Now I am 55 I have had the dubious honour of having a camera stuck up my bum. Thought I would tell you a little more…..
The NHS have this bowel cancer screening programme and back in the summer I had a letter inviting me to take part. As it seems bowel cancer is quite common and can be easily detected, I thought I would take part.
How it started
It all started with getting an unexpected letter in the post offering me the opportunity of the procedure, which in the medical work is called a colonoscopy. Having booked an appointment at my local hospital, I received an enema which is a tube of fluid and a smaller tube. Yes you got it, the smaller tube is for sticking into your bum.
Having read through everything that was involved, I decided to take the day off work. The idea is that you have to clear your colon of all poo so the examination can be done. This needed to be done an hour or so before the appointment. Following the instructions I lay on my left hand side and inserted the enema’s tube into my bum, then gently squeezed the fluid. This felt pretty weird but I suspected this was nothing compared to what was to follow.
Plonking myself on the toilet!
Apparently you have to wait as long as you can before the enema compels you to sit on the toilet. I waited and waited, occasionally feeling some gurgling going on. Then there was no mistaking, I had to quickly plonk myself onto the toilet for what felt like the most immense does of diarrhoea. Sure enough, the poo simply poured out of me. I cleaned myself up, got dressed and cycled to the hospital.
As I cycled along, I did wonder whether I had chosen the right form of transport, in view of the impending procedure. I’m actually pleased I did decide to cycle as there was complete chaos as people queued to get into the car park. I simply cycled past all of this, right up to the hospital’s front entrance and went in. Sure, it took a couple of minutes to find the right place which had a strange intercom system to prevent anyone wondering in.
I got checked in which was followed by completing a lengthy questionnaire which included my suitability to receive “gas and air”. This was becoming weirder by the second. Then I had a wrist band put on me (!) and the process kind of started. I left the waiting room with the oversized chair and got taken into a small room to have some initial checks carried out. My blood pressure was found to be a little high and the nurse said this is hardly a surprise which did little to reassure me.
I was considered healthy enough for having the examination and was duly handed over to another nurse who asked further questions.
“do you have any metal inside you?”
“I’m sorry, I am not sure if I understand…..?”
“do you have any metal plates screwing bones together, that kind of thing?”
“No, I don’t”.
“Had any operations or had any complications with anaesthetic?” and the questions continued.
Next I was asked to undress completely and put on a pair of disposable shorts. The nurse pointed out there was a little hole at the front, normally so men could have a pee but explained I should put them on backwards, for obvious reasons. Then a hospital gown with the gap at the back, followed by another with the gap at the front. I even had to take my watch off but was allowed to keep my cycling shoes on!
As my blood pressure was being taken again, the machine stopped because of a flat battery. The nurse plugged the mains lead into the power socket but it still wouldn’t work. She then wheeled it away and came back with another which didn’t work either. She was embarrassed. Next she tried a little portable machine which worked but my blood pressure had gone up further which concerned her. I suggested she tried the other arm, which provided a much lower reading!
“Now do you have any questions?”
“Yes I do. Can I watch what’s going on?” I explained I always like to know what’s happening and to watch, preferably with a running commentary.
The nurse was surprised at this but thought it could be accommodated. She checked by wrist band again and then took me into what looked like an operating theatre. There seemed to be quite a few staff in there with an important man dressed in theatre clothing and he settled me down on a table in the middle of the room. I was lying on my left and there was a huge Samsung TV screen in front of me. Brilliant!
He looked at my wrist band and read out my name, date of birth etc to an assistant who confirmed they had the right person. Again he asked if I had any metal inside me. Something was said about pain relief and to ask if I needed anything at any stage. I said I would take the risk and go without to start off with.
Then I saw the camera. It was on the end of a long probe, about 1cm thick with a super bright LED light. I was told it would feel cold as there was some gel on the end to help it slide into me more easily. I can tell you it was a weird sensation! I kept feeling as if I wanted to fart and could feel I was being pushed and prodded a bit. He stopped and asked if I was okay?
“Sure but I want you to tell me what’s going on, how far inside me are you?”
“No problem, we’re in about 6 inches and we’ll be going quite a bit more. Don’t worry about passing wind, that’s normal as we are pumping air inside you to inflate your colon”.
Looking at the screen I could see this bright pink tunnel ahead. It was straight, very moist and had a ribbed side.
“Very nice!” he said, as he shoved a bit more. “Your bowel preparation is excellent and everything is so nice and clean (actually he was getting quite excited!). I can see nothing wrong, often we take a biopsy or two but there’s no problems here. He continued to go further and further, right up to a closure, pushed though (which I could definitely feel!).
“I’m in as far as we can go and everything looks fine, I’ll look again as we come out of you”. He withdrew the camera and dictated a few things to the assistant who was actually one of three or four. He said everything was fine, he would write to my Doctor and said there is a further follow-up test in five years time; this apparently is a different kind of test.
I got escorted back to the changing room and left to get back into my clothes. A few minutes later a nurse came back to make sure I was okay and once again to thank me.
Well, that was an interesting experience!
Three cheers for the NHS in offering this kind of preventative screening. Apparently bowel cancer can be successfully treated if it is caught early. Actually it wasn’t painful at all, I certainly didn’t need any gas and air, though of course, having a camera stuck up your bum isn’t exactly fun.
Cycling home was fine, just in case you were wondering!
Link to NHS bowel cancer screening leaflet