The Dark side of the Moon

I was referred for CT scans on my pelvis, abdomen and chest as well as an MRI for the pelvis. The pelvis scans were to see the extent of the tumour locally, while the abdomen/chest was to see whether shit was really fucked up and the cancer had spread (metastasised).

I’d had a CT scan previously, on my head, following a seizure, to see whether I had a tumour. Fortunately, Arnie was right on that occasion and “It’s not a tumour” was bang on the money. Sadly, Arnie was a lying sack of shit this time around.

I rocked up for my CT scan, armed with the advice from friends that the highlight of the day would be the feeling that I had pissed my pants, without ever actually doing so. Having consumed a milkshake sized beverage of contrast dye (read: water with a hint of liquid paper) and a full bladder, I was called in for my time to shine. Sure enough, the technician confirmed that, as per my advice, I would experience a sensation where I would think I had wet myself, but that I wouldn’t. I set out to prove them wrong.

Within moments of the additional contrast being injected through my cannula, I thought that I had pissed harder than Bronson in that episode of ‘Round the Twist’ where Bronson is taken over by the water spirit and haunted until finally he does their bidding for them and they repay him by enabling him to piss higher than all the other boys in the school.

Unable to move, and feeling trapped in my own urine, I obeyed the orders of the mechanised donut until such time as I was informed it was all over and I was free to check myself. Fortunately, I was drier than a retired prostitute in the Sahara and cautiously asked the technician for my results. “I’m not a doctor but it doesn’t look like there’s anything on the liver, which is where we’re concerned with”.

Relieved, Lyndell and I headed onward and westward to Cardiff, colloquially known as the Paris of of Newcastle, for my MRI scan.

The CT was supremely bearable. The MRI on the other hand was a whole new kettle of fish. For those who’ve never had one before, it’s a monstrously large cylinder in an equally large room surrounded by warnings left, right and centre about magnets and all sort of X-Men shit. I was led to this gantry like bed and then strapped in, reassured that I could signal at any time if it all became too much.

I was given headphones to deafen the sounds of the MRI. Sadly, I was forced to listen to KO-FM which consisted of shitty music interspersed with even shittier banal banter between the hosts. I tried using the visualisation tools learnt during our ‘Calmbirth’ classes prior to the birth of our Raptor, Annabelle.

I should digress to say that I love Hawaii. I mean, I fucking love that place. I went there a bunch as a kid, and I’ve been back four times as an adult. Hawaii is my happy place. I routinely tell people that it’s the only place in the world where I get off the plane and instantly feel at home.

So, it’s only natural then that I should think of Hawaii to get me through the terror of being in an oversized magnetic vagina. Sadly, not even the Aloha Isles could drown out the battle zone around me, which can only be described as a conscientious council work team (I know, right) using excavators during the filming of a battle scene from ‘Starship Troopers’. Even sadder still, I had to resort to delivering an opening address to an imaginary jury in a murder trial I was working on at the time.

Fortunately, the sound of my own inner monologue was such that the 40mins inside that tube of death passed rather quickly.

Thus, armed with my films from the CT, and a disc of my MRI, i left Cardiff, hopeful of never having to return.

The ‘C’ Word

This post is broken into two sections, both of which feature the letter ‘C’. It’s like Sesame Street but with M15+ themes.

The first ‘C’ follows from the previous post, and touches upon the joy that is the colonoscopy. I can honestly say that it is a joy because I don’t remember a single part of it. My memory is of immediately before, and the crushing aftermath.

The second ‘C’ relates to the pathology results. I don’t think I’m letting any cats out of the bag to say that the story, at least in terms of diagnoses, doesn’t end well for me. But hey, you guys already knew that…

So after being ‘cleansed’, twice, I was ready to be scoped. I had read that the scope was about as thick as the little finger on your hand. I hoped that the designer of the scope was of a slender build, preferably female and Asian, as opposed to my caucasian meat-hand hands.

As it turned out, I had AGES to wait for my procedure. There must have been a backlog (boom tish) of work because I was over an hour late going in. When my name was called, I was shown into a broom closet, told to remove my clothes and put them in a bag, put a gown on, and then come through a door when I was ‘ready’. I laughed as I was taking my clothes off and could hear the various medical people (scientific term) on the other side, thinking to myself that maybe I had stumbled onto the set of ‘Thank God You’re Here’.

Sadly, in lieu of Shane Bourne was an overly tall fellow who introduced himself as my anaesthetist. I was expecting an Indian fellow (as in Vindaloo as opposed to Running Bear) and questioned the sandman who appeared before me. He seemed remotely qualified, and injected something into me that suggested he had at least some idea what he was doing. My surgeon, Dr Koshy then appeared and asked me how I was feeling. By that stage, my inhibitions were rapidly fading and I was on the way out.

Apparently, according to the anaesthetist and nurse, my last words were asking my surgeon whether he was aware of the irony that existed given his name (Anil) could be mispronounced as ‘anal’ and he was a colorectal surgeon. I never did get to hear the response.

I woke in the recovery room, hoping to farting like a trooper, having watched numerous ‘post colonoscopy’ videos on YouTube. Sadly, there was no such merriment. My surgeon came and in my anaesthetised fog, informed me that he had found a ‘lesion’ in my rectum, before telling me he would see next week and disappearing.

I may or may not have yelled ‘FUCK’ loudly and repeatedly. That’s actually a lie. I did. Over and over again. A nurse, feeling sorry for me, and no doubt hoping to shut me up, left my file on my bed. The report from the procedure revealed a ‘large circumferential tumour… Follow up: CT/MRI scans for staging/size’. Even in my drug induced haze I knew shit was fucked up.

A week later, after pestering my surgeon to give me the good/bad news sooner rather than later to ease my already terminal anxiety, Lyndell and I walked into my surgeon’s office with Annabelle (our 20mo daughter in tow). The next 1/2 hour was a blur, being referred for various scans, and shown operative options and something that vaguely resembled reassurance.

The only thing I took from the afternoon was that it was official. I had cancer. On the upside, Lyndell was right. Something was dead/dying in my ass.

The Dams have Broken

I suppose the best place to start is with the bowel-prep. Partly because it was the colonoscopy that got to the bottom of my problems, but also because it is probably best to start the blog off with a laugh. I mean, rectal cancer is generally not a laughing matter.

By way of quick background, I had been experiencing some mild, intermittent bleeding when going to the toilet. I went to the GP, who became the first person to stick their finger in my ass. He couldn’t feel anything, told me to eat more fibre, drink more fluids and if it got worse, go and see the specialist.

I did all those things, and it got better. Not straight away, because I had a week in Hawaii with one of my best mates and let’s be frank, it was a 7day pub-crawl. When I got back, my wife and i made a conscious effort to try and eat more healthily, I drank more water, added fibre to my diet and voila, things improved. For a while. Then it came back, generally after a period where I had been enjoying life a little too much if you know what I mean.

Anyways, the bleeding became less intermittent and more regular, which saw me making an appointment with Dr Anil Koshy, colorectal surgeon. He booked me in for a colonoscopy on the spot, and I found myself leaving his office with a feeling of dread, a decent bill, and most importantly, a bowel-prep kit.

If you’ve ever had the misfortune to undergo a colonoscopy, you’ll know what’s coming, if not, and you’re squeamish, you may want to skip to the next post.

My bowel-prep kit was MoviPrep, orange flavour (that’s important). It comes in a box which in turn contains two plastic bags, each containing two sachets of what can only be described as a combo of draino and paint stripper for colons.

As my procedure was scheduled for the afternoon, I had the joy of losing my shit (literally), the night before, and morning of, the colonoscopy. I went to the shops and purchased 4L of apple juice, an industrial sized tub of gatorade powder, lemon cordial, beef and chicken stock cubes, soup and water. Lot’s of water.

That afternoon I mixed my first prep. As I opened the first sachet (the one containing the orange flavour) I thought “this may no be so bad, kind of smells like sherbet”. When I opened the second sachet, my nostrils were assaulted with a smell that gave some indication of the onslaught my digestive system was about to suffer. You then chill it, to make it more palatable. When they say that on the box, it’s a lie. A straight-out, fucking lie.

The concoction tasted like (what I would imagine) orange tic-tacs and gooch sweat. The ‘orange’ flavour was overpowered by the salty, gluey texture of the mixture. I drank what I thought was a decent amount, only to look at the bottle and see I had barely made a dent.

Mouthfuls of gooch sludge, interspersed with water, cordial ad gatorade continued for the next hour, and finally, I was done. It was then that the ‘fun’ really began.

One of my friends had told me that it would be the funniest moments of my life. Others gave me advice such as: make sure your iPhone/ipad is charged; have a good book ready; and put vaseline on your asshole. Sadly, I didn’t heed the last bit of advice, and regretted it more than a kebab at 4am.

Within minutes of finishing the concoction, I made my way to the bathroom. Imagine me pushing small children out of the way to get to a table of salami and you’ll have an idea of the speed with which I moved. The only thing faster was the flow rate from my anoos for the next couple of hours.

The packaging tells you to expect that everything inside you will be liquified and expelled, sometimes with the pressure of a firehose, and that same is completely ‘normal’. Let’s be clear…there is nothing normal about your asshole resembling Niagara Falls for a couple of hours. At first it came in waves, almost like a tidal ebb and flow. Later, it was like a tsunami, the only warning being that ‘bump’ on the horizon telling you to flee the low-lying areas. By the end, the only way I knew I was voiding was by listening for the tell tale sounds of water cascading into the now swamp-like toilet bowl below.

Eventually, the deluge subsided enough that I felt safe to leave the toilet. The fact that I was wearing two pairs of undies gave me considerable confidence in the circumstances.

I then had to prepare bowel-prep number 2, to be commenced at 6am the following morning, and again, to be finished with an hour or so. Strangely, although I was dreading the second prep, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the first time around. For better or worse, the onset of the evacuation was much faster than the night before, which meant by the time I was heading in for my scope, I was so confident that I’d lost everything there was to lose that I was down to a single pair of undies.