It would be fair to say that I am not terribly mature. In fact, at times, I am incredibly childish. As an example, I would have to say that that there is little else that makes me laugh as much as an awkwardly timed fart. Unless of course I am the one to have cut the cheese, in which case there is nothing more awful. The only thing to come close is, when your shoe makes a sound so similar to a trump that it is virtually indistinguishable to the 150 or so fellow Radiographers gathered at a conference. The only thing which keeps you from spontaneously combusting from complete embarrassment is the certain knowledge is that it is your footwear and not your backside which is the cause of everyone else’s mirth.
I would therefore say that I still have a bit of growing up to do.
This week however, I have been forced to take a long hard look at myself and consider things from a less than juvenile standpoint. I have, in fact, had to consider my own mortality.
Not wanting to put too fine a point on it, I have been having a few problems with my bottom (and not the sort which are the result of a super-hot vindaloo). I was referred, by my excellent GP to see a Gastroenterologist and I took an instant liking to him. Here was a man, clearly older than me, who has been working with various parts of people’s digestive tracts for a great many years, yet he still sniggered every time he said the word “poo”. In short, this was a man with whom I felt I could enjoy a couple of pints, at a local hostelry.
He was concerned that the symptoms I had, could not be adequately explained without further investigation, and that it would probably be advisable for me to have a colonoscopy. It wasn’t really what I was hoping to hear, but I was incredibly grateful that I had gone to the trouble, and considerable expense, of getting health insurance.
He outlined what it would entail, and gave me an innocent looking package which would help to “prepare your bowel”. I would suggest that never in the history of mankind, has there ever been a more polite way of describing 18 hours of weeing out of your bum, but then I would guess that other than dysentery (or other similar maladies) there probably hasn’t been a lot of call to coin a phrase for this. But more about that later.
The appointment I had was the last one of the day on a Friday, and this left me plenty of time to worry. Although the good Doctor had tried his best to reassure me, I didn’t think that he would be recommending this sort of procedure without at least some degree of concern. Over the course of the weekend, I had another medical consultation, this time with Dr Google, and he was a lot less encouraging than the consultant I’d seen. It would be fair to say, I didn’t sleep as well as I would have liked.
The day before the examination, I opened up the box of bowel prep, and as instructed, added the two sachets to a litre of water and mixed it all up. Then the drinking commenced. This was one of the vilest concoctions I have ever encountered, and I’m an enthusiastic sampler of amateur home brewer’s wares. You know when you have bad meal, and you try to disguise the revolting flavour by bathing it in tomato sauce? Despite your best efforts you can never completely rid the dish of its loathsome taste. Well, this was like that. A really synthetic tasting lemon juice had been infused into what I can only assume was rehydrated sea water. I actually re-read the instructions, just to see if I was supposed to take it as an enema. But this was only the start of the fun. After an hour (more or less), I had finished the jug of horror, and waited for the inevitable to happen. An hour later I started to feel some rumblings, and an hour after that, I had pretty much taken up residence in the smallest room in the house. Fortunately the kids had gone to bed by this stage and so only Mrs L. had to ask permission to use the throne. On the plus side, at least the seat was warm for her.
I had taken the precaution of fully charging the Ipad, but it’s poor battery was no match for the pharmaceutical induced havoc which was going on in my intestines. Three hours later, I honestly felt I had nothing left to give, but was not in any hurry to break wind for fear I might get a “free gift”, and so when I climbed into bed at 1 in the morning, I honestly felt that even if I climbed Mount Everest wearing nothing but my sequined mankini (oh yes I have one, how do you think Mrs L. and I first met?) those few hours in bed that night, would be the most daring adventure of my life. Fortunately there was no passing of wind (or any other matter) during my slumber.
Oh, and when I say few hours, I mean few hours, as the whole process had to be repeated, this time at 3 o’clock. Another litre of the hateful potion had to be ingested, this time it was even worse, as I thought I’d been cleaned out already and this was just to add a bit of shine, but oh no! By the time I’d finished, it would be completely accurate to say that my bum probably bore a close resemblance to the Japanese flag. I couldn’t find a mirror to check, but it certainly felt that way.
It goes without saying that since lunchtime the previous day, I wasn’t allowed to eat anything, something I was dreading, but to be completely honest, I was past the point of caring. Despite this, it was with feeling of daring not dissimilar to that which I had getting into bed, that we set off for the hospital. On a good run it would be about 30minutes, but if there were traffic lights or a traffic jam…. It didn’t bear thinking about.
You’ll be gratified to hear that we weren’t held up and the car’s upholstery was in a similar condition arriving at the hospital as it was when leaving home. My nerves however were pretty frayed.
From here it went surprisingly quickly, helped in large part by liberal prescription of medication. None of my worst fears were realised, and the procedure itself was pain free. The cause of my original symptoms were, ultimately unexplained, but there were some incidental findings, which had they been left (or undiscovered) had the potential to become very nasty.
As a man, I tend to place my own health fairly low on my list of priorities, particularly when it comes to the needs of my family. It isn’t that I don’t like going to see the Doctor or that I think I’m some sort of He-man. I am only too aware of the fragility of my body, but it seems to me that my needs should be placed near the bottom (if you’ll excuse the pun) of the list when compared to those of my wife and children. But here’s the thing. In the days between being referred and having the examination, in the small hours I lay awake in a cold sweat wondering if the worst was discovered what Mrs L. and the kids would do without me. Who would provide for them, and care for them? How much would they miss me, and how much would I miss? These are questions which were and are exceedingly uncomfortable, and have made me reassess my priorities.
I think fathers are often encouraged to make sacrifices and give things up. It almost becomes a given that we would do the same for our health. There is a huge drive in New Zealand to engage with men and get them to look after themselves. The supposition is that us blokes “don’t need any of that soppy stuff, we’re too tough for that, “and I’m sure that is a part of it, but a bigger part I think is fear. Ignorance, quite simply is bliss.
So, while the preparation for this examination provides quite a few chuckles now, I am enormously glad that I went through with it. Even though the findings weren’t especially dramatic , and it might seem like it was all for nothing, overall I would have to say that it was a good thing.
For me, the symptoms with which I went to the doctor, were unexpected, occurred rapidly and without any warning, but if there is something lurking in your family history or something hasn’t been feeling right for a little while I would encourage all of my fellow men to swallow your pride and go to have a check up. Imagine how relieved you’ll feel when they tell you that there’s nothing wrong with you. And if not, who knows, it could save your life.