For months I’ve been avoiding this procedure. Memories of the past kept haunting me, the words “Bad news I’m afraid” kept repeating like a bad movie flashback and the fact that I was clinging to the hope that I wouldn’t have to go through any more chemo anytime soon didn’t help. I think I’ve been in a fragile enough state of mind where I was just starting to make headway in getting my body and brain back into shape and the thought of having to do chemo again and becoming even weaker was something I just couldn’t stomach and when I can’t stomach something I do what most people do and I avoid it in hopes it’ll just go away.
I think Dr. Shim’s scheduler had had just about enough of my excuses for re-scheduling over the summer when she finally locked me in for September 14th she was like “ok, are you sure now…no reunions or trips planned or work scheduled for that day…?” I’d run out of things to block and the stress of knowing the risks of waiting much longer was interfering with my sleep, so I relented and agreed to the (dreaded) follow up colonoscopy. Over the next couple weeks I proceeded to eat all the foods I craved in the slightest as if they were going to be taken away from me for good, steak, burgers, breads, tacos, pizza, you name it got devoured. Then the day before I laid out all the prep stuff and read through the instructions again. It was a different kit than last time. Apparently not as “gaggy”. I was reluctant to agree with that comment because the prep you have to drink it is just “gaggy” by nature. It’s a 32 oz container that you pour the contents of 2 different packets into and stir in with room temp water, then you can chill it if you want to (yes, you want to), somehow swig it down over the course of an hour and then fill it up and do it again over the next hour. There are a ton of suggestions out there on how to deal. You can put some fresh squeezed lemon or lime or cranberry juice in there to help make it go down easier. I chose the bitter, unsweetened cranberry juice. It didn’t help. By the time I got to the bottom of the 32 oz it was all I could do not to woof my cookies, but sucking on a lemon after every 8 oz gulp did help and so did pouring myself a shot of nice and bitter espresso.
Adding to it all, the day before while I was searching on line for tips on how not to gag my way through the prep, I decided to learn more about polyps, how they come to be and how they turn into cancerous creatures/tumors. Flat vs raised and everything in between until I had myself in a right tissy. Remember that the last time I had one of these oscopies, Dr. Shim couldn’t get past the sigmoid section (2nd to lowest section of the colon), because the tumor was blocking the way so there’s all this angst over the oodles of colon beyond that point and what could be lurking up there. Thankfully, he decided to have me put under this time. He suggested it since I was in such pain the last time. “Maybe that was because of your tumor though”. “Or, maybe not…” I gave him the raised eyebrow and he took the hint and placed the order.
Anne and little Sailor were my designated drivers the morning of. You have to have one of these regardless of whether you get waking or sleeping sedation. Them’s the rules and you can’t get past it. They have to walk in with you, sign a form stating their responsibility for you and come in when it’s over to walk you to their car, to home and supposedly watch over you for the next few hours to make sure you don’t do anything you’ll regret. It’s all quite strict, but as one nurse told me (urban legend or not) how one woman drove herself home and the next morning found that she had bought a brand new car and had absolutely no recollection of it. I laugh and say good luck finding a dealer that would sell me anything with my credit and recent work (non) history, but I get her point.
Dr. Shim was actually kind of peppy when he came up to say hello. He’s usually quite shy and not much for eye contact so I was surprised and happy to see this chipper version of him. Not long after he left, the anesthesiologist came up, gave me the schpeel while I plied him with compliments, adoration and full on flirtation until he waved his ring finger to calm me down. What can I say, a: it’s been a while, b: I’ve got a thing for bald guys and c: I love a man who can legally put me to sleep so I don’t have to deal with the stress of what’s ahead of me. I do remember him saying to one of the nurses as I was about to drop off that I was one of their more “enlightened” patients. Who knows what I said in return, but I’m sure it was suggestive.
As I woke up, I could feel the nurse patting my arm warmly and telling me we’re all done. I called out to Dr. Shim “How was it?” His response was “pretty good”. Pretty good? Pretty good?? I said “Dude, pretty good can mean a lot of things…like does that mean pretty good, but we found a small tumor or pretty good, we found a polyp and then fixed it and all is good, in which case it was “good” (I tend to talk a lot when I’m nervous). Based on my description he amended his response to “oh, okay then it was good”.
I was wheeled off by my dream guy and the nurse to the recovery area where I slowly drifted out of the fog. Dr. Shim was at my side again with the same chipper outlook describing the one polyp they found and that it was really flat and hard to find. I think he was implying that someone else might’ve missed it, but not this guy (he really is adorable in that asian kid who studied hard and scored better than 90% of the country kind of way). I responded in the way that only a person who’s spent too many hours googling symptoms would, “flat?! wait, isn’t that the cancerous kind??”. He looked at me with surprise over the intensity of my response and I think that I would know the difference between a flat polyp and a regular one. I do have a tendency to shrug my shoulders and say “you’re the boss/expert. I’ll leave it to you to know those things”. Anyway, he assured me that it wasn’t, but just to be on the safe side he’d have it biopsied so there’d be no room for doubt and he’d let me know as soon as he got the results back. I smiled, assured and commented on how much nicer this experience was with him than the last and he should feel really good about it all. He then tried to shake my hand and I smiled and said, “are you kidding? this is a high five moment” to which he awkwardly raised his hand and high fived his odd little patient, smiled and left the room.
I got dressed and slowly made my way to the back entrance (nurse by my side) where the girls were there to meet us. As we were saying goodbye, I pulled a scrappy copy of the book from my purse, apologized for its appearance and asked her to share it with Jessica, the nurse who prepped me. I’m always surprised by the excitement on people’s faces when they first see the book and read the title. Keen really did do a brilliant job on it. All the vibrant colors and the way he drew it all really conveys the way I flick my thumb at the punk-ass disease. That and that they genuinely get the point to the title “How I beat stage IV cancer to a pulp.” It’s meant to inspire and lighten an otherwise dark subject.
I’ve never been comfortable promoting this thing (or any of my creative endeavors to be exact). Penny, the woman I hired last month to market it has given me invaluable advice and insights though. Saving that for another day/blog, but I will say here that she was right about giving a copy to those involved. They really feel a part of it and it’s a great reminder to them that the work they do is invaluable and remembered.
So, with this daunting marker behind me, what’s next? Well, according to his notes, I don’t have to return for another oscopy for another three years (woohoooo~), so it’s just monthly blood work, port flushes and PET scans every few months from here on to make sure it stays gone for good and if not? Well then I’ve already got my crack/experience team in place so we’ll be ready for it. I’ve still got a ways to go on recovering, but it is slow and steady coming so no complaints. Today also means that I’m less than two days away from living out one of the things to look forward to, “experience Italy” where I will swim the blue grotto, capture Pompeii (and other great sites) with my Nikon and possibly get kissed by a handsome Italian, who knows~
While I’m in the thick of this great experience I’ll post some pics and notes on The C Card and Me fb page as well as on mine so feel free to subscribe to it (Ali Gilmore) if you’d like to follow along :-)
When I get back, I’ll tackle the tough questions about fertility and treatment…
Ciao for now~