Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Matter of Fundamental Importance (Look Away if You're Squeamish)

These days the medical establishment's approach to cancer is catch it young.This means that even the vaguest indicator sees you hauled off iimmediately for extensive tests, whereas in the past most of us were left to reside in blissful and often fatal ignorance. Many of these tests are hard to approach with equanimity. Top of the the trepidation list, even outranking the prostate test, is the prospect of a colonoscopy. An ugly word for a seemingly alarming procedure. Sending a camera up your arse is not something you can look forward to. It's going to be painful surely and undignified assuredly. Men in particular, unused perhaps to people fiddling around in their nether portions, seem to dread it. I know I did.

My great age or my family history (father died of colon cancer, sister nipped it in the bud) made me a target of BowelScreen an admirable national programme for catching this lethal and common cancer in time to treat it. So after a problematical symptom following BowelScreen's initial test (don't ask), I find myself in the Endoscopy Unit at St. Vincent's Hospital starved and nervous - awaiting my maiden colonoscopy. Apart from the dread of the impending operation, there's also the uneasy feeling that there may be some very bad news after my depths have been plumbed. Starvation is no doubt feeding my morbid thoughts. In the past 24 hours my only food or fluid intake has been two litres of drain cleaner - some sickly sweet fluid designed to scour your large intestine. It works with lethal efficiency - ensuring you don't stray far from the bog. Fun times.

The staff operate as briskly as Albert Pierrepoint was wont to do. Upon arrival I'm given a backless gown and a rather fetching pair of grey paper shorts.Then I'm brought into the theatre with its array of sinister machines. I lie down and am hooked up to a drip which will provide me, I'm told, with a sedative and a pain-killer. Nice. I encourage the doctor to hit me hard. Still alert I'm told to lie on my side and tuck my knees up under my chin. Let the games begin.

I'm conscious of my shorts being lowered and my sacred rectum being anointed with copious amounts of something gloopy. And then a gentle broaching of my puckered defences. After that nothing. I come too in the recovery room where a noticeably toothsome female doctor tells me I'm in the clear and fetches me a nice cup of tea with some brown bread and jam. Delicious.