5) Blood Tests and Scans
The consultant surgeon turns the monitor screen towards me and animatedly points out the various bits of my insides. My CT scan, (virtual colonoscopy) reveals all sorts of pertinent information but how he can decipher these swirling abstract patterns into anything other than a contemporary piece of monochrome abstract art is beyond me. “You have a very interesting abdomen” he tells me. Interesting turns out to mean a) something which he is very hopeful is not cancer but a large lipoma, a fatty non-malignant tumour which has the potential to occlude my colon and b) an inflamed perforation which he believes may be causing the bleeding and abdominal discomfort. Most surgeons it would seem, like to do operations, they relish the blade and the cutting into flesh and he tells me this with what almost appears to be a look of enjoyment on his face. I am therefore relieved and surprised that at this stage he believes we should wait a month, perform another CT scan and see if the hole in my bowel is healing on its own.
This is the process, the waiting, the rearranging of normal daily routines to accommodate the appointments for blood tests and scans, the time taken trying to find somewhere to park at the hospital and getting anxious not to be late to see the consultant. All the while the symptoms are becoming worse. Everything seems normal for a few days and then “shit!”, I need the toilet desperately. When I get there, undoing my belt and fly and nearly tripping over my jeans as I rush to sit down. My evacuation turns out to be a bloody, mucous clot. I dare not move, blood clots are like London buses, you wait for ages and then three big red ones come along at once. And now I also know what Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Bucket List” meant when he said “When you get older, never trust a fart ”.
6) Waiting for Surgery
It doesn’t improve. The perforation remains inflamed and does not heal. The as yet, still not definitively identified lump is now causing a constant, nagging discomfort. It’s not acute pain I just know it’s there. It is the unreliability of my bowel that is more and more of an issue. The days when I can go to the toilet in the morning before work and only need to visit again when needing to pee are now less frequent than those when I have a real and terrifying fear that I could actually shit myself. As yet the proximity of toilets and the occasional dose of Imodium have prevented this catastrophe.
My bowels have become the topic of discussion in a multi disciplinary team meeting, and the conclusion they reach is that surgery is necessary. The surgeon draws a diagram, he does this upside down so we can see it and I’m very impressed with his draftsmanship, that level of fine motor control is a good sign in a surgeon. He explains that although keyhole surgery is an option, he believes a larger incision would be more beneficial. He needs to remove about a foot of the sigmoid colon, including the lipoma and perforation. This is a delicate procedure, there are adhesions and inflammation and also a close proximity to important nerves. Yet I am resigned to this eventuality, I cannot continue needing to spend my life sat on the toilet or least always being within easy reach of one.
I do not have long to wait and I am given a date which is less than a month away. Of course this sets the alarm bells ringing, why the fast track? What happened to all those waiting lists? They must think it’s cancer! I am spiralling down into abyss of non logical conclusions, it really is an emotional rollercoaster. At the pre operative assessment clinic the following week, the not particularly engaged nurse informs me that the date is actually a week sooner than originally stated and then as I’m coping with the sudden rush of adrenaline this news brings on, she takes my blood pressure. Guess what? It’s quite high!
I also have to see a stoma nurse, a clinical nurse specialist, who advises patients should they need a bag to collect the bodies waste following this surgery. This happens in about 10% of cases and is usually temporary allowing the bowel to heal before another operation to connect everything back together. She is altogether different from my last experience. She is helpful and explains everything. She takes the time to listen and provide reassurance, my confidence is restored.