Thursday, December 17, 2015

Colonoscopy musings

Colonoscopy today. Very uncomfortable prep last night. I farted around on facebook, waiting for a whole lot of nothing (not even gas) to happen at the other end. As it got later, I began to get frustrated with the waiting. So, I decided to watch how my thoughts were causing the frustration. I practiced breathing, relaxing, and shifting perspective: allowing the thoughts to take up less space and the space around the thoughts to expand. To pay attention to the space, and disengage from the thoughts. It made the all night long task of prepping less frustrating, and more just being with the experience. Just a task. Now this. Now this. Now this. It was still wearisome, tending to the situation and not getting the sleep I desired. And it was doable.

I requested no sedation, so I could watch the show during the procedure. Apparently, it is rare for Americans to have colonoscopies without sedation, but it's standard practice in other countries. (We have the right to feel NO PAIN, it says so right there in the constitution under life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.) There was some discomfort/pain from the scope going around corners, the gas expanding the space at one point, and the contraction/cramping of the colon as the scope was being removed. And, I could breathe through it. And what's left now is not a memory of pain or discomfort, but wonder at the beauty of the blood vessels, the smoothness of the walls, the cuteness of the cecum (which looks like a bellybutton), how tiny and perfect the snowy villi were at the end of the small intestine, and what a cramp looks like from inside the colon. There is the joy of seeing what my healthy colon looks like, and gratitude for the miracle that it all works!

My dad died of colon cancer, and while it is one of the cancers that can have a genetic component, the fact that he lived to be almost 81, would suggest that his cancer was not genetic. Our risk for colon cancer can be greatly reduced by eating healthy foods (LOTS of vegetables, fruits, and fiber, and less red meat than the standard American diet), regular exercise, not smoking, and not drinking in excess. Also, colonoscopies can help determine if you have other risk factors, such as polyps, or colon disorders that can be monitored to prevent or catch something in the early, treatable, stages. So, if it is time for your colonoscopy, don't hesitate, you can actually find joy, learning, wonder, even humor. (I neglected to tell you about the colonoscopy humor that you only get when you are awake – you just have to be there.)