um, dang. Drop the mic, walk away… at least that’s what it felt like from my end.
I’m 29 years old and have no family history of colon cancer. In fact, I have very little family history of cancer at all. I’m like a dang mosquito when it comes to family members getting screened (“Have you had your annual mammogram yet? Now? How about now??? … No??? Would you get a mammogram if I sent you some data about mammograms???”) and I spend the vast majority of my working life studying breast, colon, and prostate cancer. So I did some math (got to put that PhD to work!) and realized that I’m not technically due for a colon cancer screening of any sort for another TWENTY-ONE years. Twenty. One. And it dawned on me… if my intestines hadn’t gone bananas, I would have gotten cancer. Colon cancer. Before the age of 50. And it would have been diagnosed by symptoms, which means it probably would have been advanced. Wow. Silver-freaking-lining. My oops-I-crapped-my-pants moment (have you seen that SNL skit—so funny, YouTube it. But look, a hyperlink, I did the work for you!) prompted me to go back to the doctor (for something like the 5th time), which prompted my referral to GI, which prompted my colonoscopy, which may have literally saved my life, or at the very least prevented a whole boatload of unpleasantness. Again: wow.
That tangled mess of intestines was like that tangled mess of threads… it was confusing, troublesome, a literal pain in the butt. But wow, did that turn out differently than I expected. It all seems to have been part of something so different than I could ever have imagined. I love that.
PS(A): Are you over 50 years old? Yes? Have you had a colonoscopy? If not, pretty please just do it. It’s so worth it.
PPS: I’d still love a diagnosis on the intestinal trouble, but considering the whole removal-of-precancerous-polyp thing, I’m going to give them a minute to figure it out…